Today we submitted our application to Y Combinator. In the spirit of sharing our journey with other founders and business leaders, below are key elements of our application. We'll see how YC responds...
See our GreatAlbum Product Demo and my Founder's Video.
Describe what your company does in 50 characters or less.
Share life as it happens. Bring memories to life.
What is your company going to make? Please describe your product and what it does or will do.
The "average American" takes 7300 pictures/year (20/day). They do so to capture the experience, because they want to share it with others, and to relive it again in the future. Yet, most photos get "lost to time," because there are so many, and because it’s actually hard to organize that much content and to share with specific groups of people time and time again.
GreatAlbum solves these problems. It’s designed to be a fresh, unique approach to capturing, sharing and reliving experiences through a structure that represents real life events, individuals, places, stories and discussions, and groups/communities in which these are experienced (greatalbum.net/node/69).
First, GreatAlbum believes that users prefer to trust the permanent storage of their precious media to services like Google/Apple Photos, Google Drive or Dropbox (greatalbum.net/node/70).
Second, starting with Google Photos as the primary media storage service - because it has over 4 trillion photos, GreatAlbum enables users to Import the metadata from their media into GreatAlbum, and to represent existing Google Photos Albums as Events in GreatAlbum (greatalbum.net/node/63). For media in GreatAlbum with no event association, events are then auto-created based on date/pattern clusters (greatalbum.net/node/64).
Third, GreatAlbum believes in the 80/20 rule - where 80% of people’s experiences are shared with 20% of their family/friends. We translate this to mean that 80% of the sharing people do are with 4-8 well defined groups, or communities, such as their core family, their extended family & friends, families of their kid's sports team, a group of people celebrating a milestone of a loved one. GreatAlbum enables this by allowing people to create or join Albums that represent these groups, with defined members. It then enables people to take events they’ve imported or auto-created in their “private album” and move them (along with related content/media) to these shared albums. People can even share an event (+content/media) with multiple albums, where appropriate. (greatalbum.net/node/80)
Here are three specific use cases we're focused on right now:
Build core family biography - Build real-time biographies of the family as a whole and its individual members, capturing key events, with media, stories, individuals & places. Enable them to easily browse, watch and share those "arcs" of their life through different playlists. (help.greatalbum.net/node/445)
Cheer your kid's team - Parents capture the "life" of the team over the course of games and seasons - through a share album that enables them to chronicles team's events, with media, stories & discussions contributed by many parents, organized in ways that enables them to browse and even create playlists based on chronology, kinds of events, player, places, etc. (help.greatalbum.net/node/448)
Celebrate a Loved One - On the occasion of major life milestone of a loved one, enable family & friends to celebrate their shared loved one, by contributing media and stories, organized into events and themes, that highlight the person's journey and the impact the loved one has had on these people. In the process, strengthen the community around this loved one as they learn from and appreciate each other. (help.greatalbum.net/node/451)
How far along are you?
We launched our first MVP in November (MVP1) in a Private Beta. It ran for a few months. We learned a ton, then decided to make some structural changes that forced us to pause the Private Beta. We on the verge of launching MVP2 - hopefully by the end of March, and resuming our Private Beta. We have a waiting list of 2000 users that the founder knows personally. We plan to invite them into the Private Beta in waves over the next few months, focused around instances of our three main use cases. Our goal is to launch a Public Beta in Q3 or Q4 of 2022.
Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you're making?
This has been a 20-year dream. I've always been somewhat of a "data freak," looking to capture everything about my life and lives of my close family and friends. Together with a few family members, I've developed family trees with hundreds of relatives and thousands of events. But I've always wanted to go deeper into their lives, understand more of what they experienced, what made them tick, and what of their values/behaviors has rubbed off on me. Similarly, I’ve wanted to document the lives of my family members now, to relive later and to pass on to subsequent generations. So, in the last 20 years, I've digitized over 30,000 documents and over 300,000 photos/videos related to all sorts of events in the lives of family and friends. I've worked with many of them to write stories about major experiences in their lives. In a few cases, I've helped produce 50-300 page books containing stories and letters about a specific person to celebrate a major milestone, like these two for my mom - http://bit.ly/merry-80th-bday-stories-pdf and https://bit.ly/merry-storyworth-interior-2022.
In addition to the subject matter, I'm very involved in the Drupal CMS community and using Drupal, the platform on which GreatAlbum is based. I have strong business development expertise from my day job, and the vision for how to evolve GreatAlbum - both as an app and as a vibrant community of people.
I have pitched to and interviewed over 200 people, presented to several groups and participated in numerous online discussion forums, where I have presented fundamental problems that GreatAlbum seeks to address. The overwhelming majority of feedback has been very positive, with people saying things like, "Oh my God, if you could really do this for me, it would be amazing!"
Who are your competitors? What do you understand about your business that they don't?
People live their lives through events. Most of those events occur in a handful of communities (groups) that represent the context for most of their lives, such as:
- Core family
- Extended family
- Neighborhood friends
- School friends/families
- Sports and extracurricular groups
- Work friend groups
- Community service groups
There are apps that help these groups schedule events, facilitate discussions, share photos, etc., but nothing that helps them organize content & media in a way that essentially creates biographies for their time together, with events that have documented individuals, places, media, stories, discussions, and that can even allow for that content to exist in more than one group at a time.
Furthermore, most apps assume they are the primary source of that media and content, whereas GreatAlbum enables people to "syndicate" their content from media services (Google/Apple Photos, Google Drive, Dropbox, Youtube) and content sources (blogs, online articles etc.) - where the original content remains and is organized/shared through its metadata in "one app to rule them all."
How do or will you make money? How much could you make?
(We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate.)
GreatAlbum will make money primarily through subscriptions. We envision three tiers of membership:
- Free: up to 20,000 media and 5 albums(groups)
- Standard: up to 40,000 media and 10 albums(groups) for $5/mo or $50/year
- Premium: Unlimited media and albums(groups) for $10/mo or $100/year
When GreatAlbum reaches 1M users, we could earn $5M ARR and $1M Net Income, based on a whole bunch of assumptions! Imagine when it reaches 1B users!
How are users finding out about your product? How did you get the users you have now? If you run paid ads, how much do you spend each month and what is your cost of acquisition?
We may be naive or overly confident, but we are actually more concerned with getting too many users too quickly than not getting enough. The very nature of GreatAlbum is viral:
- I invite 40 people to join the "Revolution Soccer Team" album
- We start capturing events (games, trips, etc.) with media and stories
- The members like it so much, many of them create other albums for the main use cases we’ve outlines and invite more people to join
- This continues in a viral fashion, resulting in exponential growth of albums and members
From the founder’s personal interactions with people over the last 20 years, he has cultivated a waiting list of 2000 people that he already plans to invite in waves (not all at once).
Furthermore, he has already approached a few sports clubs and private schools about having them sponsor albums for their respective sports teams, which could launch whole groups of albums at once.
We also expect to launch eventually on sites like Product Hunt, Hacker News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.. We do not plan to use paid advertising for now.