Mann: A few years ago, I was away from home at the Sundance Film Festival and I wanted to connect with other people for both social activities and supportive connection. This type of connection is especially important when one is away from their established sober support network. I knew other smartphone apps existed to connect other populations such as Grindr for gay men, Untappd for beer lovers, and Runkeeper for runners, so I was shocked to find that no similar app existed to connect people in recovery. I immediately recognized how beneficial such an app would be for people in recovery, or people still trying to get sober, and I set out to build.
I started it because I saw an important, but at that time unmet, need for people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction to find and connect with their peers. I entered recovery at the age of 23, and I have relied on the support I received from sober peers to achieve and maintain my sobriety.
Forbes: What is unique about this?
Mann: Sober Grid is unique because it takes peer support into the digital age. Sober Grid enables people in recovery from addiction to find and connect with others nearby, as well as to tap into a global sober community for immediate connection and peer support 24/7, directly from their smartphone. In-person support meetings are incredibly beneficial, but they are not offered in all locations or at all times of day. Sober Grid removes barriers that impede people from finding support wherever and whenever they need it, and puts this support in a person's pocket, allowing them to access it "on demand" with the touch of a button.
Forbes: Do you have any interesting stories about this company has helped people?
Mann: Absolutely! We receive feedback from Sober Grid members on a daily basis, letting us know that the support they received from others on Sober Grid kept them from relapsing. Relapse, especially when dealing with substances like heroin and other opioids, is quite literally a life or death scenario. So Sober Grid is indeed saving lives.
One story stands out in particular. A California man in his 20s - I'll call him Ryan for our purposes. Ryan was on Sober Grid and reached out for help. Another member in the California area answered his call. Ryan was struggling with heroin addiction and was in need of immediate treatment. Unfortunately, he could not afford it on his own and was having trouble finding a facility that would accept him. The Sober Grid member who helped him reached out to their connections and was able to get Ryan a scholarship and into a treatment center. Ryan went to treatment and has been sober since. He credits the support he received through Sober Grid with saving his life.
What also stands out for me are the many different ways in which Sober Grid members are using the app to address their own unique needs and situations. For example, we had one user in a remote area in Alaska who was struggling, quite understandably, with feelings of isolation. He did not have access to in-person support, and prior to discovering Sober Grid, was attempting to overcome addiction on his own. Through Sober Grid, he was able to find a community and a sense of belonging that helped him with his struggle. He was able to get the support he needed, and connect with others whenever he needed to, despite his physical isolation.
Forbes: What will this company look like a few years from now?
We are also releasing a platform that utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to project if someone will relapse. The platform will also help to identify if someone has relapsed so that they can be connected with rehab providers.
Forbes: What would you say to people thinking about becoming an entrepreneur?
Mann: I would advise that if you want to be an entrepreneur, you must work on a project you feel passionate about. It is an incredibly difficult undertaking that is both physically and emotionally taxing. However, it is also an incredibly rewarding undertaking when you are working to build something you are passionate about.