Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Greplin Recasts Itself as Cue, an Intelligent Personal Assistant App

Greplin, the personal search start-up, is trying to become more helpful and more mainstream with the launch of a new personal assistant app called Cue.

Cue is an app that processes users’ emails, contacts and files. Then it presents a daily agenda, de-duplicates and updates contacts, and surfaces important details from things like flight confirmations and restaurant reservations.

Cue founders Daniel Gross and Robby Walker

(Update: The Cue iPhone app is now available. Cue is not available yet — it’s supposed to come out Thursday — but due to a snafu with a media embargo about the company’s relaunch, I’m posting about it now.)

As a larger topic, I’m really interested in intelligent personal assistants that could help bring context and efficacy to smartphones beyond what Apple’s Siri does today. Besides Cue, some other emerging projects in the space include Happiness Engines and Incredible Labs.

Cue is mostly a mobile app — at first only for iPhones — but it also has a Web interface. It will replace the former Greplin iPhone app, which was similar but more rudimentary.

On the occasion of the launch, Greplin, the company, is giving up its geeky name — “grep” is programming jargon for search — and will now call itself Cue.

The new name “literally means a hint as to what’s next,” as co-founder Robby Walker put it, which is exactly what Cue is trying to offer, by anticipating users’ needs and parsing through all their information to give them what’s helpful and timely.

One Cue feature that may grab people’s attention is a “Running late?” button at the bottom of every calendar item within the app. When the button is pressed, the app helps users automatically text whomever they’re meeting to send an alert. It also assists with things like canceling reservations and automatically pulling up maps to navigate the next location on the agenda.

Cue effectively stands in for a user’s calendar — so it works best for people who already use Google Calendar and perhaps also Facebook events and Basecamp deadlines, which Greplin supports and indexes. Cue sends push notifications about upcoming events, and then when users slide the notification to unlock the phone, they see an overview of where to go, who to call and other pertinent info.

Cue is the kind of app that probably eventually makes more sense at the level of a mobile operating system, where it can bring context and cooperation among all the redundant built-in apps like calendar, contacts and email. But the company doesn’t have those kinds of biz dev deals yet.

What Cue has spent its time on is building infrastructure to process this deluge of incoming personal data, as well as teaching itself to extract entities like receipts, confirmations and invitations and understand people in users’ networks by mapping and overlapping all their contacts and social media identities.

Like Greplin was, Cue at a basic level is free, but costs $5 per month or $50 per year for users who connect their accounts on professional-grade services like Yammer, Salesforce and Evernote.

Cue was co-founded by Walker and Daniel Gross, and was originally part of the Y Combinator program. It has raised $4.8 million from Sequoia Capital and angels including Bret Taylor (the soon-to-depart Facebook CTO and co-founder of FriendFeed), Paul Buchheit (now at Y Combinator, creator of Gmail and also co-founder of FriendFeed), Keith Rabois (of Slide and Square) and Geoff Ralston (former Yahoo exec and education investor).


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work