Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is also betting on the issue Apple iOS 17 is targeting

Marissa Mayer sees digital contact information as a disorganized mess that is vital to daily life and happiness and that can be enhanced with AI. She says up to a fifth of all contacts are currently out of date, and companies are sometimes paying six figures to fix the issues, one of the reasons she launched the Sunshine Contacts app. Apple this week rolled out several updates to its contacts manager in iOS 17, with easier sharing of contacts across devices and more customization of how contacts are displayed.

Whenever there is talk of a new CEO in the technology space, the name of former Yahoo CEO and former Google VP Marissa Mayer seems to come up.

However, Mayer raised some eyebrows in 2020 when, instead of showing up at another Silicon Valley behemoth, she founded startup Sunshine to focus on the seemingly “minor” problem of contacts. She believes this issue can have a huge impact if addressed properly.

“I believe in Sunshine and I really want to be a part of building a company that’s doing what Google and Yahoo did, where it’s really making a difference and changing a billion people for the better,” Mayer told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, per the recent CNBC CEO Council Summit in Santa Barbara, California.

Mayer and co-founder Enrique Muñoz Torres started work on Sunshine in 2018 to automate the mundane task of organizing contact information. It was originally known as Lumi Labs and rebranded to Sunshine in late 2020.

Sunshine Contacts, its first product, is an app that cleans up address books – using AI integrations to remove duplicates, update contacts with the most accurate information, and ultimately manage people’s relationships. The company also has Sunshine Birthdays and Sunshine Circles dedicated to organizing birthdays and sharing information with groups.

“The idea is that Sunshine Contacts basically becomes the brain that manages your contacts,” Mayer told CNBC in 2020 when the app launched. “Contacts, we believe, should be a living, changing thing.”

After parts of the Lumi Lab’s original algorithms failed to remove duplicates and were criticized by some as “disappointing”, Sunshine was launched with technical improvements, built-in generative AI and numerous important insights.

One of the key lessons the team learned, Mayer said, was that personal preferences play a big part in dating, whether it’s parents being called “Mom” or “Dad” or their doctors starting with “Dr.” . instead of their first names.

Marissa Mayer speaks at the CNBC CEO Council Summit on May 23, 2023 in Santa Barbara.


Integrating artificial intelligence into human opinions and preferences is crucial for Mayer. Speaking at the CNBC CEO Council Summit, she said she remains an “AI optimist” and hopes for the opportunities that careful regulation brings. Sunshine uses AI for pattern recognition with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and API and their integrations with Gmail and Outlook. The AI ​​analyzes signatures and email body and analyzes which parts of contacts are out of date.

Given that 18% to 21% of all contacts are currently outdated, and companies sometimes employ as much as six-figure solutions to contact organization clutter, contacts are an essential factor in keeping people happy, Mayer said.

Torres told CNBC in 2020 that people have accepted the status quo when it comes to dating, but that means it’s a pervasive problem. Mayer said that it’s a great idea to focus on one app that’s good at one thing, since consumers today are less likely to want a “mega-app” for everything.

“What makes people happy is building and strengthening the relationships that form the basis for connections,” she said at the CNBC CEO event. “Not very many people take the time to manage their contacts. They somehow learn to live with and work around the chaos.”

In fact, Sunshine isn’t the only technology provider focused on improving the use of contacts, and it faces competition from the largest company in the world. Earlier this week, Apple unveiled several new features for managing contacts in iOS 17 at its WWDC: NameDrop, which allows sharing of contacts and other digital assets in a manner similar to AirDrop; and more customization of contact design, including images, through the Contact Poster feature.