Sam Safer Valentine

Sam Safer Valentine is a co-founder and COO of Norby, a plug-and-play marketing system helping today’s modern creators, influencer, & brands grow their audience. Norby has raised $3.8M in funding led by Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI-focused venture fund) with participation from Bungalow Capital, BBG Ventures, Charge VC, and Notation. 

How did you meet your co-founders Nick and Steven?

In 2019 I was consulting at Bulletin, a retail startup co-founded by Nick’s partner Ali Kriegsman.

When Covid hit, my consulting business was impacted and I was considering a career pivot into product management. I told Ali and she suggested I chat with Nick since his background is in tech. Nick and I had a great call and then he introduced me to Steven (his former roommate & colleague).

We all hit it off and decided to try a little experiment of our own: build and launch a culture calendar website and online events newsletter. The community around this exploded. We quickly found ourselves inundated with inbound requests from people asking if they could use the tools we were using to manage our events, site, email, and SMS lists. As that list grew, we eventually realized there was a real business opportunity to help people build, manage, and grow operations like our own.

We decided to to wind down our own community to focus on building tools for creators, and here we are today!

How did you come up with the name Norby?

The name Norby comes from a sci-fi children’s book series from the early 1980s by Janet and Isaac Asimov.

Long story short, Nick and Steven (my co-founders) lived together in Janet Asimov’s old apartment in NYC for a hot minute. It was common knowledge that Norby was one of her favorite books. When it came time to name the business, we considered other names but always came back to Norby.

What’s your favorite type of creator to work with?

This is a hard one! Working with content creators and solopreneurs gives you a front row seat on how hard it is to juggle everything and wear multiple hats. It’s not easy to handle marketing, finance, and logistics on top of creating meaningful content that keeps audiences engaged. It’s so rewarding to hear from customers that Norby helped them achieve some of their growth goals or streamline processes.

I also love working with community builders and hearing about the connections that complete strangers can make with each other on the internet … and how our tools can help foster that.

Unique creators & brands use Norby. How do you find them?

Note: There are tons of interesting brands on Norby like Shop LatinX , a marketplace of lifestyle products made by and for LatinX and Pothos Beauty, an online beauty marketplace with inclusive beauty products.

I love the process of building relationships, community, and connecting with people. It energizes me! When we built the first Norby community, we came in contact with thousands of brands, creators, and communities. Many of them became early beta users or introduced us to their network, which led to many organic referrals.

Additionally, our launch programming featured some incredibly talented creators, influencers and personalities. This really helped create brand awareness.

Right now it’s amazing to say people are organically discovering us – we have a pretty long waitlist at this point!

What do the most impressive creators / brands have in common?

There are a few commonalities among the most impressive ones. I find that the most impressive brands & creators have the following:

Having a unique and niche lens on something that attracts a highly engaged community.

Streamlining workflows & processes.

Visibility into what’s working and what’s not.

Resilient. It’s really hard to build something. You need to ride the waves and be as resilient as possible.

What questions are successful creators asking themselves?

What’s actually working and where am I wasting my time?

How can I deepen the relationship with my audience and understand them better?

The big one: what can I do to own my audience and move it away from the big tech gatekeepers?

Of course, you also need to ask questions around monetization (i.e., pay walls, programming, exclusives, etc).

How did you attract early customers like the COO of Bulletin?

Context: Bulletin is a curated wholesale marketplace that connects retailers & brands.

It’s a small world! Ali (COO of Bulletin) is Nick’s partner (Nick is a Norby co-founder & CEO).

Ali was one of our first beta users, and she was also gearing up for the launch of her book “How to Build a Goddamn Empire“. She tested and provided feedback on every single one of our features. Ali used Norby for her book launch. This opened doors for us and generated a lot of brand awareness and organic referrals.

What creator (dead or alive) would you like to have on Norby?

David Bowie, hands down. He was always innovating and creating.

What’s the best live event you’ve attended through Norby? 

My wedding! My husband and I got married during COVID and used Norby for our Zoom wedding.

So Norby is a virtual wedding platform too, haha!