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EveryStory Combines Photos with Collaborative Storytelling

An Interview with Ed Cox, CEO of EveryStory

In this interview with Ed Cox, the CEO of EveryStory, he describes how the company was started, what they do, and how it adds value for users of the EveryStory platform. EveryStory enables photos combined voice-over from multiple people for collaborative storytelling.

In this interview with Ed Cox, the CEO of EveryStory, he describes how the company was started, what they do, and how it adds value for users of the EveryStory platform. EveryStory enables photos combined voice-over from multiple people for collaborative storytelling.

photos with collaborative storytelling
Ed Cox, CEO of EveryStory

David Keene, the Founder and CTO of EveryStory, was a key developer for the Sony PlayStation platform. Prior to forming EveryStory he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thoughts ran through Dave’s mind, would his young son ever remember who he was, what he thought, even what his voice sounded like? Fortunately, the cancer was caught at stage two, and Dave was able to get the cancer removed, and he is now in remission. However, this gut wrenching experience gave Dave the inspiration to start EveryStory.

photos with collaborative storytelling
David Keene and Ed Cox from EveryStory

EveryStory is a collaborative storytelling platform where multiple people can comment on a photo or series of photos and tell “organic” stories. It is a combination of photos and voice over. Users can listen to each individual who has commented on a single photo, or they can listen to a single person’s story over a series of photos.

Users can sign-up for EveryStory at no cost, and the first 500 photos and unlimited voice-over are free. There is a small monthly subscription fee for over 500 photos.

EveryStory is a cloud-based platform that is currently hosted on Amazon Cloud servers on the East and West Coast with redundancy. EveryStory is a secure platform versus many other social media platforms that are more open in nature.

Ed feels that EveryStory serves a niche between Facebook and text messaging, and that it is as close as you can get to story telling around the Thanksgiving table.

EveryStory is currently using targeted Facebook advertising for customer acquisition. EveryStory uses detailed analytics to target customers. Based on initial research, there is a massive market opportunity and potential widespread appeal for what EveryStory is doing. Ultimately Ed feels growth will come from EveryStory going viral, but this requires a critical mass of users, which Ed defines as 100,000 users.

The EveryStory architecture is very secure and scalable. The intellectual property is protected by a combination of patents that are pending and trade secrets.

I got super excited about hearing Ed’s story and think EveryStory could be a very big deal. Check it out! It is nice to see a company that is doing well by doing good! EveryStory is positively impacting people with their social media platform.

You can sign-up for EveryStory on the iOS Store or the Android Store by searching for “EveryStory”. You can also sign-up on the web at the EveryStory site.

Here is the interview:

Patrick: I’m here with Ed Cox today from EveryStory. He’s the CEO of EveryStory. He’s going to tell us a little bit about it.

Ed and I actually ran into each other at the High Tech Night at the opera in San Diego. We met through a mutual friend and had a discussion around what he was doing. It sounded very exciting. I thought a lot of you out there would be very interested in his company.

First, welcome Ed.

Ed: Thanks for having me.

Patrick: Thanks for coming. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got involved with this company?

Ed: Most recently, I was an executive officer at a NASDAQ company here in San Diego. Before that, I was the president of a small private company that got acquired on to the NASDAQ. My executive career started in film technology and then eventually investment banking.

EveryStory was founded in 2013 by a guy named Dave Keene. Dave was the senior architect of the PlayStation network. He’s a brilliant technologist with an incredible career. He’s had incredible accomplishments.

Four years ago, Dave was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was a young guy. His greatest fear was that his son wouldn’t remember him, wouldn’t remember his voice or his stories.

It was stage two. They were able to cut it out. Dave and these guys out of Sony wound up building what became EveryStory.

I met Dave about 18 months ago. I’d lost someone just recently to colon cancer. My first child, Ellie, was born almost at the same time.

The idea of what EveryStory was and why it was powerful immediately made sense. That’s how I originally got involved as an advisor. I left my previous role in December and Dave asked me to join as CEO in January. It’s just been incredible. It’s been a really fulfilling opportunity so far.

Patrick: That’s awesome. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the company? Exactly what do you guys do? What do you offer? Is it a product? Is it a service?

Ed: That’s a great question. EveryStory is a story-sharing platform that allows users to record audio over photos on their mobile device.

Instead of sitting with your dad or your daughter in front of a photo album and having a great story but none of it being captured, EveryStory allows you, in front of an iPad or an iPhone, all that audio is recorded, tagged to those photos and saved forever.

It gets sent up to the cloud and that allows it to be preserved. The cool thing is that once it’s up there, in your private network, your other family and friends can not only experience the story, they can expand it.

What people can do is add audio files to your photos or photos to your audio files. What happens is these stories become these living, breathing things within a secure network. I think it’s been a powerful tool for people and people really enjoy it, so that’s cool.

Patrick: How is it different than other social media platforms? Facebook, especially, I guess, is the most analogous to me.

Ed: Facebook is an incredible tool. I think it’s changed the way we all operate. By the nature of Facebook, it has to be an open system. Facebook can never truly be private. You can do different features, but it’s not really designed to be a private framework. It’s designed to be an open framework.

That leaves a gap, because what happens is that people either have two types of stories or two types of photos they want to share: something that they’re willing to share on Facebook or something they text. There’s no in between.

There are some stories that are intimate enough or important enough that you want to share with the five people you really know and not the 500 people you kind of know.

