Discovering a Time Machine
Having started multiple companies and ridden the exciting yet challenging beasts they all were, I decided it was time for a change. Time to destress and join a well-funded, resource rich company where I wouldn’t have to blaze the trail from idea to fully realized product on my own. Although the role was substantial and the product concept interesting, it didn’t turn out so well. I met some great people but more importantly was reminded of the things I had apparently taken for granted about true startup work. I had to get back into a scrappy startup but what was my next move?
Around this same time, I was home cleaning behind some wine shelves and saw, blinking away in the darkness an ancient answering machine. I reached into the tight gap to retrieve it and must have pressed the play button. After the beep the first message was Dory, my mother-in-law with a ‘call me back when you can’ message for Julie, my wife. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that she had passed away several years earlier. Julie was extremely close with her mom and despite the passage of time her loss was still very raw. On hearing Dory’s voice, she literally sat on the floor and sobbed as, for just a brief moment, Dory was alive and just a phone call away…
Over the next few days Julie talked about the raw power of the human voice, how it is a very different memory device than photos and videos. Voices create images, scenes, conversations in our minds vs. more passive viewing of photos and videos. She was excited to find a way to preserve the voices of those we care about the most.
A week or two later she had refined her thoughts and ran it by me, quite nervously to be honest. It was however, a very engaging conversation and we spent the next couple of hours jamming on ideas. We both have had family members struggling with Alzheimer’s and that quickly became part of the conversation — the need for those memories to be preserved while some lucid periods remained.
I spent a couple of weeks researching current apps and websites but found nothing that was even close. At this point I really thought she was onto something needed and meaningful to many. The beginning.
Fast forward a few weeks and our daughter Sophie was at a track meet, the last of the season. It was a cold, dark, rainy afternoon and I had promised to make this event as I’d missed all the others due to work commitments. She started the race cold and shivering and ran an amazing race, a personal best, finishing in the top ten across a dozen or so school teams. She had pushed herself so hard physically that she was a sobbing, soggy mess at the finish line barely able to stand. A classic proud parent moment that, after a hug, I would love to have preserved for me, for her, for my family back in the UK and eventually, for her family. I wanted to record how proud I was of her effort in the middle of a rainy field, how I felt in that specific moment and save it and safely share it privately with a select few. This was definitely not a moment I would share on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter and I couldn’t add audio so what could I do?
Days later I recalled another moment where Soph had called me at work and left a voicemail, her first ever. Listening to that cute little voice was pretty magical to me, and was something I had to keep. At that time there was no easy way to get a voicemail off your phone so I ended up buying a $20 app just so I had an mp3 of her voice. As valuable as that audio track was it was just filed away on a drive in a random directory. How could I give it context, add it to the rest of the moments that made up her life and share it privately with family and select friends?
I wanted to share my very personal moments in private, to do so without thinking about the mixed audience who would see them and if they would ‘like’ them or comment. I wanted to share specific moments with certain people and for that to be obvious when doing so. We all tend to behave or want to be perceived differently within our groups. I am different as a father than I am as a son, brother, husband, friend or co-worker. All of it is my life but each a distinct facet of me.
The next major leap came at Thanksgiving where this idea quickly became a hot topic of conversation, expanding the original idea. In addition to capturing our lives as we live them for ourselves and others why wouldn’t we also reach back into the past and preserve those memories? All those stories, the memories and old photos locked inside people’s minds, on walls, in drawers, in albums, in boxes, in attics. Stories that needed to be preserved with audio commentary into a collective memory, shared and preserved for current and future generations. Recollections of the same event by everyone that was there, each a unique perspective of the shared experience. It was vital that we saved these moments that are of little importance to most yet priceless to a select few.
The final evolution came when we realized that the preservation of personal and group memories into time capsules extended far beyond family into the public domain. How do we capture the memories of those that survived the Great Depression, war vets or those that heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. make his “I Have a Dream” speech?
Not only the preservation of those memories while we still have access to them but also to capture events from multiple perspectives. What would it be like today for example, to be able to experience individual stories from the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo years later? To hear voices, and see images captured individually as part of a multi-threaded historical time capsule would be fascinating. Ultimately our idea is actually to record and share history, from small daily moments through to documenting important world events for future generations. Memories across time and geography, preserved forever.
Now I was on fire, writing and sketching ideas until late into the night. It was time to run the idea by a good friend I’d met at work. Jeanne was the founder and CEO of Creativebug and had become an instant friend when we first met — kindred startup spirits.
We met for lunch in San Francisco where I explained the concept and was amazed to hear that not only did she love the idea but she had recently discovered a similar need within her own family. The conversation flowed easily and carried on intensely for weeks afterwards. It was at that point that Capsure was born.
We’ve raised our initial funding and I’ve been working my tail off defining the product, designing the mobile apps, building on-device prototypes and running the engineering team. Our Android and iOS apps are close to completion with an expected Summer ’17 launch. Exciting.
We’ve setup a private Facebook group documenting the weeks leading up to our launch if you want to see what we’re up to!