Groundfloor: Jamie Snedden’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
10 min readNov 14, 2022

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People and, by extension, companies, decide what they put out in the world. They are selective, and as a result most public information about businesses and founders is a projection of the version of the business or the founder that they want others to know. The net impact of this is that most publicly available information on any given subject skews positive. This means that comparing yourself to others is not comparing like for like. You are comparing the hard facts about yourself, to the best version of something, or someone else.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Snedden, CEO/Founder at Groundfloor.

Jamie Snedden is a serial entrepreneur, architect and Fulbright Scholar. He started his first venture-backed company aged 19 out of college, and went on to lead operations and scale teams at high-growth innovative startups including Hostmaker, Zamna and YC peer-to-peer rental company Fat Llama (acquired this year). He’s passionate about design, hospitality and community.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was mid-way through my bachelor’s degree in Architecture when I started working on a side project to solve a personal problem. I was a student with little money, and a desire to travel. The project I had started working on was an open-ended flight search engine, showing me all the cheapest destinations on any given date — filtered only by price. One morning I woke up and we had sold $4k worth of flights overnight. I realized then that this was more than a tinkering project. I graduated that year, went all in on this project, which became both my first company and my accidental pathway into startups, and tech-enabled hospitality.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We have had so many memorable milestones since founding Groundfloor, but one that sticks out was crossing a key threshold a couple months after we started. We had 500 people on a waitlist at that point for our first location. The next challenge: would they pay us? Not, “Would they pay us in theory in the future for what we’re building,” but instead, “Would they pay us today, here and now, for access to what we’re building.” How committed was our waitlist?

We prepped an email with a payment link which stated that it was now $25 to stay on our waitlist. We set it up and went to bed. 10 minutes later my co-founder called me and said ‘SOMEONE PAID!’ and that first $25 may as-well have been $1 million. That was the first payment we received. 8 months later, we make 100x this on a daily basis, but this first one will remain etched forever.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

  • Get comfortable in the gray areas
  • Bias towards action

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Covid-19 fundamentally changed how, where, and when we make friends.

  • 1 in 7 men and 1 in 10 women in the US don’t have a single friend.
  • 7 in 10 American adults consider themselves lonely.
  • 70% of friendships pre-Covid began in the office.
  • >50% of Americans no longer have access to an office.

I believe we’re entering a never before seen isolation epidemic.

Our idea is to build spaces, and technology, specifically designed to foster friendship. We find under-utilized retail spaces in residential neighborhoods. We redesign them, creating workspace, fitness & wellness facilities and kitchen / bar space. We then give memberships to people who live nearby and want to make friends. We give every member the tools to build community online and offline.

We see this as the new operating system for community in the remote-first world.

How do you think this will change the world?

Human beings have a fundamental need for friends. We’re social creatures. The status quo, remote-only world is objectively not meeting this need for millions of people. This means therefore that something needs to change. We are building a distributed destination for adult friendship: college for adults. 3rd spaces, and social clubs have been toyed with for years. We’re taking the best of these concepts, and — for the first time — rebuilding them for scale, offered to every human on earth who wants to make a new friend.

We take a fundamentally different approach to programming, and what happens in our spaces. Our spaces are member-led, and fun by member-led sub clubs — everything from sailing club to wine club to board game club. These niche groups, within the larger Groundfloor umbrella, exist both virtually and in real life and allow for the curation and creation of authentic community without the top-down management of the previous generating social clubs. We’re giving every community, of every size, in every location the tools and physical space to thrive.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

It could be argued that making friends shouldn’t need this much engineering, and that ‘community spaces’ already exist. The data however shows that, despite our best efforts, humans are largely bad at proactively engaging with others in new or unfamiliar settings; it’s not enough to simply put people together in a nice environment. The reason that lasting friendships started in the office pre-pandemic was because of consistency: the gradual familiarity that builds up if you are around the same people regularly, with some higher purpose over and above making friends. Left to our own devices — as the data clearly shows — these relationships don’t happen. We give people the tools to buck this trend.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Summer 2021, I had been working from home since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

My wife said to me, “I don’t think you’ve left the house in 5 days”. I realized she was right — and that this was probably not healthy! On reflection, there was no longer any part of my daily routine that allowed for meeting new people, or developing relationships outside of my work.

I then tried to fix this by working from coffee shops and coworking spaces, but soon felt that these spaces were the worst of all worlds: sub-optimum work setup, and still no meaningful interaction with other people. People just don’t make friends with strangers in the Starbucks queue. It was at this point I concluded that the space I needed didn’t exist, and that I wanted to build it. I called my friends, colleagues, people I trust to be honest, and every one of them felt the same as me. I quit my job that day to pursue Groundfloor.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need to create consistency and authenticity in our member experience across every location.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  • Hustle is the single most important thing.

