A Crystal Ball for Email and Communication

Computers, machines, robots — technology overall — are continuing to create new ways to help us humans be better at, well, being human.

Automation for this. Programmatic platform for that. Salesforce has made selling easier. HubSpot has made marketing easier. Cortex, a new Boston startup, is making social media marketing easier through Artificial Intelligence. There’s no denying these, and so many others, have made businesses run more effectively and efficiently.

Just last month, Drew D’Agostino, who previous co-founded Attend.com, launched Crystal, which is helping professionals email and communicate more effectively.

As the company puts its: “It’s the biggest improvement to email since spell-check.”

Crystal tells you the best way to communicate with any prospect, customer, or coworker based on their unique personality. By creating unique personality profiles for every person with an online presence, this product informs you how to speak or write to someone in their natural communication style.

Long-term, Crystal will go well beyond just email. As currently constituted on the free version, users can access valuable insight into how to best communicate with others, aside from just email, by learning the subject’s personality type.

For example, here’s a screen shot of how Crystal suggests you communicate with company advisor, Richard Banfield, Co-Founder & CEO of Watertown-based design firm, Fresh Tilled Soil.

There’s an obvious level of creepiness to this product. Taking a look at my own profile on Crystal, I was shocked at its accuracies — “Use self-deprecating humor.” “Don’t provide a lot of information when emailing.” “Doesn’t appreciate formality in meetings.”

How does this website, that I just signed up for, know these things?

I asked Banfield about the creepy factor around the product and what type of reaction they’ve seen:

“The initial creepiness is quickly replaced by excitement and curiosity. I guess it’s no different than our first interactions with social media.”

My curiosity far outweighed any hesitancy I had, so put me in that camp.

D’Agostino’s take on the concern?

“I understand the initial creepiness. I was creeped out myself at first that this was possible. But at the same time, I think it’s a step forward and once you get passed the shock, you start realizing how valuable this information is to helping build healthy, productive relationships.”

As mentioned, Crystal goes much deeper than emailing. It’s based entirely on personalities. Crystal searches the entire web and uses a person’s online presence to tag them with one of 64 personality types. From there, it provides the communication suggestions, such as using an informal tone when speaking to Banfield.

I asked D’Agostino to further explain this and how they’ve responded to early skepticism.

“Within those personality types, people are likely to behave and communicate in a certain way. Therefore we specify that Crystal is essentially a “best guess” at someone’s personality. However, we have softened the language on some attributes and also allow people to opt-out of appearing in search results.”

Crystal is transparent about the fact that profiles are not 100% accurate. The site states:

“Crystal is not intended to provide a 100% perfect personality reading, but can provide useful insights to improve communication with anyone that has an online presence.

The “accuracy confidence” index indicates 1) how much relevant data was found for the person and 2) how much of it was able to be used to determine personality. The insights are recommended strategies for communicating with someone that has that specific personality type, based on several widely-accepted personality assessments, like the Five-Factor Inventory, DiSC, and True Colors.”

Write My Email!

Specific to improving one’s communication via email is the paid version of Crystal. While unable to test it out personally, you can catch an impressive glimpse of how the product, which utilizes a gmail plug-in, works right on the homepage.

Using Mark Cuban, who is known to be very blunt and casual, as its subject, the example shows Drew emailing Cuban a request for coffee. Before sending, Crystal offers up edit suggestions and Drew is able to cut down his text and get right to the point — the way Cuban would want it, and actually respond to.

To date, Crystal is self-funded and has a presence in both Boston and Nashville, TN. D’Agostino tells me the company’s focus is currently on the gmail plug-in. Other plug-ins and features will follow.

This is surely a startup to keep an eye on. The technology is impressive. The concept is creative. The market for products helping humans and businesses become more effective is ever-present.

Will creepiness stunt growth or will curiosity prevail? My vote is on curiosity.

Josh Boyle is Director of Marketing & Community, VentureFizz. You can follow him on Twitter @jb_sid and keep up with his latest posts by signing up for the VentureFizz Weekly Email!

Originally published at venturefizz.com.

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