Five years ago, Tracy Saville was golfing with a group of big-time venture capitalists when she heard them talking about their projects and new deals. She wanted to engage them with her business ideas, but didn’t see the point.
“It wasn’t that I was afraid; it wasn’t that I thought I would fail,” she recalls. “I knew that I would have to shave some edges and do some things differently as a women in order to step into the gauntlet with them.”
After working the male-dominated world of technology and venture investment for more than a decade, Saville decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2015, she launched My Swirl, a next-generation social platform with an artificial intelligence component designed to transform how people connect and interact online. Created by women for women (although men can join, too), My Swirl is all about collaboration and helping members be more productive by engaging in like-minded communities (called swirls). You can start your own swirl or join an existing one, depending on your interests and needs.
“We’re designing it through a feminine lens,” Saville says. “In part because, for women, how we plan, collaborate, and the ways in which we look at sharing and making an impact in the world is actually mirroring the world people want to return to — a more relationship-centric experience online.”
The female-based economy, she adds, is the driver of the emerging global collaboration economy. Since October’s launch, more than 3,000 members have joined My Swirl with at least 3.9 million beta use customers in the pipeline through strategic partnerships, Saville says. Given the flood of interest, Saville and her co-founders (Laura Hansen, Amanda Roberts, Elena Di Cesare, Scott Sanders and Tim Rawson) believe they will meet their current equity fundraising goal of $35 million by the year’s end.
Early adopters receive My Swirl’s beta products and have front-row seats to the five-year rollout of the ultimate market version, which will feature a funding and payment ecosystem, an open source education platform and an online marketplace.
Michelle Sweezey is one of the first members to join. She met Saville at a TEDx Sacramento event, and liked the by-women, for-women aspect of My Swirl. She plans to start a swirl to expand the community-based yoga movement she and her husband founded.
“Women instinctively like to share information and resources, especially with each other,” she says. “It could be sweat equity, financial backing or maybe consultation, guidance or mentoring. Being in a group like that — a platform where women are coming in to support each other for the sake of growth for all and not just for their own personal advance — I think that’s pretty unique.”
Perhaps the most unique aspect will be the artificial intelligence component. Currently under development, this technology will personalize the user experience by reading biometrics (facial expressions, voice, etc.) and gauging interests and feelings in real-time to better connect you with other people and resources you need/
Loyal to the local community, Saville and her team plan to stay based in the Sacramento region, but their scope is global. If they successfully raise the $35 million, Saville estimates that come the end of 2016, My Swirl’s new beta products (personal and group editions of the My Swirl app) will be released to more than 3 million customers, with 50 percent of the first members from outside of the States. My Swirl already has followers from Mexico, South Africa, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia.
At this point, members can log in every day to participate in a live 15-minute guided meditation, which she highlights as an example of how My Swirl engages the community differently. This is purely to thank early adopters.
“It’s about modeling new behavior and new practices,” she says. “I can’t think of one startup in the world that would give early adopters intention meditation. But community in the new economy is about relationships. We aim to set a new standard.”
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