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A new app that helps convey emotion while texting, created by alumnus Jordan Shidlofsky JD ’14, was featured in the App Store’s top 10 most downloaded apps for iMessage in April.

The free app, called ContextIsKey, allows users to send messages in different fonts that relay emotions like anger, sadness and happiness. It’s currently available for iMessage, as well as texting apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

“There’s a lot of different words or phrases that, when they’re written down, lack tone or body language. That whole element of an in-person conversation is missing. We’re trying to replicate it,” Shidlofsky said.

The app is designed to ensure that the context of a message is understood, and it can be useful in situations where sending an emoji would be inappropriate, like on a work group chat.

It’s a problem Shidlosky has encountered both in everyday life and in his career as a lawyer in Miami.

“As a lawyer, everything you write down could be taken out of context,” he said. “And in everyday situations, for instance, sarcasm is hard enough to catch in conversation. In a message, people could take it seriously.”

The lack of this important element of conversation online is nothing new. A 2005 study found that even though people believed the context and emotion of what they wrote in an email would be understood 90 percent of the time, the reader understood it only 56 percent of the time.

Between Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp alone, more than 60 billion messages are sent daily, and an additional 18.7 billion regular text messages are sent per day.

“That’s a huge demographic of people sending messages that are missing this dimension of conversation,” he said, noting that social media only adds to the problem. “On Twitter or Facebook, nowadays everybody takes everything you say out of context. Things you say sarcastically online, people could take seriously, and it could cause you some problem.”

Shidlofsky was one of only 10 entrepreneurs chosen to pitch their ideas at the 2017 TechCrunch Meet-up and Pitch-off, a nationally acclaimed startup incubator that was held in Miami for the first time in February.

The entrepreneurs were challenged to pitch their ideas to a group of venture capitalists and tech gurus, as well as more than 1,500 spectators, in under 60 seconds – without showing the physical product.

It was an opportunity for Shidlofsky to spread the word about ContextIsKey and learn valuable feedback from successful names in the tech industry.

“It got a lot of exposure for the app, and it conveyed the idea of solving this problem in front of a lot of people. Afterward, I had investors come up to me to discuss funding it. It was exciting and a great way to validate the idea.”

ContextIsKey is currently available for iPhone through the App Store, and Shidlofsky plans to expand to Android next. He also sees an opportunity for the app to be integrated into Twitter, Outlook and Slack (a messenger system for professionals).

Download ContextIsKey here.

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