Facebook + Deceased.
And how they pivoted from the grim market to families.
This interview was conducted last year and I am re-publishing here. Since then Family Tales has winded down. Ramli is currently a Growth Consultant, Ali Tariq is working at Manulife and Beatrice Law is working as a designer with Design Lab in SF.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
I caught up with Ramli Jon on a cold winter evening near the university plaza in Waterloo to catch up on Family Tales and the story of the startup. Family Tales was based in the Velocity Garage at Communitech and Mars in Toronto.
Tell me about yourself:
I studied Math and Comp Sci at UW and worked at a large beverages company for 4 years. At the end there was too much red tape so I left to start a company which eventually failed due to lack of team cohesion.
What was the startup?
It was called Lesson Sensei — we were trying to connect people in Toronto with Sensei; people who are experts in a subject. Imagine you want to learn how to bake cake. We created a marketplace to connect people looking to learn how to bake a cake with folks who are experts at it. But eventually it didn't work out So I ended up doing my MBA.
I perused an MBA because I thought I didn't have any business skills. I was very technical, coming from a math and computer science background.
How did you go from Lesson Sensi to Family Tales?
Ali Tariq and I met during our MBA class. Originally Family Tales was called Halon lane; a Facebook for the deceased. We were helping the family to capture the memories and stories of those who had passed away as photo’s and text.
So why a Facebook for the deceased?
When my grandmother passed away she left us with a lot of stories & memories but we started to forget them. Ali and I both felt that the current industry for the deceased focused on negativity of someone passing and not on the positive side. We wanted to change that.
So more like cherishing their lives?
What was your biggest challenge with Halo Lane?
I think the toughest moment was trying to share it on our personal Facebook page. How could market this, or reach out to people with such a grim message? We also talked to funeral homes but they were very resistant to it because the revenue came from the caskets business. Partnerships on revenue sharing for the memorial pages would not generate enough revenue to justify it.
What was your “Aha moment” from Halo Lane to Family Tales?
While conducting user research, we handed our app to a person who had recently someone pass away. Our assumption was that she would write about the person who she had recently lost but to our surprise she put in her babies name!
So you changed to Family Tales?
Yeah we decided to pivot to a different market. We had technology that worked so we focused families. This was also when Beatrice came on board.
You could capture your family stories in particular for new mothers to capture their babies stories as pictures and words.
Like a digital scrapbook.
Our beta for the web app got released in April .
How has the beta been going so far?
We got an okay traction. It didn't meet our expectations of 6–7% growth week over week.
What was your biggest learning from the beta?
One of the biggest learning was that we kept working on the web version because we’re both web developers. While our market really is very mobile and tablet focused. So listening to what we've heard & observed we are building mobile and tablet apps. We also realized that our potential market can be families in general and not limited to new mothers only.
Where do you go from here?
Our goal right now is to put together a Kickstarter campaign in the next few months. Before we build or write a single line of code, we want to validate the market. Kickstarter is a great way to validate a demand for a product and our goal is to get enough people who will prepay for a printed scrapbook generated via the apps.
What are some of the tough moments at Family Tales?
We’re not parents ourselves so it is challenging to understand the market and build credibility.
This interview first appeared on KW Startups Blog