We’re inundated with social media these days. I consider my friends who aren’t on Facebook lucky, they don’t have to deal with the onslaught of senseless status updates and the latent narcissism that it entails. Facebook has slowly but surely blurred the lines between friends and acquaintances and strangers, but hasn’t put much emphasis on close friends and family. This is where PassedOn comes in.
The startup, based here in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, focuses on creating an online diary of experiences with your loved ones for the English-speaking global market. And as the name implies, creating an album of videos, photos, soundbytes, and thoughts with them before you or they pass on.
The project has been online since November 2012 and already has over 100,000 users with “some more active than others”. Marco Oparq, CEO of PassedOn, has his sights set on working with companies like Dropbox to add value by personalizing their services instead of working with big companies like Facebook and Google. All of the data on PassedOn is encrypted so not even Marco knows how users are using the service.
I chatted with Marco for some insight into what he terms intimedia and the story behing PassedOn:
Intimedia is a new generation of websites that are more private and intimate than the jungle of social media that is currently offered. The WWW has an overload of information sharing and too few places that you can consider for yourself and your direct loved ones.
Marco goes on to say that Facebook is for friends, Twitter for business and friends, LinkedIn for business, dating sites for new lovers, but for your mother, daughter, and best friend, there isn’t a website that takes care of people you currently care about.
How did you come up with the idea?
Marco: I was on a holiday to Cuba with my wife, and the airplane had turbulence. At that moment, I realized that if the airplane would have crashed, basically we had nothing arranged. My kids were with my parents in law in Colombia, and they don’t know my parents, they don’t even have the contact number. Nobody in Vietnam knew where I was, and actually my parents in Holland, didn’t even know I was on a holiday.
Then I thought, I’m surely not the only one who hasn’t taken care of the basics (bank details, crucial information, etc.). Then a couple of months, I started to talk with people and see if it would be a nice idea to have an online portal to arrange these necessities in case something unexpected happens. Throughout these months, I realized that in fact it is more important to leave behind your thoughts and emotions than the actual administrative parts.
What happens when a user dies?
Marco: When a user dies, the “eWills” will be released to their loved ones and added to their profile. Later, we will add functions like being able to receive a printed version of the eWill in a nice book and allowing the people to “Leave a message to the World”.
But Marco emphasizes that PassedOn is not about death:
Marco: In general, I think it is good to mention that PassedOn is not about Death it is about realizing who and what is important for you and get a certain peace of mind that you have collected these thoughts and moments in a special place so you can share it with those you care most about.
What about older generations who are not accustomed to services like this?
Marco: First: the UI will be more visual. Second: we use the first wave of members (young mothers) to teach them. They are surely a target group.
I asked what Marco thinks of other competitors in this space like Deadsocial, LivesOn and Legacy Locker, but he says that these services don’t focus on the emotional ties between loved ones. PassedOn is decidedly about preparing “for only the few people before you are not here anymore, and only they can see it at that time.” Google has also entered this space with its Death Manager today.
The project plans to do a UI refresh this month, release a new app in the beginning of May, and start a new service that allows people to email their pictures and data directly into the service.
Check out the video for more on the service: