Family finds a home in new social network world

Published: Sunday, Sept. 16 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley.

Provided by Nate Quigley

Some families pass down china or the birdhouse dad made. In serial entrepreneur Nate Quigley's family, one of the treasures that came from father to child across generations was "Home on the Range," sung sweetly as a lullaby. It was a tradition started by his grandfather.

At his funeral, L. Glen Quigley's rich baritone rang out once more, courtesy of a recording that most of his relatives didn't know existed. It was a moment to remember, a memento well worth sharing. But somehow, the recording was lost again.

"That felt like a tragedy," Quigley said. "It was hard to have heard that, one time, at Grandpa's funeral, and then not be able to save and share it with my kids."

It was also a spark for the idea of a social media site that would be created just so families could stay close and share and trade memories, photos, video clips, journal entries, stories and more.

The result, JustFamily, has been in beta testing for a while. Now the family-focused social media site is being unveiled for a larger audience. In a media-saturated online world, there are all kinds of niches, but not many hangouts to bond families.

"For a long time, I've been thinking, why isn't there a place for my family on the Web and on my phone," said Quigley, JustFamily CEO and a father of seven kids who range in age from 4 to 17. "There's a place for friends — Facebook — and for colleagues — LinkedIn. But what do I do for my family? It's a mess and it's confusing. You share some things on Facebook or you send emails back and forth. It's crazy. The most important social circle we have is family, so why isn't there an icon for family on everyone's phone?"

On JustFamily, parents can add their children and create administered accounts to determine whose content a child sees and what the child is connected to, Quigley said. He added that it's "wonderful to see young cousins who really only interact at the family reunion in the summer but now stay close, stay connected."

Quigley and his two siblings, both younger, went different directions as they grew up. Pretty soon, they were scattered far away from their parents and each other, without many opportunities to get together. Online, in a family-focused zone, that can happen as often as you want.

The sharing that can happen prevents the loss of history, of stories, of photos and more because they can be enjoyed and kept across a wider audience, Quigley said.

"The loss of a shoebox full of photos in a flood can't happen any more," he said. "We've evolved. But I feel the same way about a moment when my 4-year-old says an amazing thing that I don't want to forget. I can't stand the thought of it just getting lost and forgotten."

His family, he added, has "plunked away at some version" of the prototype for the new social network for several years.

In the cloud

JustFamily is built on the Amazon Web Services cloud, which Quigley trusts completely to preserve his own and others' memorabilia and memories. Amazon has been a pioneer and has about every product imaginable to run a Web service, he noted.

In earlier days, businesses had to buy equipment and provide hosting, balance loads and back everything up. Now, "it's just done in an incredibly professional way, on a huge scale, by Amazon," said Quigley, who calls the company the "best possible stewards for stuff I really care about."

The plan is to provide a great experience to everyone, for free, but to have a premium tier, as well, that users could choose to upgrade to for a fee. That will likely be driven by how much data a person is storing and what extra features one desires.

Quigley and his wife, Vanessa, put in some money to get started, and during a recent funding round other investors stepped in, adding $1.25 million in seed funding. Those investors include Deseret Digital Media, a sister company to the Deseret News, both of which are owned by Deseret Media Companies.

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