Our smartphones can play games, scan groceries, give us directions to far-off places and keep tabs on far-flung friends. But the way they display contacts hasn’t changed much from the days of the Rolodex.

Ankur Jain, the 24-year-old founder and CEO of mobile app Humin, wants to change that.

“As we’ve moved into an era with cell phones driving our communication, all of our relationships are now stored and based on contacts,” he says.

And yet, he says, the way we access those contacts is similar to the way a 1990s Internet search engine worked: pumping out results in alphabetical order. Some business people today have hundreds of contacts stored in their phone but no easy way to remember who all of them are.

“If you can actually build a search engine that remembers people the way you do, you make context relevant again,” Jain says.

Once you download Humin and grant it access to your social network, the app creates a little database of your contacts, searchable by where people work, where they live, who they know – or how you know them.

Think of Humin as a way to combine your address book with maps, social networks and even your calendar. Traveling to a different city? Humin will tell you friends who live there, or who are visiting at the same time. Meet someone at a party? Humin allows you to put in details of the meeting and determine friends in common through social networks.

The app pulls up your contacts as image tiles – just like the avatars you see on Facebook or Twitter. It’s a more intuitive way to find people you’re looking for, says Jain.

Humin came about because Jain and his four co-founders were concerned that technology was cutting off personal contact rather than fostering it.

The startup appears to be well funded, although Jain won’t disclose figures. Judging by its powerhouse leadership team, Humin is certainly well connected. Arielle Zuckerberg, Mark’s younger sister, is Humin’s senior product manager. Lane Wood, the CMO, is a former Warby Parker executive. Percy Rajani, the CTO, has a background with Bell Labs.

Jain himself is the son of Naveen Jain, a well-known tech figure who spent several years with Microsoft and later founded the security firm Intelius. Ankur Jain was instrumental in founding the Kairos Society, a worldwide group that creates a support structure for young entrepreneurs.

The Humin app debuted August 14 and is currently only available for iPhones. But it’s had a promising start, having risen into the top 100 apps in its first weekend, says Jain. And Re/Code’s Walt Mossberg praised the app for its “downright delightful” touches, though he cautioned it’s still a work in progress.

Other Humin offshoots are planned, including a premium version. And Jain sees bigger things on the horizon.

“In the short term, the goal is to become the core social operating system for all these different devices,” he says. And further out, “If we can become the underlying platform for how apps drive social, it’s some pretty exciting stuff.”

Source : Young companies, big ideas, CNN Startups ( )


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