Digital Estate

my lasting imprint online

Canadian and American Startup Investors

Posted by Paul on May 3, 2009

Lucky To Be On This Side of The Pond

I recently visited the UK and attended a few entrepreneurial and networking style events. They had somewhat of a similar feel to the events on the west coast of Canada, with one exception – the impression I left with was that I am lucky to live where I do.

Small business support for tech and innovative initiatives is far more limited back across the pond. In 2 short weeks back in Canada, I have met with some great Seattle connections, had lunch and talked with the NRC about IRAP and youth funding, visited with Monica Moore at Telefilm about the Canada New Media Fund and another team member had a successful meeting to discuss MITACS. Coming up in Vancouver we have Pop Vox, the Vancouver International Partnering Forum (VIPF), not to mention Launch Party and a number of other entrepreneurial networking events.

I have only been in Vancouver for 5 years so I am not sure how long this has been happening, but right now there seems to be a hive of startup initiatives, events and tech players. With great companies like Bootup Labs reaching across the border and into US VC land, the barriers come down even further. For a growing tech company like arcalife its key that we don’t hit dead ends when we are just starting to get some major traction. What’s great to see is that people like Brad Feld are prepared to embrace the concept that open borders on tech and investment is the way forward. Despite the differing risks levels in Vancouver versus the Valley mentioned at Beers With Brad last week, we do have a few things on our side : Geographical and time proximity, similar perspectives on the market, a shared history of successes and failures and openness of communication.

For the UK, US contact I suspect requires more work to acquire and are therefore more closely guarded – exactly what is not required for a rapid flow of new and exciting ideas. I am happy to be home again.

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Digital Assets, Digital Estate, Digital Legacy, Entrepreneurs, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Investors, Startups, Venture Capital | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Investor Early Stages: UK vs. NA

Posted by Paul on April 16, 2009

Since returning to the UK to begin arcalife’s 3rd round of funding, I’ve had a number of investor meetings through contacts and friends of friends. There is a definite difference in attitude on this side of the pond as far as VC’s, angels and also investors more generally are concerned.

Clearly the particularly bad state of the economy doesn’t help the situation, but it’s more than that. My observations, (not original I am sure) are that the UK generally seems more risk averse when it comes to tech investment, especially in the early stage. It makes sense to me now that almost none of the worlds large social networks started here. This matches with some of the early experience we have had with PR in the UK market. While we have had plenty of traction and then some since our UK launch at Who Do You Think You Are Live, it’s certainly more challenging to make your voice heard here.

It seems, in general, that more groundwork needs to be laid here, as a matter of course, in both the investment and PR spaces – there is not much shooting from the hip going on by these people. I don’t necessarily think that it’s a lack of innovative spirit that drives this. I’d put it down to greater caution; on account of the complexity/density of the market and the competition here in the UK. Still, from my perspective as a now self dubbed ‘North American Entrepreneur’ the approach seems over-cautious, perhaps even a little ‘nay saying’.

It definitely seems a bit strange to come all the way back to the UK to leverage the extensive network I have here… only to end up with many of the follow-ups being on the west coast of North America. Why does North America have a different risk reward tolerance? How has the UK ended up in a position where its’ banks will invest in unsound liabilities and yet it’s early stage investors are few and far between ?

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, Digital Estate, Digital Legacy, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Investors, Startups | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Social Digital Legacy Era

Posted by Paul on March 31, 2009

When Facebook was originally envisioned, I’m pretty sure that few people could have foreseen how it would turn out a few years down the line. Over time we have clearly changed the way in which we interact with others on line, as well as the way we interact with the tools themselves. The same is also true of many of the ‘first to market’ social networks that have organically evolved in recent years. Our use has now changed to the point where there are some glaring contradictions that are either ignored or not recognized in the ways we connect and share online.

Top 5 (ish) Contradictions in Our Social Networks:
· The increasing amount of personal information being shared on open networks with barely known acquaintances
· The popularity of general purpose social networks in fulfilling specialized needs for our communities
· The brevity of our accounts versus the longevity of the content we create
· The value of our presence and contribution and the challenges in monetizing it
· The ownership of valued networks and information versus the policies which currently govern them
· The singularity and clarity of a shared message/sentiment amid the noise of millions
· The connectivity created within the networks themselves with the restrictions in the interfaces between them
· The volume of information created, versus the lack of attention to retaining the information that has true value

Are these contradictions really a problem? My view: some are, some aren’t – and of course they are related. The key question to ask is: “Will these contradictions take care of themselves over time or is intervention required by us the social participants?”.

The monetization of our contribution and the value of information – people inherently understand that mass involvement means opportunity, and opportunity means money. The market will take care of the rest, and already is in Second Life and maybe soon in Facebook.

Sharing personal information on open social networks
– for now this is a problem. While the herd is getting larger, you can’t quite convince yourself that there really is safety in numbers. We the participants need to increase our social portfolios by choosing appropriate networks for the kinds of information we are sharing. This in-turn will reduce the barriers between networks and drive specialized networks tuned to our communication and information sharing needs. In the long run this will work itself out as people realize that sharing more personal information with more people doesn’t necessarily add more value.

