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Cloze launching mobile apps this week, offering a very different view of correspondence that blends e-mail and social

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 12, 2013 11:00 AM

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One unfortunate 21st century trend is the proliferation of digital inboxes. There's plain old e-mail, for starters, and Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn. Oh, and the text messages on your phone, too.

A Cambridge startup called Cloze, which launched its website last year, is rolling out apps this week for iPhone and iPad, with the goal of bringing most of those inboxes together in one place. (Text messages, which I often miss, remain their own problem.) The company has so far raised $1.2 million from investors including Kepha Partners of Waltham, Boston's NextView Ventures, and Greylock Partners.

"Most users are set in their ways with how they deal with e-mail on their desktops," says Cloze CEO Dan Foody. (He's on the right in the photo, with co-founder Alex Coté.) "But that's less true on mobile devices, where it is much harder to be productive. And there's a whole class of people who are on the road a lot, like people in sales or business development, who are much more detached from their desktops than the average person." And even for those of us who spend much of the day in front of a desktop, Foody observes, "the phone or the iPad is the thing next to your bed that you check before you go to sleep, or as soon as you wake up."

Cloze's new apps ask for access to your e-mail accounts, as well as for access to your Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles. All that data helps the company understand who are your "key people" — the people whose messages, whether public tweets or private e-mails — probably matter most to you. Another interesting categorization in the Cloze apps for iPhone and iPad is "Losing Touch." That is filled with people you haven't been corresponding with as much recently, which can perhaps be important for salespeople trying to stay in touch with prospects, or just for altering you that they've been remiss with certain friends or family members.

Essentially, Cloze creates an inbox that brings together e-mail and social messages, and organizes it based on the strength of your relationships, rather than just when the messages happened to arrive. Cloze gives every person in your life a relationship score, from 0 to 100 — and you may be surprised that your co-workers get higher scores than your spouse or partner. If you're trying to improve your relationship with someone, and you are motivated by numerical objectives, you can even set a "score goal" in the app.

The apps are elegantly designed, and even just seeing little thumbnail photos of your contacts can help you prioritize which messages you want to look at first. But I wasn't crazy about having lower-priority Facebook status updates and LinkedIn's "Anna is now connected to Jeff" messages included along with more important e-mails.

And it'll remain to be seen if Cloze can be a success if perusing the app is simply an ancillary way to view your correspondence, or if it truly needs to supplant e-mail — a very tall order.

Foody says that Cloze will likely try to raise additional funding this year. A premium version of the service might involve a subscription fee, but he wasn't ready to share details of that yet.

A screenshot from Cloze's iPad app is below. You can see each individual's relationship score in the lower right corner of their headshot.


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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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