The story has been leaked in Sweden, ambushed and delivered first on TechCrunch by a nimble bearded French Israeli, written about, blogged, debated, tossed and turned in hundreds of places. So what can I possibly write that you don't already know?
You can read our announcement. But I thought I'd give you the story from a more personal angle... How it all started, and where it will go from here...
I first heard about Kindo when it was only an idea, a sparkle in the eye of the founders Nils and Gareth, early in 2007. Someone gave me a friendly tip -- there's a good team up in London, folks from Skype, and they're brewing up competition for you - a family tree Web site that will spread all over Europe. Take care, mate.
My curiosity stirred, and in a few months, I travelled to London specifically to meet them (of course they didn't know that, they thought I happened to be in town, only a maniac [like me] would fly 12 hours for a one-hour meeting). Nils and Gareth picked a good place for lunch in Soho. Right from the start we had great chemistry and when each of us described what we do and what we want to build, we said exactly the same things. Even face recognition for family photos, a vision of mine since 2003, that we were developing at MyHeritage intensively, was on their planned roadmap. I really liked Nils and Gareth, so lunch was on me. Kindo had not even official launched yet then. And when it did, a week or so afterwards, I found it to be a very nicely done website, with an online family tree tool that was better than anything else previously available on the Internet. I quickly instructed my team to "borrow" one or two good ideas from the Kindo tree...
With my close team of commando coding comrades, I continued building MyHeritage at ferocious speed, scarcely sleeping, and have met with several other competing companies that year. At least 4 of them. It's a great approach because a personal relationship is always a good basis for future cooperation (or should I say, acquisition and if not, then at least you can part as befriended enemies, look your competitors in the eye and treat them with mutual respect as you continue your battle with them.
On another trip of mine to London in Feb 2008 (this time I really happened to be in town), I caught up with Nils and Gareth again. This time, they invited me to their office in Putney, south-ish London. I remember the office as being very small, with a hot startup environment, just one room with everyone sitting close together and working, 6pm in the evening and the place was packed, not even one of them had called it a day and left for home. Needless to say, I liked it immediately. In my trademark psychopathic style, I always appreciate talent more, when it is coupled with supreme dedication. The walls were filled with sketches and diagrams of future Kindo products. Out of respect I kept my eyes low, I didn't want to look up and spy on what they were building, though I have to say I was quite interested. I then had the chance to meet almost everyone in the team. Our chemistry grew even better. I returned and reported my good impressions. All very young folks, not even one married among them, smart, passionate about what they do, working great together as a team, a future asset for us?
And so it came to be, that several months later we began discussions of a merger, and now it's accomplished. The entire team has joined MyHeritage and we are combining our assets. It's a great combination because Kindo brings us a fresh young spirit. A friendly voice. A love for family and family history. And a true understanding of social networking. Together, we will make MyHeritage the best place online for families. On the eve of the new year here in Israel, I wish us and our users a peaceful, successful, enjoyable, stress-free, financial-turmoil-free, family love-filled new year.
Today we've announced additional funding of $15 million, which will help us build even more useful services for you and your family. $15 million is a lot of money of course, but we're just as happy about the quality and expertise of our investors:
Index Ventures has invested in Skype and Accel Partners proudly holds Facebook in its investment portfolio.
Renowned newspapers like the Sunday Times and popular technology blogs such as Techcrunch have written about our funding and praised the incredible growth that MyHeritage has seen this year. By now you, our faithful users, have created more than 25 million accounts (see our world map of users as well) and added names of 260 million people into more than 5 million family trees.
Thank you for all your support so far, we're looking forward to the next chapter.
Gal, Chris, Sara, Lora and Achutan (who missed the photo shoot) also say hi...
As of this minute, MyHeritage has...
17,181,904 registered members (yes, that's right, more than 17 million)
147,705 family trees
178,815,922 people in family trees
106,023,182 uploaded photos
508,482 active users of our Family Tree Builder software
182,788 blog articles around the world link to MyHeritage.com, says Technorati.com
0 (Zero) dollars spent on marketing. All this love comes directly from our users, we do not buy publicity.