The longevity and amount of information we create – for a couple of reasons this could be a problem for now.

Firstly, most established spaces will be reluctant to let go of the policy grip they have over the information we have put on “their” networks. In some cases these sites have responsibilities and have to spend money policing the content that gets uploaded. This will get worse as the war over digital rights continues and the monetization of our networks continues…. sounds a little like ownership don’t you think? Right now the issue of ownership has been left cloudy by stories of information retention on account closure and immortalization of deceased peoples accounts.

The second reason is a more lofty and for me more important issue; about what happens to our information once we are gone and what do we think is worth keeping. The idea that we should retain information is not a new one, but the suggestion that some content from our Facebook or Twitter account should be considered an information asset or information heirloom to be passed on, is quite a foreign concept to most. There are however a few forward thinkers out there already verbalizing this idea of a Digital Estate. I am excited to find out where this leads, but it’s often the lofty issues that get left by the wayside, and as a social networking entrepreneur I am not prepared to leave this to chance.

Most leaders of social networks are aware of at least one or two of these contradictions, since solving them secures their future or their fortune. Maybe it’s not wise of us to leave these decisions in the hands of the few – after all isn’t social networking all about participation ?

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, Digital Assets, Digital Estate, Digital Legacy, Family History, Genealogy, Social Networks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Interview on Startups Live TV

Posted by Paul on March 20, 2009

logoTalking with Dennis Lankes yesterday on Startups Live TV gave me some renewed focus on our end goal with arcalife. Our aim is to unite past, present and futures families using memories, experiences and stories as a timeless bridge. To do this, we’ll need support from the genealogy community for their insight and knowledge, as well as a mainstream recognition and groundswell of buy-in to our site.

When you talk with people in the “tech biz” who see start-ups every day, it’s a real boost to hear that our site genuinely offers something new, different and fulfilling in the social networking and genealogy space. Our membership is already expanding rapidly and the team has high hopes for a true explosion of interest. Our Life Cube application on Facebook is one of our steps in bringing our message to the world – your memories and stories are the most important thing you leave as a legacy, arcalife can help you do it right … after all, you only have one shot.

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife.com, Digital Estate, Family History, Genealogy, Interview | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Interview On Roots TV

Posted by Paul on March 17, 2009

One of the best things about our UK launch was actually meeting many of the people who support and lead the genealogy space. We have been following them over the last few months, but there is no substitute for actually meeting people face to face. We had many nice compliments from fellow members of the competitive community. This, coupled with a warm reception from many well established and well known Genealogists, made the “Who Do You Think You Are Live” show a very pleasurable experience for myself and the arcalife team.

The best thing of all was the recognition that arcalife is genuinely bringing something new to people. Now that I have watched it back, my interview with Dick Eastman and Megan Smolenyak for Roots TV reminded me how nice the welcome was.

Watch the full Roots TV interview here.

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Conference, Digital Estate, Event, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Media, Memories, WDYTYA, Who Do You Think You Are | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wrap-Up From The UK:Who Do You Think You Are Live 09

Posted by Paul on March 4, 2009

arcalife At Genealogy Event Who Do You Think You Are Live 09
The UK genealogy show “Who Do You Think You Are” is over for another year. Talking to Dick Eastman and Megan Smolenyak I was surprised to hear that there is nothing like this In North America. Perhaps it’s the geography that prevents hundreds of thousands or even millions of Family historians from getting together to share their passion for the ‘artform’.

Attendance at the UK show was probably around 10 thousand this year, although official figures aren’t out yet. The next largest shows in the US, are less than a fifth of this size: Genealogy Jamboree, FGS in Little Rock and NGS in North Carolina.

How is it that when family history is so important to so many people that the world’s biggest market does not have any major celebration for this?

Clearly one answer is cost; the other seems to be that there are quite a few people thinking about putting on a show, but no one has quite got there yet. My hope is that the airing of the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are” in the US, with celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker and others, will provide the platform for the live show to be spun into action in the same way that it did in the UK.
With arcalife attending the show for the first time for its UK launch, we definitely took away the feeling that we had joined a community of companies (albeit competitive).

Thank-you to those who made us feel welcome, especially Megan Smolenyak, Dick Eastman, Nick Barratt, Olivier Van Calster, Charlotte Campion, Charlotte Wiberg and Chris Paton.

In all the show was highly successful and enjoyable for us. Here are some of our favourite moments: check out our YouTube Channel – you might just find yourself in there… We snapped a few photos as well. Would be great to reconnect with those we met and meet more of you out there – post a comment and let us know what you think!

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Conference, Digital Estate, Event, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Memories, NBC, Social Networks, Television Series, WDYTYA, Who Do You Think You Are | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Day One: Who Do You Think You Are Live 09

Posted by Paul on February 27, 2009

It’s been a great if a little tiring day at “Who do you think you are live 09”.

The day started well … with a few technical issues. Luckily, my brother AKA super Dave, was able to run the 3 miles to the store to buy the new cable we needed. It’s kind of hard to show your website with no demonstration screen!

