The BizSpark startup of the day is SocialGrow, based in the US. SocialGrow enables users to quickly make relevant new connections online.
Interview with Ken Herron, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of SocialGrow
Tell us who you are and your role in the company.
I am Ken Herron, and I am SocialGrow’s Chief Marketing Officer and one of its three Co-Founders. My role in the company is to engage customers. Engaging our customers enables us to create and sell uniquely differentiated products and services which anticipate and meet their needs.
What did you do before creating your company?
Before SocialGrow, I was the Chief Marketing Officer for Online Buddies, the world’s second stickiest website (the first, by the way, is gaming site GoldenPalace.com, known for their marathon poker games). Before joining Online Buddies, I was the Vice President of Interactive Strategies for real estate franchisor Realogy’s portfolio of global consumer and commercial real estate brands. There is nothing more exciting to me than leveraging technology to transform people’s lives.
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
Excited. Humbled. And not at all surprised to learn that Google didn’t win. It really is exciting for us to have other people see the value that we see as we finish up our development work on the first release of our software. As you know, SocialGrow is a web and mobile phone software application which automates the process of inviting people to join users’ online social networks, making it faster and easier for users to grow their connections across profile-based social networking websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. How easy? For users running Windows 7, to send an invitation to connect, they can highlight the person’s e-mail address and right-click. As a new company (we began in July of this year), we obviously want to share with as many people as possible how the first release of our product will enable them to search for and connect with people online, both professionally and personally. While being Microsoft BizSpark’s most promising "Start-Up of the Day" is of course our most significant milestone to date, we were recently selected by MassHighTech (The Journal of New England Technology) as one of their "Five Start-Ups You Should Follow", and I was recently named one of the top 52 Chief Marketing Officers in North America by Systemic Marketing for SocialGrow’s use of Twitter.
How did you get the idea for your company?
SocialGrow’s President, Marsh, the head of executive recruiting firm Walden Recruiting (who also wrote the book on using online social networks for your job search), knew there had to be a way to automate the process for inviting people to connect with you across multiple online social networks. Today, it is often a tedious and time-consuming process to invite people to join your network, and impossible to do across different online social networks. Our breakthrough idea was our digital identification engine, for which we have already received a provisional patent.
What is your company’s mission?
SocialGrow’s mission is nothing less than to transform peoples’ lives by enabling them to more easily and more quickly make relevant new connections online. A new job after a year of unemployment. The love of your life after a devastating break-up. A huge customer when your business was on the rocks. Our President Marsh Sutherland, for example, "found" me while doing a LinkedIn search, so it’s not an exaggeration to say that each new connection has the potential to be life-changing — after all, starting SocialGrow is a life-changing opportunity for all three of us. We sell a better way to connect online. Our product is our flagship web and mobile phone software application which grows the value you receive from having a large, relevant, and diverse global network of connections. While our proprietary technology is our digital identification engine, our "secret sauce" is our ability to allow users to quickly and easily connect with relevant people on their different online social networks.
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
We are currently seeking funding to accelerate the development of the first release of our product, increase our marketing efforts, and file utility patents. Interested Angel and VC investors can contact our President Marsh directly on 888-SOC-GROW, ext. 1 for more information.
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
We currently have 3 employees, and are also using offshore developers in several countries.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring and where?
We have already started speaking with technical and marketing candidates, with most roles being local to the Boston area (our offices will be in Cambridge).
Which platform are you building on? Why?
SocialGrow will be hosted on Microsoft Azure, and we are developing on Microsoft .NET because of the incredible level of enthusiasm and support we are receiving as a member of the Microsoft BizSpark program.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet area?
I see the biggest opportunities being in anything that makes it easier and faster for people to do what they are already doing. Find a way to eliminate chaos, confusion, and stress, and you’ll have a winner.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
One of the very first things we did as a new software company was apply to join the Microsoft BizSpark program. The level of support far exceeded our expectations, and in a very short period of time — with Microsoft’s help — we have been able to integrate our software with Windows 7, making great use of Windows 7’s key features including JumpLists, Federated Search, Multi-Touch, Accelerator, and Task Bar.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
Other than joining the BizSpark Program — find the smartest people you can to work with you. Solicit advice from people who have done what you’re trying to do. And most importantly — remember now, I’m a Marketing guy — never lose sight of the fact that your customer is NOT buying your "drill", no matter how terrific and feature-packed it may be, they are buying the ability to "make holes" and you must either be better, different, or cheaper (and there’s no fun in that unless you’re Wal-Mart) to succeed.
Who’s your role model?
Acknowledging the strong responses he generates from his customers, employees, and competitors, for me as a marketer, it’s Steve Jobs. His ability to drive innovation, consistently create well-designed products people want to buy, and create marketing buzz is incredible.
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
Of course, readers should immediate go to http://socialgrow.com and sign up to be a tester of SocialGrow’s alpha release coming in December!