Last Thursday, Startup Grind, an organization that manages networking events for startups  and has over 400 chapters around the globe, co-hosted a "Fireside Chat with Samantha Zirkin" along with the Brandeis Innovation Center. And while there may have not been a real fireplace, there was a homey feeling in the room nevertheless. As the presentation was being set up, Brandeis students and professionals from the greater Boston area discussed business with each other. 

Presenting to attendees was Samantha Zirkin ’01, founder and CEO of technology company Point 93. Zirkin structured her discussion around what Point 93 is, how it came to be, the technology behind it and her personal journey of creating a company. 

“We start startups because we see a vision of the future, and we think the world should be this way,” she stated during the Q&A when asked why she began Point 93. 

The mission of Point 93, as stated on LinkedIn, is to “enable a novel dialogue between retailers and their individual customers.” The company's app and website allows customers to select what information about themselves they share with a given retailer. In return, the retailer gives them discounts. The retailers can use the data they acquire to make decisions that will increase their profits, and customers have control over the data they do — and don’t — share. 

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A COMMUNITY COMING TOGETHER: The Fireside Chat allowed Brandeis students and professionals from the greater Boston area to discuss business with each other. 

Data belonging to individuals is often shared and monetized without individual consent, especially by major corporations like Google and Facebook. This is a cause for both concern and anger for many people. Giving customers control over how their data is shared allows for a more ethical retail environment, according to Zirkin.

In order to protect the data that individuals share, the app uses Blockchain technology. Blockchain is a means of storing data in a way that is highly secure and decentralized. The technology has been used in sectors like finance for years, but Zirkin is the first person to apply Blockchain technology for commerce on this scale.

In addition to sharing data, the app gives customers other ways to save money. One such way is to tell the retailer that the sale facilitated by the app is final; the customer promises that they won’t return the product. This ensures that the retailer will keep the money from the transaction, even if the product is being sold for a lower price. Another way for customers to save money is to offer a timeframe in which they are willing to buy a product. Rather than buying it immediately, the customer can wait in hopes of getting a better deal. However, during this delay, someone else could buy that product for a higher price, meaning that the retailer would get more money. 

Zirkin believes that Point 93 will have a big impact on individual customers and the retail industry alike. She hopes that her app will bring retailers and customers together to create a better shopping experience for both parties.