The conventional hiring wisdom prioritizes hard skills. However, at the earliest stages of a company, the sheer quantity and diversity of activities that are required to get things off the ground very rarely fit squarely in one person’s suite of competencies. Daily activity also evolves rapidly, and so hiring in someone who meets a specific set of needs at one particular point is likely to be defunct shortly after they arrive.

There are though several requirements that do persist as startups grow: the need for curiosity, creativity and strength of mind required to will something into existence. Co-founders and early team members need to make things happen, and I have learned that it’s soft not hard skills that do this: work ethic, curiosity, creativity. In my experience, years under the belt is not important, and can actually be a determent. The naivety of young, restless people is invaluable. It’s far easier to question why things are done the way they are if you’re new to something, and harder to be weighed down.

  • Choose your co-founder wisely.

Of course this is not a secret, and as a second-time founder is certainly something I was aware of prior to founding Groundfloor. That being said, the 18 months that we’ve been operating to-date has only reinforced how important this relationship is. Co-founders need to combine complementary skillsets, personal and emotional connection and a long term alignment on what they want to be doing for the next 10 years of their lives. Layered into this the requirement for them to be someone you enjoy spending time with on a daily basis. This is an incredibly hard mix.

There are so many examples I have in my co-founder relationship. One was just this week, when at 10pm on a Tuesday, after a very long day together, I called my co-founder and asked, “Are we actually building something people want?” We ended up talking for an hour, and in fact, yes we are building something that people want, and I was having a long day. But I needed the conversation, and the reminder, and the other perspective. Being able to spent 10 hours in the weeds together, and then suddenly zoom up to 30,000 feet and question everything, and then bounce back into the nuances of email copy and CRM optimization, this is what makes the co-founder relationship uniquely valuable.

  • Understand the sunk-cost fallacy.

Most are familiar with this: the concept that people are reluctant to cancel or change a path if time, effort and money has already been invested in it, even if changing is objectively is the right thing to do. This is easy to understand but very, very hard to do!

One example for us has been the process of evaluating a property as a potential Groundfloor location. This process can be expensive, and labor intensive, and can include completing designs, paying thousands of dollars to professional services and doing extensive research. While scouting for our second location we went all in on one particular location, committing dollars and our team’s time, got as far as final lease negotiations but there were red flags. We made the decision to pull out, rendering the previous months work useless and we went back to the drawing board.

The lesson here to me is that what feels like an immediate waste of time and money (changing course) can — if the decision is correct — be significantly lower than the ultimate financial and time cost incurred going down the wrong path.

  • Most people aren’t doing as well as is appears.

People and, by extension, companies, decide what they put out in the world. They are selective, and as a result most public information about businesses and founders is a projection of the version of the business or the founder that they want others to know. The net impact of this is that most publicly available information on any given subject skews positive. This means that comparing yourself to others is not comparing like for like. You are comparing the hard facts about yourself, to the best version of something, or someone else.

An example here would be a competitor of ours who, based on their public image, we had assumed were significantly further ahead of us on the metrics we care about: member count, engagement, revenue. As it turns out, thanks to more information becoming public, not only were they not nearly as far ahead as we thought — but by most metrics, considering our relative youth, we were doing better. Of course the best thing here would be to not compare against others, but assuming that is impossible, the lesson I believe is: Don’t believe the hype!

  • Celebrate the wins along the way.

Most founders are hard-wired to be neurotic, and expect more. The result is that the product is never good enough and progress is never fast enough. We are naturally tempted to wait ‘Until things are done, or better, or bigger’ before allowing celebration, and public notice.

A valuable lesson I have learned is that this is the opposite of what you should be doing. By definition when growing a new company, things are never done; goalposts simply shift and the goals get larger. Giving yourself and your team the ability to recognize the progress along the way is not only important for the fulfilment and mental health of everyone, but if these milestones are shared publicly — it is also important for others perception of the company.

An example for us was our revenue targets. We opened our first location in March, hit $20k MRR the very next month. $30k MRR the following month. Over the summer we had a discussion about not sharing revenue updates publicly until we hit $50k MRR, before remembering that just a few months ago even 10% of this felt unattainable. We shared progress, and it led to significantly new investment into our company and a renewed realization of just how much we had accomplished so far, without diminishing the amount that was left to do.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Most ideas fail because people give up — stick with it and you’re already in the top 10%

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

We make it 10x easier for adults to make friends — a fundamental requirement for a happy life. 1.7 billion people will work remotely by 2025. Remote workers spend $140bn globally on coworking, gyms and social clubs — and 1 in 7 are still lonely.

We’ve cracked the business model — and technology — to scale community in the real world.

  • Our first location broke even after 6 weeks.
  • We went from $0 to $750k ARR in 6 months.
  • We have 70% gross margins.
  • Each location is worth $1m ARR, and we will open 4 more in 2023.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market