Notre Dame alumni launches app
Ray Ren | Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Countless kids grow up dreaming about starting their own companies. For Notre Dame graduates Joe Mueller and Federico Segura, that dream has become a reality since they co-founded Grain — a mobile app that connects family and friends in the realm of personal finance.
Mueller and Segura both studied business at Notre Dame, gaining experience and insight through classes, research projects and entrepreneurial lectures. They graduated in 2015 and now work out of Silicon Valley — Mueller as the CEO and Segura, the chief financial officer (CFO).
“I had to be a self-starter and forge my own trails,” Mueller said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen even two, three, four months down the road.”
Using the computing power of IBM’s Watson, Grain is able to take keyword inputs from everyday life, like “solar power,” and turn them into related investment ideas, such as “Solar City stock,” for a portfolio. By connecting to a social network, the app’s users can share ideas and compare company performances with people they trust in a welcoming center, Mueller said.
“We saw a disconnection between our studies and personal finance, and we wanted to help friends and family to bridge that gap,” Mueller said.
Through the Mendoza-sponsored Shark Tank event and Notre Dame’s annual McCloskey Business Plan Competition, the co-founders were able to develop Grain from an idea into a viable platform.
Mueller said the company name of Grain originated from the story of the ancient Indian minister Sessa, who is sometimes credited as the inventor of chess. The story goes that as a reward for inventing chess, an Indian ruler granted Sessa a request, to which Sessa responded by asking the ruler to give him a grain of wheat for the first square of the chessboard, two for the second, four for the third and so on — doubling the number of grains for each successive square. The ruler agreed, not realizing the sum of all the grains would result in an enormous heap.
Mueller said they took the same idea to personal finance, where the stock market enables a small initial investment to grow tremendously over time.
According to Mueller, Grain joins friends and family together by allowing them to track each other’s investment decisions. It also has a virtual stock market users can practice with before linking to an actual brokerage account to make real trades — thus allowing people to familiarize themselves and gain confidence in the market by gradually easing into investing. Mueller said users are also able to invest at their own pace without feeling pressured or overwhelmed.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Mueller has some advice.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and find resources to put you on the right path,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to just go for it.”
Nearing the completion of its Beta phase, Grain is set to officially release on the iOS App Store on Friday.