Within the industry there is a sparse number of unrestricted innovators; movers and shakers who sharpen ideas into tools, build relationships with their peers, gain unwavering momentum, and then spearhead a movement to turn the imaginary into the tangible. And it’s certainly not everyday we get to sit down with one of these go-getters.
Paul Saarinen is one of those people, and a fortuitous turn of events put us next to him at a coffee table for an hour. With an enthusiasm for seemingly everything — from social media to genetics — and a genuinely friendly persona, Paul immediately gives the impression of a guy who loves creating.
Innovator by nature and marketing pioneer by trade, Paul has shared his digital strategy and data analysis prowess with the Minneapolis ad scene for almost 15 years. And then, in July 2012, he founded the company whose name would later grab our attention in a Wired featurette. The company is Miinome (pronounced MEE-nohm), and their focus is your genetic data.
The basic premise? Banking on almost invaluable marketing potential, Miinome will eventually offer a free gene sequencing service to consumers and a promise of its safe storage on a secure platform. Then, the same consumers get to allow or deny the release of their DNA information to research institutions and businesses.
Prior to Miinome, the genetic e-commerce biz revolved around a few companies who, for about a hundred dollars, would send you a plastic tube to spit into which they’d collect, analyze, and then post your results online. Once you have a summary of your heritage, ancestry, or genetic inclination toward a small selection of health problems, you can…err, what can you do?
And that’s where Paul’s innovation came into play. Miinome is breaking ground on two fronts: first, by giving you access to what may be the most personal thing you own (your genome sequence), and second, by giving you a number of applications for it once you have the information. Using the supply and demand model, for example, Miinome can determine the price of each trait, like balding or hypertension. Consequently, the leading thinning hair shampoo or health food outlet will pay that price to Miinome for that specific trait through the platform.
And while being hyper-targeted for an anti-balding shampoo ad may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, Miinome guarantees that members get to decide what information is made available and for what ends. With a focus on individual information ownership, Miinome is always opt-in and goes to great lengths to protect user data. This is a code that even Miinome’s predecessors didn’t share, as users rarely had a say as to which research projects their DNA was contributed.
In an age where the online presence I’ve poured so many hours into creating is in fact owned primarily by Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., Paul and Miinome returning to consumers what indelibly belongs to them: genetic identity.
Miinome may turn out to be the most cutting-edge advance in marketing, but it is definitely the icebreaker for the information ownership conversation.