As Facebook and Twitter ramp up competition to gain control of our social and interest graphs and monetize them through advertising, the companies encourage us to like more brands, friend more people, and share more often. All that activity plays into our social nature as humans, sure, but the more content we contribute to those sites, the easier it is for Facebook and Twitter to make money. Yet some of the most meaningful human relationships exist between just a few (or even two) people, and as annoying as Facebook couples are, there seems to be an opportunity for social products that capitalize on our exhaustion with over-sharing and desire for private digital space.
A few apps designed for couples have cropped up in the past year, including Y Combinator-backed Pair which launched in March and the Korean startup Between, but I was especially interested in the product designed by two ex-Googlers (who happen to be married themselves) called Avocado.
Avocado (the name plays on the fact that you need two avocado trees to grow a fruit) launched in June and is taking off. Or sprouting, if you will. The company recently rolled out a premium version, and they’re finding that given the right ingredients, plenty of couples can fall in love with a couples app. In February the company raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Baseline Ventures, General Catalyst, Lightspeed Ventures, Steve Olechowski and Greg Yaitanes.
“We thought about it, and we realized the world’s most ubiquitous social relationship in the world has no dedicated social network,” said Chris Wetherell, co-founder and CEO of the company. “I feel a little like an undertaker in the old west. Business is coming.”
The result is a simple, intuitive mobile app called Avocado that allows two people (yes, it could be you and a friend or parent if you wanted), to share lists, calendars, photos, messages, and a variety of other functions two people might use. The $19.99 premium version allows users to upload and view as many photos and shared lists as they want (regular users are limited to viewing 200 photos at a time and sharing five lists.)
The founders are themselves a pretty interesting group — Wetherell created Google Reader and implemented the retweet for Twitter, and his wife and second co-founder Jenna Bilotta most recently the lead designer on YouTube watch pages, after doing design for Reader. Third founder, CTO Rizwan Sattar was previously an engineer at AOL working on AIM.
One common question is, why would any couple who shares Google Calendars and uses SMS need the app? After all, all of the functions exist within other products on the web. But the founders explain that their users have found that having a single dedicated space for sharing notes and photos creates a sense of shared history, and they make calendar and list-sharing easy for people who aren’t necessarily Google users.
“There are list-only couples. There are calendar-only couples for sure.” Wetherell said. And one feature that’s become extremely popular is the Avocado hug, in which a user holds the phone up to their chest to record vibrations and then send the other person a “hug” that vibrates that other person’s phone. (Although they wouldn’t explain exactly how it works.)
One of the most peculiar use cases the company has seen is that they’ve heard from a variety of couples that when they begin to fight on Avocado, they move the discussion to SMS. Couples have said they don’t want their fights to contribute to the shared history they created on Avocado. Which is great for Avocado, since it seems they’ve created something people don’t want to mess up. But perhaps there’s room for a Snapchat-like fight app. Snapfight, anyone?