Domenic MerendaHot Started is pleased to welcome Domenic Merenda of, a new silicon valley start-up that intends to solve a long-standing problem with email communications by mining social signals to provide a seamless method of vetting in-bound messages without any need for whitelisting, spam blocking or other more intrusive forms of digital recipient security. This interview excerpt from the Hot Started Dossier gives great insight into the way works and the underlying reasons why Mr. Merenda has been a key contributor to many other new ventures as a system architect, executive or outside consulting advisor.


Can You Tell Us A Little About Your New Start-Up

Access2.ME lets you talk to the people who matter, and not have your time wasted by those who don’t. When you receive an email, our system asks the sender to self-identify by linking one of their social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. By using this social signal context, we show you whether that person is a priority, and worthy of your time or likely to be another stranger seeking your attention.

As the Internet evolved and digital communication replaced traditional letters or phone calls for many situations, the tools to sort and sift those emails have lagged behind quite a bit. Most people have resorted to manual deletions, cumbersome lists of ‘throw away’ email accounts and other labor intensive methods of straining their inboxes to shake out the junk and get down to the few shiny nuggets that are actually worth reading. Data mining really isn’t something ordinary consumers should need to do just to weed out spammers and scammers in the hope of finding emails from friends and family.

The odd thing that has happened is an entirely separate ecosystem simultaneously evolved for social media platforms. They do a far better job of matching people up with those in their social circles because that’s at the core of all they do… but they also take liberties with people’s privacy that they shouldn’t be so cavalier about, and prior to nobody seems to have taken the time to connect these two different spheres of communication in a way that consumers can benefit from right now. That’s the crux of what we do, merge the privacy protections of direct email accounts with the relationship management tools underpinning the whole social media revolution. The result is an inbox full of people you actually want to hear from and no way for a spammer or scammer to weasel their way into it without your direct consent.

What made you decide to develop this brand rather than license out the technology?

Although we have had a lot of early interest in technology licensing, the market reception has been so overwhelmingly positive that we’d like to capitalize on our own efforts versus immediately licensing out of the gate. We haven’t ruled anything out entirely and have a few offers on the table, but those deals are always more lucrative when you negotiate them from a position of post-launch growth rather than one of pre-launch development. I view this early phase as vital to the success of our efforts whether we license or develop the entire platform in house eventually. All of the same things that make popular with consumers will have a similar impact on making or brand popular with others in the email or social space as well. Two goals with an identical trunk that doesn’t require us to branch off in either direction too early.

The choice of a .me domain is interesting. Do you believe .com dominance is headed for the sunset?

I wouldn’t classify myself as a Domainer in the pure sense of the term, but I have bought and sold domains over the years and one thing I have learned is that the brand matters more than the domain ever will. I’d much rather own JPMChase than or Exxon than I see enormous potential in branding for a number of reasons. We have also done some demographical research and test marketed the brand with a very favorable response. One of the things needed to disrupt existing markets and unseat entrenched rivals is a brand that breaks cleanly from what’s already out there. Nobody would respond to Zmail, Lmail or Xmail much differently than they already do to Gmail. The .me domain ¬†of the brand are cues that resonate with our target audience of early adopters.

Would I launch a new car company or cigarette manufacturer on a .me domain? No, because the brand wouldn’t match their older and less trend oriented demographics – but with the massive wave of new extensions being launched each month that may soon change as well. I’d hate to be holding and asking for big money when someone can pick up for a fraction of that price and have a much more brandable domain for the new consumers who will ultimately drive the market in the decades to come.

What single skill do you believe an entrepreneur needs most to succeed in the modern start-up climate?

The most important skill in today’s market is the ability to rapidly pivot. Sink your teeth in, but be ready to fail quickly and change directions to a new vertical, or even a new product. Lots of old timers will tell a new entrepreneur about the importance of a “stick-to-it“approach and having “no plan B” but that sort of advice in the modern start-up climate is misguided at best. The truth is it has never been easier to start something… anything… with very little bootstrap capital and a modicum of technical expertise. Yes, at a certain point you do need to decide if you should go “all in” or not with an idea – and for me that time has come with which is now my singular focus. However, while it used to take an idea or two along the way before people found their calling, these days a good entrepreneur may burn through dozens of potential gold mines before finally hitting the right combination of coordinates to reach the elusive X on their treasure map. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to admit you failed. Don’t be afraid to learn from your failures… and most importantly, don’t be afraid to succeed!


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