I’m at the age where it seems like all of my friends (or, let’s be realistic: Facebook friends) are getting married and/or having kids. As happy as I am for them, there are only so many adorbs photos I can handle in one week. Or one day. Or one hour.
Seriously, guys, we know.
I know I’m not the only one with this problem and, lucky for us, there’s a new startup that’s out to address it. Familio provides a platform for easy photo-sharing between families, which will not only hopefully reduce the number of baby photos I’m faced with every day but also will provide families with a secure, comfortable place to share their private moments with the people they care most about.
I caught up with founder Iftach Yair recently to discuss why the world needs Familio (I’m sold), how Israel is one of the best places today to have a startup (who knew?), and what it means to be “platform agnostic.”
There’s been a lot of controversy about people putting photos of their kids on Facebook. Was Familio created in response to that?
One of the triggers was that, yes. We felt like Facebook wasn’t the right place to share with the family and tere wasn’t a good enough and simple enough solution to do that in other venues.
Sometimes you feel like people are over-sharing their kids with everyone. To tell you the truth, I love my friends and I think their kids are great but there are only so many photos of them I can bear on my feed. However, my mom loves my kids but the Facebook feed doesn’t show her everything I post: even if I post my kids on Facebook and my mom is my friend, she probably only sees maybe 20% of the photos because of how the feed is built.
Many people are also growing out of Facebook. It serves a purpose for them for social reasons, but they feel like they need other services for several other purposes. That’s why services like Pear or Couple have been built; to allow you to have a more intimate relationship with other people.
Facebook has become a very public place. Everything you do is out there. Even when you go to apply for a new job, your new boss would probably go check out your Facebook to check out what you’re doing.
I always call it the town board, like something on the wall of a town hall.
Exactly. And you’re so conscious of everything you do there, which is pretty much the opposite of what you want to feel when you’re at home. When you’re at home with your family, you feel comfortable, you’re not stressed out about everything you say. Whenever I post something on Facebook, even just text, I’m making sure I don’t have any typos and that what I’m saying make sense before I post. I know not everyone does that, but a lot of people do.
It’s because what’s out there, everyone can see it. When I’m talking to my dad I can be like, “You know, Dad, I’m tired. I’ll talk to you later.” And it’s fine because it’s family. I want to create a space that’s comfortable enough to share.
What problem is Familio solving?
Up until we had Familio, the way I used to share with my family… My sister lives in Philly and she has kids and she used to send us photos over email. Where did those go? Who knows. I have a cute photo somewhere in email. Try to go find it now and look at it. Even if you want to respond to that email, if you hit “Reply All” everyone sees it! We built Familio to make it a space where you can easily share, even easier than you can do on Facebook.
It also suits everyone. One of the key differentiators we realized is that families are very complicated. People in the family use different platforms because they’re in different generations. Some people are more comfortable with their smartphones; others are more comfortable with their desktop. There’s grandpa who we bought an iPad, so why not have an app that just displays the photos so he doesn’t have to do anything? It just runs and whenever we add a photo, he sees it. It’s like those digital frames you have, except instead of adding photos every once or twice a year, it automatically puts them out there for the family.
We built Familio to be cross-platform, cross-generation. Family should be platform agnostic. Everyone should be able to participate.
“Platform agnostic,” is that what you said? I’ve never heard that before.
We thought about it. We started to build an iPhone app and then we said, you know, my mom doesn’t have an iPhone. This doesn’t make sense. We’re building this product for our moms, basically, and not all the moms in the world have an iPhone. So what now?
Then we switched and focused on making a web app. Then we went a step further, which is what we released a couple weeks ago. It’s a browser extension that everyone in the family just installs once and it pushes notifications to you.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The biggest fight is for attention. Most of the people online spend the majority of their time on Facebook, on Gmail, or whatever content sites they’re already used to. We can’t fight that fight. If we expect people to adopt a new destination site, it’s a losing battle.
But if they download our family in the cloud app and whenever your wife uploads a new photo of your kids and you have notifications coming to you from your browser, you can immediately go to the content and click “love” or add a comment and that’s it. Move on. Everyone in the family feels like they’re seamlessly connected in a super simple way.
That’s where we’re standing right now. We have an iPhone app, an Android app, a web destination, and we have the browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.
Also with the browser extension –which was built especially for moms but everyone enjoys it – you get a gorgeous slideshow of your family every time you open a new tab and people just love it.
How long have you guys been around?
We started to build everything about a year ago. We went into this cross-platform direction a couple months ago. We only went live three weeks ago in terms of issuing our first PR. We feel like we’re in beta product and we’re about ready to move forward.
We did a lot of learning about what needs we’re going to serve here. There are many venues that you can share with your family and we’ve been trying to figure out why no one has won this battle. You have LinkedIn for everything career-wise, Facebook for your social stuff, but no one has really grabbed family yet. Why is that? I think the key issue is that people have limited amount of attention left and family is something that should be the simplest thing ever. It should be simple for everybody.
That makes a lot of sense. My mom isn’t on Facebook and she only recently learned how to use an iPhone.
