How ideas turn into startups even when you don’t want them to
After 4 years and many sleepless nights, my first startup journey ended. We raised money in 2011, got acquired in 2013 and in the summer of 2015, I handed the reigns over to a new CEO and quietly made my exit. My plan was to take a year off to catch up on sleep, exercise like mad to lose the “startup weight”, and generally re-educate myself on how to relax. This lasted for about 3 months and then I started to get antsy. Turns out that working out everyday is great, but not necessarily filled with purpose. [ I know, this is a pretty nice problem to have and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to switch off ]
I felt my brain starting to atrophy and I needed a plan. Should I go back to the corporate world and get a real job with an expense account and good health insurance or maybe work part time as a freelance designer (my original skillset)?
One thing I knew I wasn’t going to do was start another company. Right-o.
In late Fall 2015, a few months after I quit – I was in New Orleans visiting my parents and attending my high school reunion. My dad had started a company in his late 20’s with very little money and a family to support. That company is now being run by my 2 older brothers. As the youngest of six, I don’t remember the “rough years” when he was working 24/7 leaving on a Monday and returning home on a Friday exhausted (but not more than my mother who was holding down the fort). Now that I’ve started a business and experienced that rollercoaster, I was curious to hear all the stories of those earlier years. I started asking my dad questions with the grand idea that I would record his answers to keep for my kids and their kids and so on. Well, this wasn’t easy.
My dad is 82, impatient and practically deaf. Shouting questions at him wasn’t working. I grew impatient (runs in the family, apparently) and promptly told him “Fine! I’m going to create an app where I push questions in large text to your ipad and you can just tap a big blue ‘Respond’ button and record your story. Heck, you can even add a photo and write something if you want.”
He just shook his head and laughed it off.
One week later, I was back in SF and a former colleague, Mark Wayman, asked me to lunch. A few months earlier, when I left my first startup he had asked where I was going and if I was working on something new because he would be interested in joining me. I quickly said “No” and he then said I should let him know if I ever change my mind.
At our lunch a few weeks later, I assured him I still had no plans to start a company. He then told me a story. His wife was extremely close to her mother who had passed away 4 years ago. He said it was still very raw for his wife and for him as well. One day, he was cleaning behind some wine boxes in his living room clearing out cobwebs and dust and he spotted an old answering machine.
As he lifted the answering machine, his thumb pressed the play button.
His mother-in-laws’ voice came from the machine with a message for his wife. The message wasn’t some big statement, just an old message from a day they had planned to meetup. Hearing her mother’s voice so clearly in the house had an enormous effect on his wife. She sat down on the floor and sobbed. For a second, she said she thought her mother was in the room — and that’s when she realized the need for an app to capture personal moments in private. Read more of Mark’s story here.
As he was telling me this story, the hairs on my neck started to stick up.
It suddenly felt like things were moving in slow motion and I was listening to someone tell me a story I already knew. He said there was something about audio and hearing someone’s voice that had a visceral effect on people, compared to just watching a video. He’s right. The brain processes the two differently. With audio, you’re building the images that go with it from your memories — it’s intimate and engaging. When watching a video, you’re more detached as the whole experience is curated for you — more passive.
I told him about my encounter with my dad and how I was struggling to capture memories and stories which will be lost when my parents are no longer here. We also talked about how Facebook and other social platforms don’t really function as a time capsule that can be easily searched for us to explore our history. That’s not their purpose.
So, here I was again. In a position where I personally needed and wanted something to exist …and something we would need to build. Damnit.
This is how Capsure came to be. After many months of sleepless nights, we are about to launch a mobile app which serves as your own private social network and lets you interact separately with different groups in your lives. It’s easily searchable and you can call up any moment at any time. Take a photo, record audio over it or ask questions within a group to get the full story from all perspectives.
I’m thrilled to have a private feed where I can share the real moments in my life without worrying about how likeable they are.
My parents and in-laws get to feel like they’re a part of our daily lives and we can preserve stories and old photos in one place for future generations to explore. No more swiping up through messaging threads to find that photo your sister or best friend posted. It’s all in a visual feed which you can filter and organize. We’re launching in June (2017) and I’m putting my seatbelt on once again to ride the startup rollercoaster of terror. ;)
We’ll be posting to a private beta group on Facebook documenting the weeks leading up to our launch if you want to follow along. If so, give us a follow and wish us luck!