The reception to our site has been extremely positive and it has been a good validation of our vision. We have probably had a couple of hundred people through the stand today and we are hoping for more tomorrow. Even with the hardcore genealogist set, there is a strong understanding of our messages – that their memories, as well as their research needs to live on. We are the only site out there that is doing this, I hope that they take the opportunity to take their research to new place and turn it into a true Digital Estate.

The show itself looks great. No tanks this year, but plenty of other great stuff to see and do. I have been really impressed with the organization of the event, although not sure exactly how many people have attended today, but the educated guess seems to be around the 3 thousand mark.

Tomorrow is another day, as they say. I am looking forward to hearing more great stories and memories from our guests on stand. If you are in the neighborhood please drop by and see us at stand 701.

If you happen to be on twitter, follow my random thoughts of the day.

And I’ve created a YouTube Channel as well and posting the event for you to get an intimate sense of all that’s happening…the man with a plan:

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Conference, Digital Estate, Event, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Memories, Social Networks, WDYTYA, Who Do You Think You Are | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Set Up Day At Who Do You Think You Are Live 09

Posted by Paul on February 26, 2009

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Conference, Digital Estate, Event, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Memories, Social Networks, WDYTYA, Who Do You Think You Are | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Your Digital Estate: arcalife Heading to Who Do You Think You Are in the UK

Posted by Paul on February 24, 2009

wdytyaThe coming week is an exciting prospect for arcalife.com. After months of work we finally get to air our wares to a large group of genealogists at Who Do You Think You Are in Olympia, London. The title of the show got me to thinking about just that exact thing.

Who do we think we are as a company, heading into a market that’s is very well established with some ostensibly successful companies ?

At least two clear messages keep coming back at me from the conversations I am having online and face to face, with those engaged in this space:

  • The first goes along the lines of the conversation I had this week with Tamura Jones; while the more established companies are doing well, there is significant room for improvement. It’s not always clear to those immersed in this world what those improvements should be, but as a company and as relative outsiders, I believe that we have an objective to feel as to what those gaps are.
  • The second is derived more from the grass roots or amateur family historian; no-one seems to have yet combined the social aspects of family, with the content richness of life and the ability to do research all in one spot.

arcalife-logo-betaI know that we have the tools, offerings and ideas to become highly successful in this space. Our intention is to build a community that is truly invested in immortalizing its memories and experiences on line, and bring together the idea of family in the past, the present and the future.

It remains to be seen how well, and how quickly our potential members will take to what we have done, and indeed the extent to which we can raise our voices above the cacophony. The opportunity to test our vision with the people that matter, is what makes this such an exciting coming week in the UK. Outside pundits and tech commentators, on shows like Spark, Digital Planet, Click and Get Connected seem to be aligned with the vision of a lasting Digital Estate, to immortalize your memories online, and consequently we are receiving attention from that community.

Hopefully that means that the timing is right for wider support. On a personal level, I cannot think of much that would be more rewarding than realizing this vision ……. and the things I can think of, are all to do with family and friends.

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Conference, Digital Estate, Digital Legacy, Event, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Media, Memories, Social Networks, WDYTYA, Who Do You Think You Are | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Room For More

Posted by Paul on February 18, 2009

AmberShortly after making the decision to create a place in my life for a child, I started to consider my own place in the world. All the usual questions about contribution to society and personal success or failure came to mind. One question stuck: what would life be like for my kid when I wasn’t around? What legacy would I leave my offspring?

The obvious answers came first: I’d like for my daughter to be a good person, well educated, financially secure, and culturally aware.  So I built those goals into the long term plan, made a will and was satisfied….. that I had somewhat missed the point.  After that, I added all the precious items and memorabilia that I had acquired during my life and travels to my will.  This improved the situation a little and my mind turned to the important business of bottles and bouncing babies.

It was a short while later that my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and the final piece of the puzzle dropped into view. The only things that really count are the memories, experiences and wisdom that are left behind. Typically when we think about heirlooms, we think about the tangible, but when you peel back the layers it’s the memories that you associate with these objects that bind you to them, rather than their aesthetics.

We have a unique opportunity, (a moment in history if you like), to harness the power of the nascent information age, and apply it to enhancing our emotional wealth. Having access to a family Digital Estate and all the wealth of wisdom and knowledge contained in it, is a powerful asset for our children in understanding and integrating into a complex society.  I, for one believe that in a world where the pace of change is so rapid knowing where you come from is as important as where you are headed.

In a recent interview on the CBC Radio show Spark, I talked with Nora about how the gift we leave to future generations can be a testament to our openness and a true recognition of the importance of a richer cultural and personal life record.

Sound a little cliché? Well maybe it is; but then isn’t life sometimes? with it’s mix “run of the mill” and almost unbelievable variation –  the question asked by Dominic on the Spark blog is, “… are we doing a good enough job at immortalizing our lives online?”   My question is, don’t future generations deserve to receive something that reflects the full range of our experiences from a unique point in our life history?

Posted in Ancestry, arcalife, arcalife.com, Digital Assets, Digital Estate, Digital Legacy, Family History, family tree, Genealogy, Memories, Social Networks | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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