Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo! Inc.
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Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced on Wednesday the launch of Sunshine, a consumer app startup that debuts an artificial intelligence-based address book app.
Sunshine is Mayer’s first company and has returned to the limelight since stepping down from her role as Yahoo CEO after selling the company to Verizon in 2017 for $ 4.48 billion.
Mayer’s start-up is launching Sunshine Contacts, an address book app that relies on AI finding and merging duplicate contacts, filling in incomplete information and continuously keeping this information up to date. The app can be integrated into both the iOS contact app and Gmail and is free for all iOS users with an invitation.
“The idea is that Sunshine Contacts will basically become the brain that serves your contacts,” Mayer told CNBC. “We believe that contacts should be a living, changing thing.”
The app is also designed to make it easy to share your contact information with others, or to keep that information updated for others to use. For example, one feature allows users to change their contact information in the app and send it as an update to other people who have their information and use Sunshine Contacts.
“While I was working on contacts, some days I just get really upset and concerned that there are thousands of people who still have my Google email address or Yahoo email address,” Mayer said. before demonstrating the function.
For Mayer, working on consumer apps is a return to form. Mayer built her reputation in the technology industry as a product leader during her tenure at Google.
There she met her Enrique Muñoz Torres, her Sunshine co-founder, in 2003. There the two worked together on a number of projects, including iGoogle, a now defunct Google product that allowed users to turn the Google website into a customized homepage for their browser. Mayer was originally against the idea of iGoogle, but Torres’ presentation of the project sold her off.
“I was the keeper of the Google homepage. It was my job to keep it clean and Enrique got up. His idea was to just put a few things on it and he knew I would just say ‘no’ . ” “Said Mayer.” The way he sometimes formulates his arguments makes me think things differently. “
Torres followed Mayer to Yahoo in 2013 and was senior vice president of search and advertising. The two began discussing the basic ideas for Sunshine during their senior year at Yahoo, Mayer said. They decided the ideas didn’t make sense at the time, but might be worth revisiting.
The two left Yahoo when the sale to Verizon was completed in June 2017.
“Six months later, Enrique called me and we met and he said,” I’m still looking forward to starting this company that we talked about a year ago. “And I said:” I am too, “Mayer recalled.
Marissa Mayer and longtime colleague Enrique Muñoz Torres announced the launch of Sunshine and its first app Sunshine Contacts on Wednesday.
The two have been working on Sunshine since 2018. The company is based in Palo, Alto, California and has raised an initial $ 20 million round from internal and external investors such as Felicis Ventures, Unusual Ventures, and WIN Ventures.
“Over time, I’ve developed a tremendous respect for Marissa as a product thinker and for Marissa as a person,” said Torres. “When working with Marissa to brainstorm this company and brainstorm products in other places, the alignment was always very quick.”
Sunshine Contacts is the first in a series of planned consumer apps. Sunshine aims to release apps that focus on family sharing, scheduling, event organization, and small group communication. By improving contacts, Sunshine creates a foundation on which other apps can be built, Mayer said.
“We believe the problems with contact are pervasive, but many people have learned to be content with the status quo,” said Torres. “This is the class of problems we like to address.”
Mayer referred to these types of apps as “small-scale sharing” and said consumers have evolved over the past few years. They no longer want mega apps that take care of everything for them, but are open to more apps that are really well suited for specific purposes, Mayer believes.
“The mega-app that does everything for everyone has become less attractive over time,” she said. “We want apps that solve certain problems.”
Consumers are also more comfortable paying for apps that add value to them, Mayer said. Although Sunshine Contacts will be free at launch, Mayer envisions a freemium business model where users can pay for additional features in Sunshine apps.
Unlike most consumer tech companies, Sunshine makes no promises to turn the data users store on its services into a business.
“The data you give us are giving us to improve your experience with the product,” said Torres. “We will not target advertising based on this data, we will not sell it in aggregate, in individual form, in any form or form.”
He added, “We don’t think it makes sense to take advantage of users’ data.”