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Meet the creators of a new social search engine aiming to change the way women share information

Diem wants to be the place women go when they’re looking not only for facts, but for validation and conversation.
Diem co-founders Emma Bates, left and Divia Singh, right.
Diem co-founders Emma Bates, left and Divia Singh, right.Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet

There is something almost universal about the frustration many of us feel when we search the internet. Often, we’re simultaneously overwhelmed with information and underwhelmed with validation.

Emma Bates can relate. At 25, Bates found herself in one of those “classic internet doom spirals” when she was looking online for answers about taking the morning-after pill. While scrolling through pages of Google search results, she found conflicting information, and she couldn’t find the definitive answers she was seeking.

“My search experience felt in direct contrast to the real world sharing that I know exists, whether it be over dinner tables or private group chats,” she told MSNBC’s Know Your Value. She found it more beneficial to directly ask her own social circle.

So Bates, who is based in New York City, decided to build her own online platform; a way for women to share their wisdom and experience, like how generations before her have whispered behind closed doors, but make it a public resource.

Bates had been working as the global head of marketing for the popular luggage company Away where she met her soon-to-be co-founder, Divia Singh. In July 2020 Bates and Singh quit their jobs to build an AI-powered social search engine called Diem.

“Diem really is inspired by the centuries of intergenerational knowledge-sharing and all of the underground whisper networks that women have created to counter the default male society that we live within,” says Bates.

The online platform and app combines a community data set and a female-focused language-learning model with the candid conversations that women have been having for years.

Courtesy of Diem.

For example, when users ask a question, they receive an AI-powered response that is thoughtfully scraped from the platform’s data and the internet. There’s also access to a community message board where other users can weigh in with their own personal experiences. The result is a community built on information-sharing, both facts based in science, but also a diverse array of lived experiences.

There’s a big group chat energy to the platform, with women often asking questions about relationships, health and wellness, sex and money. Some recent examples include:

Has work ever been so stressful for you that it messed up your menstrual cycle?

How do I know how much access to social media is right for my kids?

Do mammograms really hurt?

I’m getting married soon. Should I get a pre-nup?

Bates said she was able to build an app without a background in technology by relying on what she does know – building community.

Emma Bates, co-founder of the social search engine, Diem.
Emma Bates, co-founder of the social search engine, Diem.Elena Mudd

“Throughout my career, most of my focus or work in one way or another, has impacted community,” she said.

She also sought a co-founder who could fill in her own information gaps. Singh had worked in various roles across product, operations and CX at companies like Away and Zocdoc. Their expertise complimented each other well, something Bates recommended to anyone looking to build a business in field they might not have a background in.

“Do not to limit yourself in terms of the possibilities of what you can create. Just because you aren’t technical, it doesn’t mean you can’t have technical or product vision. It’s just a matter of being able to collaborate with the people who can do the jobs that you can’t do.”

Diem now boasts an all-female team of 12 and is in a growth stage. Though the gender imbalance in staff wasn’t intentional, Bates insisted that each team member’s lived experiences help improve the product, and gives them a “competitive advantage,” particularly when it comes to designing a platform for women.

Traditionally, it’s been hard for women to find community online. Anyone who has spent any time on the internet knows the dangers that lurk on social media, from misogyny and vitriol to privacy and safety concerns, particularly for women and other marginalized communities.

Diem’s co-founders said they take several internal measures to reduce harm on the platform from the very beginning. That includes stringent community guidelines, distributed moderation, and fine-tuning of the AI to reduce bias.

“We think about safety in all of our design and features. For example, we don’t have direct messaging in the platform, and that’s an intentional choice. As a team of women, we deeply understand the importance of all of this when designing online spaces.”

The goal, Bates says, is to make Diem “the place that you go to when you’re not just looking for facts, you’re looking for validation and conversation.”