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Founder Friday: Chris Miano, MemoryFox

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When we experience a major life event, often one of the first things we do is post about it on social media. It’s the easiest way to let everyone in our lives know what we’re up to and celebrate our successes along with us.

But a quick post about an engagement or family vacation only tells part of the story. Don’t you want to hear about how someone proposed, rather than just see a picture of the ring?

Social media is a place for us to share anything we want the world to know about us, but it can be hard to convey the whole story and create a conversation. MemoryFox aims to build a stronger social community among families, charitable organizations, public venues, and foundations through the power of storytelling.

Learn more about founder Chris Miano and MemoryFox’s plans to disrupt the social media landscape in today’s Founder Friday!

How did your startup, well, start up?

When I returned from Afghanistan, I thought a lot about how I wished my WWII Veteran Grandfather was still alive so that I could connect with him by sharing stories about our experiences. It really opened my eyes to how tremendously critical stories and storytelling are to the human experience. This became even more evident when meeting my eventual partners Lindsay Macaluso and Tripp Higgins – we each had very different journeys through life, but were all connected by our deep passion for the connective power of storytelling.

For me it was in my Army units, for Lindsay it was her widely spread out family, and for Tripp it was in the retirement community industry. It’s pretty clear when you flip on the news that social media has been an overwhelming failure in terms of connecting people on anything but the most esoteric levels – so we’re creating a richer and more thoughtful alternative. By shifting the center of gravity from individuals to communities and families, we’re going to rethink the way people interact through social media by connecting people through collaborative storytelling.

What do you do for MemoryFox?

I am the CEO, but I think that’s a bit of a stodgy misnomer when you are at such an early stage; a better title would be Integrator. I’m a big fan of Gino Wickman’s “Traction,” so we really think of our roles in that sense on a day-to-day basis.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

We started out building an app that helped people record the stories of their loved ones. That was a great learning experience, but we had a tough time building traction in a B2C environment without the resources to promote it.

It wasn’t until we pitched the idea of collaborative storytelling to some museums, event planners, and foundations here in WNY that we realized that there is a segment called “community-reliant organizations” that have some major “hair-on-fire” problems we can solve. We all know families tell stories collaboratively around the dinner table every day, but by thinking of communities as big families and providing them with a digital dinner table to tell their stories around, we can have a major impact on helping them grow, energize, and increase donations.

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your startup to-date?

Honestly it’s the enthusiasm and excitement we see in the people who want to be a part of our launch. Not only that, but some have agreed to help test and advise during development. It’s a real testament to the MemoryFox team’s hard work all around.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

We are going to launch this summer, so stay tuned! During this first year, our goal is to focus on growing the number of organizations to around 600, having them drive our user and content growth with their communities. In 3 years, our goal is to flip that and have our user growth drive organizational growth – this is a much more sustainable growth model in the long run, and is sort of self-evident proof that we’re disrupting the social media landscape.

Why Buffalo?

Are there any better storytellers than Buffalonians? All kidding aside, we’re creating a social network around communities and stories for optimistic and thoughtful people. If you want ephemeral apps built for cynical and solipsistic audiences, you can find hundreds of them on the coasts – some with some incredible valuations. If you want to connect and engage with people on a deeper and more human level, you have to go to the heart of America to places like Buffalo and the Midwest – it’s something that can’t be faked if you want to really be disruptive; otherwise you’re just like all the rest, treating people like they are a commodity.

How do you do it? What drives you?

This sounds cheesy, but at some point you have to not care how cheesy you sound. I truly believe in how wonderful our country is, and I say this without any reservation that social media has had a disastrous effect on our society on so many levels. In a lot of ways we’ve metaphorically become a country of people driving alone in rush hour traffic yelling at each other through half-open windows, without any regard for the humanity of the journey taking place in the car next to us. But if we think of social media as a family dinner table and not a self-fulfillment vehicle with 100 bumper stickers on it, maybe we’ll be able to find common ground.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Give more of yourself to the world than you take and answer emails promptly. The rest is on you, there is no recipe for success!


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