Google+’s Circle-driven social network tasks its users to manually dump their friends into buckets. But what if it could auto-determine those groups instead?
That is the promise of Katango — the sFund-backed friend relationship management startup formerly called CafeBots — and its powerful people-sorting algorithms.
Tuesday, the startup is launching Katango for iPhone to help mobile users bridge group communication across Facebook, email and SMS, and do so in a more natural fashion.
Katango for iPhone is a group and private messaging application that automatically groups together your contacts by life stage or activity. So groupings will include family members, high school friends, college buddies, co-workers and so forth.
“The charter of sFund companies to think about how to rebuild social from the ground up,” says Yee Lee, Katango’s VP of Product. “Just having one flat social graph isn’t nuanced enough. It’s really important, we think, to have another layer on top of the social graph that is the meta structure of people who really talk together for different reasons.”
That layer is Katango’s algorithms for social organization, which can now be seen in action in the iPhone application.
The application plucks out your address book contacts and Facebook friends and organizes these folks into groups based on patterns of previous social interactions. You can then tweak the groups to your liking and start sending photos or messages to particular groups.
The iPhone app is structured into two tabs: Inbox and Groups. New users will land on the Groups tab and first see the results of Katango’s auto-structuring, with friends’ faces highlighted in horizontal scrolling filmstrips. Here you can click the compose icon to post photos and messages to group members. The Inbox serves as a feed of activity where you can see responses and follow group threads.
How and where messages are delivered via Katango’s iPhone app is quite unique as well. An iPhone address book contact will receive content via email or SMS and a Facebook friend will receive a photo or message as a privately locked-down wall post on Facebook.
With Katango for iPhone, siloed modes of communication — Facebook user to Facebook user, for instance — are out. “The user really shouldn’t have to worry about it anymore,” says Lee.
Katango for iPhone is just the startup’s initial release of its social organization technology. A similar Android client is on the immediate roadmap, and Lee says that Katango has broader plans to help people use their auto-created groups as viewing filters for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter stream activity.
“Social search is also an interesting idea,” Lee says. “A lot of companies are usual social search as a content discovery mechanism. We’re thinking of it in terms of actual search for people. If you were to type in “kiteboarding” and be able to get back a list of your friends who are into kiteboarding, that’s a really interesting and exciting functionality we’d like to bring to market” he explains.
Katango was founded as CafeBots in 2010. It was the first startup to receive funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ sFund.