Much has been written in the technology and financial press lately about the endless flood of information that comes from social networks and email straight to our smartphones, 24 hours a day, and what it is doing to productivity and even to our minds. Now some pioneering technologies have set out to deal with the digital noise by turning down the volume. The best-known of these kinds of programs is Cold Turkey, which turns off our social networks during the work day.
- An Israeli Software Design That Puts the User at the Center
- Startup of the Week / Moving Briskly Through the Virtual Checkout
- Startup of the Week / For HR Departments, Humans Are the Ultimate Resource
Slim, an application and Israeli-American startup that works out of San Francisco was conceived to deal with this challenge. Its motto is “Social media for busy people.”
“We help busy people manage their social media,” says founder and CEO Yair Levin. “The networks are full of enormous quantities of nonsense — cat videos, for example. We connect Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to natural language processing capability and can bring up what’s important to you. If somebody expresses condolences or congratulations over the Internet, or writes that they ran a marathon, that’s important.”
The information analysis doesn’t just involve word identification. Levin says his app can identify the four or five important posts a day the user receives. "We can identify what some of your friends consider important and bring that up to the user, too," he says. "In addition, it’s important to us to make business opportunities that come from the Internet visible, so users have the ability to define words that are important to them. If you’re a car dealer, you might think it’s important to know that somebody’s car broke down. If you’re in real estate, you might be interested in people moving house. Finally, this is an application that learns, and users can give a thumb up or thumb down to a post so that the notices will get better in the future.” After users see the posts, they can decide what action to take, from sending a response or a text message or even sending a gift.
How much time does that save per day?
“It takes me two minutes a day to find out what’s happening on the social networks with certainty that I’m not losing any important information, and I have 600 friends on Facebook and 1,000 on Twitter.”
What’s the company’s financial situation like? How do you intend to make money?
“We raised seed money from a group of angels here called G7, $50,000 and another $10,000 that I invested. We’re about to close on raising $800,000 in seed money, $250,000 of which has been promised by the same group of investors. We think that the ideal place to monetize the application is the busy professionals sector: lawyers, real-estate people, physicians, merchants. If we succeed in bringing them good leads, they’ll be willing to pay a subscription fee of $5 to $10 per month, but the company isn’t at that stage yet.”
Slim, which was established in 2013, is available only on the iPhone as yet. (Levin promises that the Android version will be out next month.)
The story of how the company came into being is somewhat unusual. “I’m from the world of finance," says Levin. "I met my wife when she came to Israel on Birthright. We fell in love, and for three months we had a long-distance relationship until she moved to Israel. We lived in Israel for two and a half years. Then we traveled all over the world and ended up in San Francisco. When I wanted to keep in touch with Israel via the social networks, I realized how much garbage was on the Internet. I met another Israeli here, Zeev Vax, who used to work at Microsoft. We talked about the problem of noise on the social networks, and Slim came into being the next day.”
As we look around Slim’s website, it’s hard to miss two other workers: Hamza Essaoui, Slim’s director of engineering, and Yassine Haddioui, its director of architecture. Levin: “We went to a startup competition called PitchForce. At the end, we were on the stage and they asked us what we needed. I said we were looking for programmers, and two guys from Morocco raised their hands. Since then, we’ve been working together with amazing understanding. We talk about everything and there’s never been any tension between us, not even when Israel fired missiles at Syria.”
It’s right there on Slim’s website: “And as for peace in the Middle East, if Jews and Muslims can agree on colors and icons to build a fantastic app, surely they can agree to live in harmony back home!”