The photo-sharing craze has now turned into an all-out rage. Facebook kicked it off with its Instagram acquisition, but that has been followed by a series of other big plays in the space, including Google’s acquisition of Nik Software and Shutterfly’s purchase of Penguin Digital, both announced yesterday.
But despite what Facebook and Instagram would encourage us to believe, not all our photo-sharing has to be public. And one startup is capitalizing on the social photography trend by making it private.
Seattle’s Familiar turns connected screens in social picture frames, but it is keeping its focus tightly on family and close friends. Today, 10 months after its launch, it is announcing that it has closed a seed round of $1.3 million, thanks to backing from a roster of high-profile investors, including Greylock Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Acequia Capital, Allen & Company, and brothers Hadi and Ali Partovi, who are also investors in Facebook, Dropbox, and Zappos. The startup also announced that in August it displayed 20 million photos.
Familiar’s CEO Marcus Womack says that he and the company’s investors see enormous potential in the ever-increasing number of connecting screens appearing in people’s living rooms throughout America. “Given the number of screens increasing in the home, we view it as a really great opportunity,” he said. The company hopes to invade billions of screens with family photos during their idle times.
Womack started the company with three co-founders, all of whom worked together at the social music service iLike, which was acquired by MySpace in 2009. They brought on a fifth team member to start the venture in June last year. Prior to Familiar, Womack was at Microsoft, where he worked in the Xbox Live and Digital Entertainment Online divisions. But he came up with the idea for the company when he realized how much his kids loved looking at family photos via Apple TV. “My daughter and my son will sit there and listen to music and watch all the photos come in,” he said.
While Familiar launched on the desktop – key to capturing the older generations (ie, grandma) who want to see the young’uns’ photos – it has since expanded to iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and tablets, and the Kindle Fire. For now, the company is focused on improving the user experience and will think about monetization later. Pushed for ideas on how it would make money, Womack said the company would likely not place much emphasis on advertising and would instead look to create additional features for which people would be willing to pay.
In the meantime, the startup will spend its new money on building up its team so it can continue to grow fast.