We're very proud of these figures, all gained since our site went live in January 2006.
But as they are growing so fast, please stay tuned and we'll update them on our blog from time to time...
Purim is a great Jewish holiday, so good in fact that when someone's having too much fun, or a lucky streak, and you just have to cool them down, use the Hebrew expression "Not every day is Purim". Hint hint, tomorrow you're going down, pal.
So, what's the essence of this holiday: I'll spare you the historical background. These days, we celebrate Purim by dressing up - a masquerade - similar to Halloween, but without the trick-or-treat-junk-chocolate-bar-collect activities. But there certainly are special holiday foods to be devoured and the atmosphere is as joyous as can be. One of my favorite pastimes in the past few years has been to visit the Bnei Atarot school, right next to MyHeritage, on the morning of Purim, every year, with a video camera. It's great fun and I also feel as if I'm on an important anthropological quest: to document the generation. For you can tell a lot about the generation from the dresses and costumes that kids dress up each year. When I was a kid, not that many decades ago, but still in prehistory as far as Internet Time is concerned, those were naive times indeed. It was quite simple then, boys were cowboys, Indians or Popeyes, and girls were princesses or Queen Esthers. But it all went downhill in recent years. Mutant Ninja Turtles, industrial costumes from China, punks, hippies and drop-outs. But occasionally you can spot a unique, home-made, totally original costume that makes it all worthwhile. Years from now as I grow older I will prepare a 50-year research on this topic. But for now, enjoy the pictures below from our own celebration of Purim at MyHeritage, yesterday.
PHOTO: Purim 2007 at MyHeritage - click to enlarge.
Guy and Jaiel again, with Nir "Taekwondo (Take & Undo) Master",
Shmulik "Ross Parrot", myself ("how did I get that small hat over my horns?") and Ran "Don Corleone"
I remember meeting Yossi Vardi a few years ago. A well known entrepreneur, he's considered the father of the Internet scene in Israel. On his jam-packed desk was a printout of an old presentation he gave after selling his company Mirabilis/ICQ to AOL. Its smug title was along the lines of "Getting the first 100 million users is always the hardest". The achievement seemed impossible for me to grasp at the time. But, here we are at MyHeritage, on a much more modest scale, celebrating the addition of our 10 millionth subscribed member today, hardly a year since our Web site went live.
What does it mean to be a member of MyHeritage? I'll start with what it doesn't mean: receiving spam. We abhor spam and do not abuse the trust that our members have placed in us. Our members enjoy our cool face recognition features, and many of them use our genealogy products: the free Family Tree Builder, the free genealogy search engine MyHeritage Research, and our family network - Family Pages. We are hard at work to add new products and features for the benefit of our members.
Our 10 million members come from all over the world. To celebrate the diversity of our member base, we are about to launch a unique Member Map to allow you to explore the MyHeritage community geographically. Here's a sneak preview of it, the screenshot shows only Europe, Asia and the Middle East, but every corner of the globe is covered, and you'll be able to meet members from each country, and in the future see how family trees from different countries connect on the map.The size of each figure represents the relative number of members from that country. Nope, we don't have that many members from Afghanistan - it's one of the remaining bugs we still need to fix!
We've got great stuff in store for you for 2007. Stay tuned!
PHOTO: MyHeritage team, December 2006. Standing from left to right: Uri, Guy, Shmulik, Jaiel, Nir. Sitting: Gilad, Simon. Missed the photo-op: Gal, Shalvia, Chris. Credit: Gabriel Baharlia.
Click photo for a larger version.
In this blog my co-workers and I will shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes at MyHeritage; we'll share our thoughts on genealogy and technology, and try to unravel one of the greatest mysteries of our time: how to have fun (not to mention a life) when working so hard in an Internet startup.
Enjoy our blog and be sure to send us your comments!