Anne Balduzzi is the founder and CMO of SameGrain. SameGrain is a privacy-first social discovery platform that enables anyone anywhere to privately connect with other people that share multiple in-depth areas in common, such as beliefs, professional industry, life experiences, and ancestry.
Q. What’s the story behind the name?
The name SameGrain actually came to me because I had been mentoring other startups for many years and I fell in love with the name of one of [fellow entrepreneur] Marc Andreessen’s early companies, which was called LoudCloud. It was a very beautifully marketed company and I just loved the name. When I came up with this idea and it needed a name I kept looking for that same sort of alliteration—finding a name that really just rolled off the tongue. And at that time I was on the phone with my father, who does a lot of woodworking, and he was talking about grains of wood and I thought, “Ah—that’s it! SameGrain!” Just like the grains in wood and just like the unique grains in our fingerprints, we all have common threads and those common threads are the areas that we actually match on.
Q. What motivated you to start SameGrain?
I came up with the idea way back in the “flip phone era.” I’ve been lucky enough in my background to have worked since the birth of the Internet, so I’ve had a front row seat following the growth of the Internet for many, many years. I noticed that there was sort of a hole in the Internet: there was a lot of matching going on online but it was mostly geared around dating and flirting sites. There wasn’t really an opportunity for people to match beyond that. So, recognizing that hole, I realized that was an area we could tap into and that is when I came up with the idea for SameGrain.
Q. What caused you to take that idea and turn it into a company?
I actually sort of leaked the idea out on a blog post and I later found it was republished in the Harvard Business Review. So I thought, “Okay, this is something I better get started on right away.” That was the fire that I needed to get things rolling.
Q. How do you pitch SameGrain to investors?
At its core, SameGrain is a very, very big idea. Not a lot of people can understand the breadth and depth or the potential impact that it can have on society in general. Imagine in the future being able to walk into a room and immediately know what you have in common with the people in the room. Or imagine being able to move to a new city and immediately have connections with people that have multiple in-depth areas in common with you. You could also be in a position where you are meeting somebody for the first time and you can know how to fast-track the conversation to the topics that you have in common.
You can—at some point in the future—perhaps hold your mobile phone or some similar device up to a location or an area and know whether that is a good fit for you. Down the road, you could also choose to only read reviews from people who share your same tastes or health habits—or whatever it might be—so that you can assure that your understanding of a clean hotel room is the same as somebody else’s understanding of a clean hotel room. Or your understanding of a top foodie restaurant is the same as someone else’s as well. That is one of the key areas of SameGrain: it connects you to people that you were meant to meet.
Q. Who are you working with to develop the platform?
We currently have a series of platform partners. One of them is the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, which is a one-million member organization primarily made up of college students. But they also have many, many alumni and so they are using our network to basically connect current students using our app. Not only are they piggybacking on our proprietary matching algorithm, but they are also personalizing the algorithm for their own purposes: using it to better connect students for roommates, looking for other high-achieving students—students that have the same majors, students that are interested in perhaps in traveling abroad—and also to learn more about what types of programs they may want to have at their conferences to further educate their own members. They also have alumni, so they are looking to connect the students with alumni members as well.
Q. You mentioned that partners have the ability to customize your algorithm. What else does SameGrain offer?
Platform partners not only have the ability to personalize questions for their own audiences, but we’re able to give them back anonymized data about their audience. So in the case of a university, we can tell them, “Hey, fourteen percent of your incoming class are vegans you might want to switch up your cafeteria menu.” In the case of a hotel chain we may say, “A lot of your guests like to ride bikes so you may want to have a bike ride share program as part of your hotel stay or amenities.” Lots of other things can happen when you deal with those types of personalization within those markets. People are beginning to refer to us as the “Google of matching,” so gives us a little bit of a framework to work off of.