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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) 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.

An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley. (Provided by Nate Quigley) An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley. (Provided by Nate Quigley)

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."

An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley. (Provided by Nate Quigley) An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley. (Provided by Nate Quigley)

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.

An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley. (Provided by Nate Quigley) An old family photo of Nate Quigley's grandfather, L. Glen Quigley. (Provided by Nate Quigley)

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.

An old family photo from Nate Quigley's collection. (Provided by Nate Quigley) An old family photo from Nate Quigley's collection. (Provided by Nate Quigley)

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.

JustFamily board member Christopher Lee, who is also publisher of the Deseret News, says DDM has invested because it sees a gap in social media.

"LinkedIn exists for business associates, Facebook exists for friends, but no one has cracked the code for families," Lee said.

JustFamily launched both its Web-based social network and a mobile IOS app recently.

Quigley has a track record that includes consulting work, previous tech start-ups, a software company and, more recently, a four-year stint as CEO of LiveTV, a JetBlue subsidiary that put movies and TV shows on the backs of seats in airplanes.

JustFamily mobile app (JustFamily) JustFamily mobile app (JustFamily)

It's that entrepreneurial track record that attracted Jared Stone of Northgate Capital as an investor. He told the Wall Street Journal recently that he doesn't usually make angel investments, but he wanted to work with Quigley.

"JustFamily is making it simple and intuitive to capture and share moments, just with family and keep them forever," he told WSJ. "If any group of people in our lives feels like it should and could be forever, it is our families."

He predicted JustFamily will complement, rather than compete with networks like Facebook.

Home again

JustFamily mobile app (JustFamily) JustFamily mobile app (JustFamily)

There's a rest of the story to the recording of "Home on the Range." Quigley's extended family had been using an early prototype of the family networking site, scanning and sharing old photos and digitized versions of old reel-to-reels that had their grandpa's beloved voice. It wasn't the lullaby, but it mattered.

Eventually, the recording of the song was found, too. And up it went on JustFamily, so the entire family could enjoy it and pass it on.

"I'll never forget how I felt the night I gathered our kids around the computer on the other side of the country and clicked play," he wrote on a JustFamily blog. "I just loved that my kids were able to hear Grandpa sing 'The Cowboy Song' while they looked at a picture of him in his Forest Ranger uniform. I loved knowing that all of their cousins and all of my cousins could now remember Grandpa this way, too."

See the Just Family site at: www.justfamily.com

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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