The San Diego Union Tribune published two articles announcing the successful completion of our beta test in San Diego, and the closing of our $550,000 angel investment round.  Connequity CEO Scott Weinbrandt and Founder Russ Hall are quoted in the articles which ran online on July 30 – GROWconnections aims to be a better LinkedIn*, and in the print edition on August 1 –  S.D. digital networking startup has raised $550K.  See the full story below!

*GROWconnections recently changed its name to Connequity

UnionTribuneGROWconnections, a San Diego startup seeking to create a digital business networking platform, said it has raised $550,000 from angel investors as it prepares for a national launch of its technology this fall.

The company is in the process of raising an additional $1 million to support the rollout. The Web-based technology uses mathematical formulas to best match relevant business contacts and generate referrals.

“I describe it as eHarmony meets LinkedIn,” said Scott Weinbrandt, a former Dell and Gateway executive who heads GROWconnections. “We’ve developed a smart learning engine that — based on a specific member’s profile — will generate relevant leads and referral matching.”

The company ran a beta test on its Web software platform this spring and is now tweaking the technology in preparation for the national launch in major cities.

GROWconnections takes personal information that members provide and sifts it through an algorithm that pinpoints specific traits. It then suggests connections that the technology deems to be the most likely to generate business relationships or referrals. The company has created incentives inside its platform to encourage members to agree to make referrals.

Weinbrandt declined to name all the sources that would populate GROWconnections’ member base, but he did say that members could give permission to have their LinkedIn contacts included. “It’s an opportunity to apply matching technology to business relationships in order to monetize an individual’s networking potential,” he said Monday.

The company plans to offer a limited version of its technology for free. It will make money by selling a premium version. Weinbrandt expects the service will appeal to real estate and other service professionals who want a more-precise, efficient networking experience than they get with today’s online offerings or at traditional in-person networking events.

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