Heath: Hi I’m Heath Butler and this is The BusinessMakers Show. Our guest today is Asma Mirza, Co-Founder and CEO of Pheramor. Asma, welcome to the program.
Asma: Thank you, Heath.
Heath: So, tell us about Pheramor.
Asma: Yeah, so Pheramor, we essentially enhance romance using genetics and technology. So, if I swab your cheek, I can look at your pheromone profile from your genetics and see who you’d be attracted to, and I can also look at your personality snips and see who you would be compatible with in terms of your personality. All I have to do is swab the inside of your cheek and send it to our sequencing lab. But, genetics is not destiny, right? So how do we get the nurture portion into it? Well, we get it from your social media. And people don’t know this, but when you’re liking, and hash-tagging, and posting stuff, all that information is super valuable. So, if I get 8 data points from your Instagram, or your Google, or your Facebook, I can accurately predict who you are going to vote for. And if I get 150 data points I can answer questions that probably only your spouse can. So, we’re combining the nature and the nurture of data and life science to bring people better love lives, essentially.
Heath: So, exactly how does it work in terms of taking the swab and doing the analysis that gives you that data?
Asma: So, essentially the science that we’ve been using, it’s been validated for 40 years. So, attraction from your genetics, based on your pheromone profile, based on your human leukocyte antigen, it’s already been established and validated, so we’re just capitalizing and bringing genetics to people so it’s more accessible. And, yeah, it just gets sent to a lab, it gets sequenced, and we have the results and we can analyze them and put them into our algorithm.
Heath: So, do you do this genetic assessment on couples that are already together or people that want to be matched together?
Asma: Right. So, we do it on people who want to be matched together, who are looking for compatibility and love.
Heath: So, instead of Tinder, or Bumble, or some of the other ones out there, you’re doing something a little bit more sophisticated like Match, or eHarmony?
Asma: Even Match and eHarmony, they’re not based and rooted in something that we’re doing, which is genetics and data. These are actual variables that are put into our algorithm and they’re validated. Tinder and Match, you just see a whole bunch of profiles, there’s no science behind it. We’re telling you who you’re going to have a spark with before you even go on a date (Heath: That’s amazing.). Yep, who you will be attracted to.
Heath: So, you’re using DNA testing and social media assessments?
Asma: That’s right.
Heath: So, which one is more important?
Asma: That’s a really good question. We’ll be using our Houston beta launch, soft launch, to figure out which one is more important and how we will weigh that inner algorithm. It honestly depends on the user, and that’s where our algorithm is machine learning. So, maybe personality is more important to you, but somebody’s social habits are more important to me. So, based on what I’m clicking on, and who I like, and who I’m going on a date with, that algorithm will machine learn for each one of our users.
Heath: So, where are you in the process with launching this application?
Asma: Yeah. It’s super exciting. We just started our mobile development, so it will take about 4 months for us to have the mobile app up and ready. So, by October, we’ll launch in Houston. Right now, if you go onto our website, you can purchase the genetic kit. So, we’re letting our early adopters go on and have the first 3 months free, when we launch, and they’ll get the genetic kit at a discounted price.
Heath: How many people do you have working for you now, and how many do you expect to have in the future?
Asma: We started about six months ago, so right now, working full time it’s the three of us, the three co-founders, and we have about nine interns working full time with us this summer. We’re hoping to bring on someone for marketing, someone for finances, and growing this.
Heath: Tell us about the business model, how are you monetizing this opportunity?
Asma: Yeah, there will be a one-time sequencing fee, so you just send in your cheek swab. We sequence it for you, we have it on our file, and then it will be a monthly membership fee as well.
Heath: So, when you guys thought about this, where were some of the really interesting dialogue you and your partners had about whether this was a realistic opportunity or not?
Asma: Yeah, so one of my co-founders, Brittany Barreto, she is a Ph.D. in Genetics. She was saying, back when she was in college she was sitting in a genetics class and thinking, you can figure out attraction based on genetics? What if I built a business out of this? And then she stopped thinking about it, and then we all met and we were like, that’s amazing. We could totally do this, but we don’t live in this insular world where we just look at attraction and biology. Your social habits are important, your personality is important, how you grew up is important. So, we realized that we can still bring those portions in, we can look at your personality through your genetics and your genetics don’t lie. So, if somebody is sayi ng, I’m super laid back and adventurous on their profile, they probably are if they’re on our website because we get that information from their genetics.
And then we get their social habits from their social media, because 83% of people think social media is super important and they use it almost every day. We don’t even have to have our users build a profile, we build it for them so it saves time. We pull all of that information and we build it for them. And then, you know, subjectivity is important too, so we’ll let our users write like a 1-5 sentence thing about themselves.
Heath: It seems like the concept of using DNA to match could be used in other opportunities. Is this a platform play, or is this it just dating?
Asma: Yeah, so that’s a great question. So, we’ve already thought of this, and there’s genetics behind who you would be friends with, and there’s genetics behind who you would room with. Because all of those interactions are slightly different, and so we would like to go ahead and expand this platform in the coming years to finding friends in new cities. You move to a new city, you want to hang out with people, this is the best way to do it. Or, finding roommates. Living with somebody is a huge thing and you hear of these horrible roommate stories. And corporate team enhancements; there’s genetics and things that play behind what kind of team works best with one another. So, there’s a lot of different ways this could go and all we have to do is change our algorithm a little bit.
Heath: So, I’m sure you guys have thought about that there’s probably a line where your insights, I don’t know if it’s illegal, but it crosses a line, let’s just say. What’s the perspectives there?
Asma: We’ve had a lot of conversations behind the ethics of matching, right? And one of the things that we realized was that because we’re not giving back genetic information to people, that kind of puts a certain checks and balances in place where, you know, that information is not readily available for someone to look at and be like, ‘Man, I didn’t know this was the case,’ you know?
Heath: So, where do you see this going in five years?
Asma: So that’s something that keeps us up at night because this thing could become huge or it could just be one of those stories that crashes and burns, and I think the biggest thing for us is user acquisition. If we can get a whole bunch of people onto our platform, and they love it, and we get amazing feedback, for us that’s like, this thing works. We know it works already, simply because the science is validated, but the experience portion is just as important, that do people like it?
Heath: So, how do you plan to do that?
Asma: Yeah, so we’ve actually already started in Houston. We’ve had a lot of people buy our kits, and we’ve done that by going to festivals, and parades, and having singles meetups, but also we’re incentivizing it; the first 3,000 people that sign up, they get certain perks that will last them forever, as long as they use Pheramor, but we want to expand also, right? So, Houston is home base and Houston is close to my heart, but after Houston we are going to roll out in L.A., Boston, and New York City before we go national.
Heath: Tell us a little bit about your funding, and the process?
Asma: Yeah, so we were really lucky because within one month we raised half a million dollars from prestigious venture funds. We were recruited by the Houston Angel Network, we were recruited by the GOOSE Society, and this wasn’t anything that honestly, we were searching for. It came out of the blue. The three of us were in a mini accelerator together at TMCx, it’s called Bioventures, went through that and realized this could become a reality. Investors started talking to us, they saw us pitch a couple of times, asked us to come out, and in the month of April we ended up raising all of this, which was super awesome and super exciting.
Heath: Asma, thank you for sharing your story, and we look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Asma: Thank you for having me.
Heath: And that wraps up my discussion with Asma Mirza, CEO and Co-Founder of Pheramor. My name is Heath Butler, and this is The BusinessMakers Show.
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