(Screenshot via Vimeo)
The many connections that happen at a typical party or networking event are peppered with plenty of small talk. Maybe there’s some exchange of biographical information, a bit of professional gossip and a few musings about the hosts.
Usually, the two people go their separate ways after enough time has passed. You might’ve had something in common — like an interest in archery or having survived an arrow attack — that would lead to a deeper connection, but the social situation dictates that it’s time to look for more small talk before you can get there.
"It's taking matching beyond dating."
That’s where SameGrain wants to come in.
The social discovery app, which is officially launching Tuesday on iOS, looks to get right to the things that two people have in common.
“You just can’t dive that deep that fast,” said founder Anne Balduzzi. “This allows you to go right to the heart of it.”
The app has two features that allow users to find each other based on topics of shared interest: It offers complete anonymity for users, and has an algorithm that can enable matches on 45 million topic areas, including all of Wikipedia and beyond.
For Balduzzi, an internet pioneer who worked for the first online consumer service in the 1980s and was hired by Steve Case before his company was called AOL, the two features tie together. Privacy gives users the freedom to be honest about what they have experienced, and the algorithm powers a series of questions that plums those facts of life.
“I knew it had to be private and anonymous so people could really open up, and I knew the questions had to be really in-depth questions … which you can do when it’s private and anonymous,” she said.
The series of questions are presented on the app’s nature-themed design. When you answer a question about a favorite sport or belief in UFOs similar to someone else, the app identifies the characteristic as “same grains.”
Once they’re matched, users can only see what they have in common with someone else. From there, users can “plant” the person. If they decide they don’t want to be grouped together anymore, the app allows the connection to be discarded — or “mulched.”
“If at any point in time, this person gets creepy, I can mulch them,” Balduzzi said. “They go off into the mulch pile, and I’ll never be matched with them again.”
And, for use at networking events, the app lets users communicate about their locations — but only if they choose to.
Balduzzi said it’s not designed as a dating app. It’s about extending relationships beyond existing networks.
“It’s taking matching beyond dating,” she said.
With the anonymized data available, the ETC Haven Street-based startup has been reaching out to organizations that would benefit from being able to match people around interests. Balduzzi offered up examples like a conference matching hotel-mates for a weekend, or a college matching roommates. One partner that already signed up is a group of biotech research partners. Balduzzi can envision the app being able to match sometimes-shy scientists around their areas of interest. It may even help their research.
“If you think about it on a larger scale, there could be many more people that have more in common with you, that you just never get the chance to meet,” she said.
The startup, which is run by Balduzzi and Eric Eller — formerly of Advertising.com and Millennial Media — plans to launch web and Android layouts in the coming months, along with new features.