Imagine now that you’re sending her photos and she just sees the photo, and that’s it. She sees the photo on email and in two weeks from now she’s probably not going to find that email. She loved that photo but she didn’t save it or if she did save it, who knows where it is? Familio is like your treasure box for the family. Send it to Familio and it’s there for life.
You can always go back to it, browse through it, and enjoy it.
Do you guys have any numbers yet?
We just released them. We have about 10,000 users, but the interesting part is that the users are very heavy users. They spend almost 12 minutes per visit, which is about four times the benchmark for content sites. They spend visit about seven to eight pages each time. We’re very happy with these numbers.
Who’s on your team?
I have a small team. Another guy name Iftach, who is my co-founder. Mind you, Iftach is a very uncommon name in Israel and the fact that the two of us have the same time is kind of funny. We walk into a room and say, “Hi, I’m Iftach. Hi, I’m Iftach.” And people look at us like, are you kidding?
Where’s it from?
It’s a Biblical name, actually. It’s just uncommon. In my whole life I’ve come across only five people named Iftach.
So anyway, he’s the CTO. And I have a product guy, a web developer, and a mobile developer. We’re a small team.
How do you know each other? How did you guys meet?
Well, Israel is a small place and the internet community is very small. Actually, I was approached by lool ventures, who were developing this project. This was an incubation project and they were looking for someone to lead it. They approached me about eight months ago with an alpha product, offered for me to join, and then we went looking for people. You should come visit Israel; it’s a booming place for startups.
I was actually just about to ask that! How’s the startup scene there?
Oh, it’s amazing. I’ve been with a startup in New York and I’ve obviously visited the (Silicon) Valley a few times and it’s so different in the sense that Israelis have a very direct kind of manner. Everybody knows everybody and it’s so easy to create business relationships and ideas. Every week there are like, three or four different opportunities for meetups and idea brainstorming. It’s such a great place to have a startup.
I just met a guy who was working for an American startup and they moved the startup to Amsterdam. After six months he came back and said, “You know, there are maybe three places in the world to have a startup. New York could be one, obviously the Valley is one, and then there’s Israel.” It’s such a different atmosphere.
What city are you in?
I live just outside of Tel Aviv. That’s where everything is happening for startups. There are areas where there high tech companies and Tel Aviv is really the Meccas of startups.
I didn’t know that. I think you may be the first Israeli founder I’ve spoken with.
Really? Well, you should come visit.
Just pop on over? Take a little visit?
Well, in three months there’s a big event here for the internet industry.
(Laughs) Do you work from home or do you guys have an office?
No, we have an office. Working at home is, um, very… Demanding. I’d rather not do that. I have three kids.
I tried it for a year and a half with one of the startups. They were in New York and I was in Israel flying all over the world. I found myself working around the clock; there’s no separation between home and office. You lose on both ends because you never feel like you’re at home and you never feel like you’re at work.
I think when you have kids, especially, that’s a problem.
Yeah, I think it’s different for different stages of your life… They say that the internet is the younger generation. What was the name of that guy who sold his company to Yahoo two weeks ago? He was like, seventeen or something.
I think that’s the exception. I see a lot of founders my age and I think we bring another aspect to the experience.
Well, my dad just turned 50. I would say his generation – Obama’s cohorts – is really the first internet savvy generation.
Well only if they got into this business environment at that time. If you’re 50 and you worked in banking at that time, there’s a good chance you don’t know anything about the internet. But if you have the opportunity to work at one of the internet companies of that time then you’re in a different situation.
How has your experience been with lool ventures?
They’re very new. It’s a micro-VC, like BetaWorks in New York. It’s a microfund that does two things: they invest like a normal VC in early-stage startups and they incubate their own ideas until they reach a point of maturity where they feel like there’s a chance of it becoming a company. Then they bring in a team and that team takes it forward…
This is where I think the investment in internet is going: micro-VCs and not the big VCs. At least in Israel, the big VCs with the hundreds of millions of dollars are not able to work efficiently with small internet companies at early stage. They’re built for later stages.
There are so many companies you can build in the meantime with a very small investment to see if it makes sense before you reach the big players and the big VCs.
What’s the next step for Familio?
We’re now in the final stages of completing the whole extension that will be very smooth and seamless. Then we’re going to continue to enhance the user experience and start working with partners to distribute it very fast. That’s the main goal right now.
Do you have any advice for other startup entrepreneurs?
I think the biggest thing I can tell you is that you have to find your direction and believe in it and run with it. I’m not saying don’t be flexible. Be flexible in your mind but once you believe you’re going in the right direction, be focused. The biggest mistakes I’ve seen in startups is when you start to lose focus and you want to do anything.
Do one thing very well but make sure it’s the main value you want to deliver to your users. Being focused is a challenge. It sounds easy but you have so many temptations out there. Let’s do that and also that and that! And everything sounds great because probably everything is but since you don’t have the resources to do everything, try to focus them. You’ll get a lot further down the road with a focused approach.
Thanks so much for a great interview, Iftach! Familio is a great idea and I look forward to seeing where you guys head next!