Lunch with Zuni

2014_10_14_19_14_38

Lunching With Zuni

I asked Zuni, “Have you ever been to Burning Man?”

We were having lunch at a San Francisco restaurant. Zuni was a private investor. Her focus was on new technology.

“No.” She said, “but I am going this year.”

“Sounds amazing.”

“There is one problem,” Zuni said, “my daughter is going to be there.”

“And she doesn’t want to run into you?”

“No, she doesn’t care. She is unabashed.”

“What’s the issue then?”

“I don’t want to run into her. I don’t want to know what she does there.”

“There must be an app.”

“To keep me away from my daughter? I kind of doubt it.”

“Or if there isn’t we should make one. Kind of the opposite of Facebook and Twitter. You wouldn’t have friends, you would have enemies and whenever they got close to you the app would give you a warning.”

“How would it do that?”

“You’d wear a band on your wrist. It would be based on a geo-locator.”

“And it would give you a sound if you got close to an enemy?

“Exactly. Or maybe it would vibrate or give you a little electric shock. Or it could just show you on a map where your enemies were lurking. Like that thing for registered sex offenders.”

 “I could see that it could be useful for some people. But I don’t really have that many enemies. I can only think of one person that I would input.”

“Who is that?”

“James.”

“Yeah, of course, but you wouldn’t even have to program him in; ex-husbands and ex-wives would be automatic – they would just come as part of the device.”

“But after that I would be done. I don’t have enemies.”

“Zuni! Don’t think so small. See the possibilities! They don’t have to be literally enemies, they can be anyone you don’t want to see. Like your daughter at Burning Man.”

“Oh I get it. Yes, that could be handy.”

“Who would you put in?”

“Oh my God, I could fill it up in minutes.”

“Ex-boyfriends?”

“Definitely. And accountants. If I never had to breathe the same air that an accountant had breathed everything would be better.”

“See? We are onto something here! How about Republicans?”

“Perfect. Red State Blue State.”

“What to call it? An app isn’t a good app without a good name. That’s half the battle.

“So true,” she said. “You can’t get funding without a good name. Hell, you can’t even pitch it without a good name.”

“I like Enemies but it isn’t just enemies.”

“It’s people to avoid.”

“Yeah. Maybe we could call it Avoidance.”

“No. That’s not going to work. And now that I thinking about it, the technology will be very tricky. You’d have to find them from the geo-locator on their phones.”

“Sure. But what’s the problem? Everybody has a phone.”

“I don’t think you can just do that. They’d have to give their consent. You know, it’s a privacy thing.”

“Hmm.”

“And how would you get them to do that? You’d have say ‘we want you to allow everyone who doesn’t want to see you to know where you are at all times so they can avoid you.’”

“That is a tough sell when you put it that way. But don’t you think that there are people that that guy doesn’t want to see?”

“What guy?”

 “You know, the Republican accountant.”

“Oh. Sure. He probably doesn’t want to see Democrats from San Francisco.”

“So we set it up so that the only way he gets to avoid people he doesn’t want to see is for him to consent to people avoiding him! It would all work out.”

“Republicans would want to avoid Democrats and vice-versa?”

“Yeah. He’d never even think it would matter; he probably thinks that no one would want to avoid him. He’d think he was scamming everyone else.”

“Brilliant!”

“Besides, it would all be very general. Like you wouldn’t put in your name or anything, just your pool of characteristics and so when you were walking around, the app would send alerts to anyone who set up their device to screen out those characteristics.”

“Sort of like online dating, but in reverse.”

“Exactly!”

“Yeah. I can see it. Could save a lot of time.”

“And the best thing, in time it would learn from itself. That’s what all good apps do; learn.

“What would it learn?”

 “When you interacted with someone, afterwards you would say whether you liked them or not and then it would build that person’s characteristics right into the logarithm.”

“You mean the algorithm?”

“That’s right. And then the app would adjust your preferences going forward so if you didn’t like that person the app would steer you away from other people like that.”

“Like Pandora does for songs you like.”

“Exactly. This would be a Pandora for people…

“… who you dislike… It is brilliant!”

“And I have got the perfect name.”

“What is it?”

“Can I have a drum roll?”

“Dadadadadadadaada.”

“The name for this app is… wait for it ….

“dadadadaad….

“We’ll call it: Assholes.”

“Boom! That’s perfect.”

“Yes it is.”

 “I love it.”

“But can you pitch it?

“I don’t need to.” Zuni said, “I will fund it myself… you can’t go wrong with an app that lets you avoid assholes. It’s a home run.”

– Jay Duret