Former StartRight! Winner to Sponsor 2015 Competition
Rockville, MD – Just 3 years ago, Anne Balduzzi entered her business plan in the 2012 StartRight! Business Plan Competition; today that startup, SameGrain, is sponsoring the same event.
According to SameGrain founder Anne Balduzzi, winning the 2012 StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition not only served as a catalyst for bigger things to come but also validated an idea: expand online matching beyond dating and enable people to match with others that share multiple in-depth areas in common for multiple purposes. “I wanted anyone anywhere, whether in the same room or around the world, to be able to privately connect with the people they should meet in life,” commented SameGrain founder Anne Balduzzi.
The StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition is an annual initiative supporting the mission of the Maryland Women’s Business Center’s to help people start and build successful woman-owned enterprises positioned for long-term growth. In the past ten years, over 500 women have entered the StartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition from D.C., Maryland and Virginia, producing 32 winners. A recent survey of those winners found that an impressive 89% are still in business and 100% of those companies reported hiring additional employees, accounting for than 150 new jobs among StartRight! winning firms. Anne Balduzzi, of SameGrain, was the grand prize winner in 2012.
Years before entering StartRight!, Anne realized that there were lots of options for people looking to flirt or find a mate online and sites that gathered people with a single common interest. However, there was nowhere to match with people that shared the same stage of life, background, beliefs, health, habits, interests, and much more to discover more compatible roommates, teammates, travel companions, support groups, or just a new like-minded friend. “Just like the grains in your fingerprint or a slice of wood, we are all unique. However, we share varying degrees of common threads. SameGrain focuses in on the areas people have in common to privately locate the most relevant and meaningful matches. “We currently match on over 45 million topics including all of Wikipedia.”
After writing the original business plan and pitch for SameGrain and creating an early prototype, Anne began shopping the concept to a few early investors and conducting focus groups to evolve SameGrain’s question content. Despite operating in stealth mode, she leaked her vision in a blog post that was later quoted in the Harvard Business Review. That’s when she knew it was time to turn the vision into a reality.
Thanks to her work as a mentor at Baltimore’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC) incubator, Anne was surrounded by talented entrepreneurs and start-up experts, which made pulling together a dream team to develop and launch SameGrain much easier. She started by selecting two seasoned and talented entrepreneurs as co-founders, Ron Diegelman and Eric Eller, who not only shared her passion for SameGrain but were willing to join her in bootstrapping the first phase of the company.
The next phase was the toughest. Finding early stage angel investors in the Mid-Atlantic region required over a year of constant pitching. Along the way, Anne was referred to the Start-Right! Business Plan competition. “I had no idea how helpful winning theStartRight! Women’s Business Plan Competition would be. It not only gave SameGrain much needed cash, but also enabled us to compete in the Washington Post’s Capital Business pitch competition which we also won. The combination of the two fast tracked us into more opportunities.” she commented.
Since winning StartRight!, both Anne and SameGrain have been recognized in several publications, presented at MAVA’s TechBUZZ and Cooley’s Capital Call, and filed their patent. “It was these accolades combined with start-up funding from Maryland’s TEDCO and VOLT programs that kept confirming we were on the right path and just needed to persevere to raise our seed round.”
In early 2014, SameGrain finally closed their seed round which was led by legendary investor Bill Miller, who was introduced to Anne by a mutual friend and investor. The seed round enabled SameGrain to complete development of their app, which is currently available in the app store to all iPhone and iPad users (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/samegrain/id913271415?mt=8) and has a five star rating. They expect to launch their web and Android app later this year.
While the app was under development, SameGrain secured several platform partners ranging from a 1M member organization to an education app to a bionanotechnology network. Any large group, organization, university, company, or venue can become a platform partner which allows groups to piggyback SameGrain’s proprietary algorithm and personalize questions to better connect their own audiences. “SameGrain started out as a big idea which continues to get bigger,” remarked Anne. “People have even referred to us as the Google of matching.”
SameGrain plans to start marketing its app this year and add more features that make it easier for people to make more meaningful in-depth connections. The company also intends to bring on additional platform partners. To learn more about SameGrain and see a video of how it works, visit their website at www.SameGrain.com.
The StartRight! competition is an initiative of the Maryland Women’s Business Center’s mission to help people in the region start and build successful woman-owned enterprises that are positioned for long-term growth. For additional information, contact Kiesha Haughton Smoots, Managing Director of the Maryland Women’s Business Center, at 301-315-8096 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SameGrain was recently featured in Technical.ly Baltimore. Read the article at http://technical.ly/baltimore/2015/04/07/can-samegrain-push-matchmaking-beyond-romance/