Familiar raises $1.3M to be your screensaver

Bambi Francisco Roizen · September 18, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2a36

Partovi brothers, Greylock, Index invest in startup that helps you create social photo screensavers

Yes. I admit that I love those digital photo frames that display 500 of your favorite photos. I used to think they were cheesy. But now I love them because displaying 500 photos on a digital picture frame is a lot easier than framing them.  

But finding the right digital picture frame isn't easy. Firstly, they break. Secondly, many are outdated (meaning you can't easily upload photos onto them). Wouldn't it be great to not have to deal with those photo frames and just turn your iPad screensaver into one? And, at the same time, wouldn't it be great if your curated photos could auto-magically appear as part of your parents' screensaver on their computer? I know my non-tech-savvy mom would love that. Well, now there is a solution: Familiar.

This is such a great app, I downloaded it after learning about it and shared with my family 110 photos of my five-month-old son with his cousins. If Familiar wasn't around, my family would still be waiting for me to send those photos.

I'm not alone in thinking this is a cool idea.

Familiar announced Tuesday that it's raised $1.3 million from some high-profile angels, such as Hadi and Ali Partovi, both entrepreneurs who together founded iLike. Hadi Partovi is also a prolific angel investor who's invested in Facebook, Airbnb, Ironport and Dropbox, to name a few hits. Also investing in the round were Greylock and Index Ventures.

"We aim to help you connect with your family with photos," said Marcus Womack, founder and CEO of Familiar, in an interview. "We want to turn every screen to be a social picture frame."

OK. At this point, you're saying, "Exactly what does this company do?"

Familiar lets you upload your favorite photos and create a screensaver out of them that can be shared with your family and friends who can make it their screensaver across multiple devices from an iPad, Android device to the TV, or choose specific photos from it to add to their current screensaver. 

"What I wanted to have is something that I could save as a screensaver for my computer or my mom's computer," said Hadi Partovi. "Initially, I made a Dropbox folder and shared that with my mom and I'd put photos in there that would automatically add to her screen saver... Then my brother wanted to share photos with our mom." 

Clearly, there had to be another way. So Partovi invested in Familiar, mostly to solve his personal needs, but also to back Womack, a colleague he had worked with at Microsoft and iLike.

But Familiar is not just a photo-sharing site. In fact, it works with many photo-sharing sites like Instagram and Google's Picasa. What Familiar wants to do is to enable people to aggregate all their photos and display them on screens.

"There’s over one billion Internet connected screens," said Womack. "Think of desktops, tablets, phones and TV's." Today, no one owns those screens. Often they're abandoned real estate.

So while Familiar is starting off with photos, eventually, it wants to allow people to personalize their screens to showcase the weather or stock quotes. 

In many ways, Familar harkens back to the initial dot-com boom when Pointcast was all the rage. Pointcast was the first company,and probably the last since Familiar, that focused on being a screensaver that displayed news and information. At its height, PointCast was almost sold for $200 million before flaming out because of a big technical snafu. But the fact that PointCast was even worth that much during the early part of the Internet years means the idea - if executed well - could be very valuable, said Partovi, adding "It surprises me that no one has focused on this page."

In the future Partovi sees Familiar enabling users the ability to have the weather appear on the screen as well as stock quotes.

For now, Familiar is focused on traction with photo sharing. To date, the company has seen 20 million photos shared. In the near future, it may also enable users to create photobooks and calendars. And, as you can imagine, charging users for that service is something Familiar is considering.


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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder Vator, Managing Partner - Vator Investment Club; Former Columnist/correspondent Dow Jones MarketWatch; Business anchor CBS affiliate KPIX

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Hadi Partovi

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Tech investor & entrepreneur. Harvard graduate, helped lead the Microsoft Internet Explorer in the 90s. Co-founder at Tellme, iLike. Investor or advisor at Facebook, Dropbox, Zappos, Airbnb, OPOWER