Internet as memoir: Italian startup Memeoirs enables anyone to turn their personal messaging archive into a printed book
A Q&A with Memeoirs co-founder and CEO Giacomo Miceli. The Povo, Italy-based startup, which has built a platform that takes online conversations and turns them into a physical book, announced in mid-February the closing of a $300,000 Seed funding round from Pozzoni Group. It is also getting up to €200,000 equity-free matching funds from the Autonomous Province of Trento—Italy to match the round of investment. Memeoirs was founded in 2010 by Miceli, Paulo Pinto, and Fred Rocha, and participated in the TechPeaks accelerator last year.
SUB: Please describe Memeoirs and your primary innovation.
Miceli: Memeoirs is the first platform that allows anyone to turn online conversations into a real book. We started with emails and we are now extending our offer to social networks and other messaging apps. We believe that memories, especially the ones that bond us with our loved ones, deserve to be celebrated and presented in the best way.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Miceli: Right now they are chiefly couples, family members or friends writing a lot to each other.
Miceli: The naive answer would be the plethora of services that allow you to turn this or that into a book, chiefly image-based services like Shutterfly. The big picture is that we are in the race for storytelling and memory preservation, which is an open territory with space for surprises.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $300,000 in venture funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Miceli: Two reasons. The first one is that after passing through two incubators—Start-Up Chile and TechPeaks—we feel now absolutely ready to step up and scale our operation. The second one is that by raising $300,000 after our graduation from TechPeaks, we qualify for up to €200,000 equity-free matching funds provided by the Autonomous Province of Trento—Italy, the original promoters of the TechPeaks acceleration program.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Miceli: We are hiring a developer and we will be investing on marketing and on the product.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Memeoirs? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Miceli: There was an epiphany when I knew I wanted to make this happen. I was browsing through my emails, scrolling down back in time. I started using emails back in 1994, so I have a considerable amount of messages. And because I enjoy writing to people very much, I realized that I was staring at the story of my life and that those emails were narrating it. From there to gathering them in a book—a memoir, if you will—the step was short.
Miceli: Memeoirs started off in a somewhat unconventional way. We didn’t begin with a business plan or doing market research. It came out of an inspiration that captured my co-founders and I, and we started hacking code together before anything else. The creation of the company came only much later, after learning many lessons the hard way: Build it and they will come—not true.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Miceli: My co-founder Fred came up with it. He was going through a phase where he was fascinated with the work of Richard Dawkins, in particular the Selfish Gene, where the British scientist introduces the concept of ‘meme’—related yet different from the concept of Internet meme. Meme is the basic unit of knowledge, and gets its name from the similarities with ‘gene.’ The same way the successful gene propagates on a friendly environment, so does the meme in an intellectual favorable ecosystem. So you can think of Memeoirs being not only your memoir, as in your life story in a book, but also a compilation of your best ideas, or ‘memes.’ Finally, we hope our product is fit, and thus will happily hop around the minds of people around the world.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Miceli: No, not for the near future.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Miceli: We bootstrapped Memeoirs, going from idea to first sale entirely on our off-time work and personal resources. Bringing Memeoirs to where it is now required considerable efforts and a leap of faith.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Miceli: Our revenues come directly from the sale of books. We’re also exploring different revenue streams, like selling ebooks, but I think paper books will remain our core for a long time.
SUB: What are your goals for Memeoirs over the next year or so?
Miceli: The goal and the challenge at hand is to keep on expanding our offer and the power of our service, while never sacrificing its original simplicity of use; and of course have a great time while building the platform of our dreams.