Sober Grid CEO Beau Mann Talks Boston, Social Media and Getting Sober
As the CEO and founder of the Boston-based social media app Sober Grid, Beau Mann understands the importance of human connectivity and peer support better than most. From a personal perspective, Mann started building a healthy community for himself when he decided to live a sober lifestyle. When he made the choice 10 years ago to face recovery, he noticed a hole in the social media tech market. Runners have apps to connect with other runners, the LGBTQ population has apps for connectivity, even vegans have special apps to find each other — and the list goes on. What about the millions of Americans struggling to live a sober lifestyle? How can they find, connect and support one another through the difficult process of recovery?
That’s when Mann set his heart on Sober Grid. Similar to Facebook, Sober Grid creates a news feed and introduces you to a broad network of people. What makes Sober Grid unique is that while it is a form of social media, it’s one that compels meaningful social impact. In the age of Twitter and Instagram, we sacrifice our time to these platforms that don’t give us anything in return. Mann’s app refreshes the market with a concept that directly aims at helping people. Feeds are monitored and tailor-made for individuals coming out of addiction while users can click the “Burning Desire” feature to let others know that they are going through a hard time and need support. Users can then chat and build their sober network for access whenever and wherever they need it.
I was fortunate enough to chat with Mann about his experience in the Boston community and how his passions translate to Sober Grid. Read on for his inspiring story.
1. Tell me a little bit about your background, like where you’re from and how you ended up in Boston.
I think there’s just one word that sums it up: awesome. That’s me! But yeah, I live in Boston in Back Bay, I’m 34 years old and I got sober when I was 24. About 10 years ago, I was living in New York and I stopped drinking. I was closer to 30 years old when I was visiting the Sundance Film Festival. My friends were coming but there were a few days when I was there alone. I wanted to go skiing, go watch one of the film screenings, grab a cup of coffee, get something to eat; I wanted to connect with other people. I know there are apps to connect to other people, like runners have apps, gay guys (which I happen to be) have apps that connect you to other gay guys, so at that point I thought “hey, I’d like an app that connects me to another sober guy or sober girl to grab a cup of coffee, go skiing, just do other social activities with.” At that point I really had my heart set on Sober Grid. I was based in Houston at the time but I came to Boston and I really got immersed in the software scene. About two years ago I started working on Sober Grid. It’s just been so rewarding and so fulfilling. As it’s developed, it’s been used for social purposes but is also used for peer support, so it really has two use-case scenarios. It really has been a great success.
2. Since being in Boston, how has the community here helped you achieve your goals?
It’s just been so helpful. One of the people who has been so amazingly helpful is Governor William Weld who was our governor for a couple terms. I’ve also made friends with other CEOs that are in the software community and they’ve been helpful as well. I’ve also attended events at the Harvard Innovation Lab and helped launch a company’s North American office. That gave me a lot of experience in launching a new company in a new market that had some resemblance to a start-up. Those are really the resources I’ve tapped into. I think that Boston has a very strong entrepreneurial scene and a very strong start-up scene.
“Absolutely, I think Sober Grid represents the future of
social media. I think we’re seeing a trend where we’re
going to apps that fit who we are and our community.”
3. Do you think Boston and the surrounding Massachusetts area was in any particular need for an app like Sober Grid?
I think it’s a need everywhere. I think that globally, there’s a strong need. I think that Boston is more willing to embrace it and that Boston traditionally has been innovative in a business perspective and led the way in other areas, like with social issues, socialites and healthcare. I think (Boston) has led a lot of programs, and when you’re dealing with mine (Sober Grid), it’s not only a business but it’s socially-focused as well. There’s a lot of stigma around it. Our current governor, he and the administration that works for him, has really placed a lot of their efforts on doing the State Without Stigma, and working on the opioid crisis. Because Massachusetts and Boston have put a great emphasis on treating addiction, it makes Boston a very warm and welcoming place to start such a business. Then you look at our current mayor: he is someone who is sober and recovering and is very public about it. I think that Boston, for many reasons, is the perfect place for the start of this business.
4. How does Sober Grid combat addiction by spreading recovery?
Sober Grid helps in many ways. One of those ways is by providing support which includes both peer support and access to professional support. By having both, it helps people and gives them solutions in how to address their health issues in this crisis. We’ve also had some very public figures and celebrity types sort of endorse Sober Grid, so I think we help with this stigma that built shame around addiction. We can see people that are in the public high, like the former Miss America who used her story in recovery and shared her story publicly. She’s an ambassador, she’s spoken publicly to the press, and she’s been to dinners, launch parties and photoshoots. Having people like that is very helpful. We help with the shame, the stigma, the peer support, and access to clinical support. We also employ people that are in recovery and are looking to do something that is mission-focused, and want to give back and be involved. We really help in numerous ways, both locally, nationally and internationally.
5. How does your team monitor Sober Grid’s news feeds?
We have team members that monitor it and (Sober Grid) has a self-regulation component. We have safety measurements built in as well, like 2-step verification, and procedures that allow us to deactivate an account if someone doesn’t adhere to the community guidelines.
6. What has been your greatest accomplishment?
(Long pause). Becoming sober. Living life as a sober person. Kind of that or being an uncle, I’m not sure. (Laughs).
“I think that community means connections with
people who have compassion, understanding,
and love for one another.”
7. Talk about someone who has had the most influence in your life and why.
Yeah, I have Sandra Eggers. She has been the most influential person in my life. She has done that by providing understanding, love, guidance, support, and also by helping me understand what living a sober and healthy lifestyle is about. She has always been in my corner.
8. If there was one thing you would want people to know about you, what would it be?
I stumble but I get up and try, try and try again.