More importantly, Facebook isn’t designed to archive stories. It’s designed to share them openly, excitingly, but not “What did I say five years ago, 10 years ago or 100 years ago?”

EveryStory is trying to fill that gap between the difference between open stories and intimate stories, things that you want to share right now versus things you want to preserve forever.

Patrick: Basically it’s like a secure photo album with the story told over the slideshow or those photos?

Ed: Yes, it’s like that. There’s a ton of competition indirectly. There are a lot of slideshow apps, a lot of things where people can slap 10 photos together and they put them out there and they publish them.

I think one of the things is that most people don’t talk like that. Most people don’t talk 10 photos in a row. What they do is they say, “If you gave me 50 photos and said talk in any way you want, three or four hours would go by.”

The way EveryStory works is it allows for organic storytelling, natural storytelling. You don’t have to preorder the photos and you don’t have to do it over a length of time.

You can talk the way you normally talk. It’s as close to Thanksgiving Day as you can make it within a technological framework. It’s oral history for the 21st century.

Patrick: Can you used mixed media? As you know, I have QuestFusion. I have a lifestyle blog that I do in town with Amanda.

We do a lot of mixed media stuff on that site, a lot of video, a lot of photography. We write stories. We’re starting to get into podcasting.

Is it purely an audio overlay on photographs or are there other mixed media things you guys do?

Ed: The idea is to continue to roll out new mixed media all the time. The next big feature roll out is video.

The idea is to start with photos, because that’s the easiest analogue people have, and then move to audio over video and then to continue to music.

Effectively, we want to try to become something that allows people to tell their stories the way they want to tell them but securely and privately. Absolutely.

Patrick: How big is the market for something like this?

Ed: That’s an interesting question. One of the things that we did right before founding the company is we actually conducted primary market research. It’s old school, but I still believe in it.

What we ended up doing is asking 500 people, we hired a firm, what they thought of EveryStory, which is statistically significant. It’s a big number.

The interesting thing was we were assuming that we’d have about 10% to 15% of the people who’d say, “I’ll either definitely use this” or “I’ll probably use this.”

It was 75%. That was really surprising and made us back up a little bit. The realization was we had a use case in our mind, which we thought was the only use case, which was end of life or beginning of life. It was that mortal idea.

What we found out though is that everyone has important stories. They’re just different. I think we’re up to two dozen use cases right now.

One of them is, could a football coach use this to talk about his plays and draw new ones and then share it with the group that’s his team? Yes. I never thought of that, but sure.

One of the ideas is that a guy is using it to rebuild a plane engine. He’s taken the photos of all the steps of the plane engine and talking a story to himself about all the different things that he’s doing.

Once we realized that the market was not a memorial market, the market was in fact stories, it’s really quite large. Almost everyone has at least a few stories that they’d hate to lose, or everyone has a few stories that they want to share.

There are 150 million adults in the USA, so we have a 100 million-person market. I’m not sure. It’s hard to quantify.

What’s clear is that every single person who you talk to either says, “I really wish I had this before I lost so-and-so” or “I really wish I had this before my kid became two or three, when he was a baby” or “Could I use it for this totally random use case that you had never thought of?”

Rarely do we say this to someone where they don’t have some use for it immediately. Our sense is that it’s a pretty big market. Who doesn’t have stories?

Patrick: Does it use a Photoshop platform or do you have your own platform?

Ed: No. The best analogue from the technology standpoint would be Dropbox, at least on the backside, and then proprietary technology on the frontend.

Dave, not to be too casual, took the PlayStation network and put it on top of Dropbox.

People ask if we are an app. We’re not an app. You can access it through an app. The way that you download it is that you go to EveryStory either on the app store or the Android store.

What’s really going on is up on the cloud. You upload the photos. You’re flipping through the photos and you’re talking about them in this very simple way. How it’s captured and how it interacts with everyone else’s stories is all done on the server level.

Even on a single photo, you could have 10 different people tell 10 different stories on the same photo. Whether or not you’re listening to it like a slideshow- “What did grandpa say?”- all the way through, which is great, or you could select that single photo, his wedding.

Then what happens is all the different people who ever talked about that photo pop up. It’s incredibly integrated and does some really cool things.

Patrick: That’s interesting. When you talk about the breadth of potential appeal for EveryStory, it always gets me concerned when you have these companies that it’s hard to define the market because the market’s so big.

I always think, “The riches are in the niches.” How do you stay focused and targeted to get things off the ground? It’s great that there’s a roadmap to do other things, but what are your initial targets?

Ed: I think there’s a difference between “It’s great that lots of people have lots of different uses” but I don’t think you chase those uses.

I think if someone uses your product that way, that’s great. You didn’t imagine that you would. I’m not about to start visiting football coaches trying to sell that idea.

The way we primarily get users is through social media marketing, using tools like Facebook to directly market to people and say, “Do you have a story you want to share? Do you have a story you want to save?”

Patrick: Is that in the category of growth hacking? Is that what they call that?

Ed: No. Growth hacking, I think, is trying to find a workaround, trying to catch virality.

What we’re doing is more traditional in that they are people who have expressed interest in certain things. We are putting our product in front of the people that it matters to.

Patrick: There’s a set of demographics you’ve identified with the best target audience for you?

Ed: That’s right.

Patrick: The way Facebook runs ads, they basically are able to get very targeted around consumers, which is always a challenge. If you’re going direct to consumer, how do you do that?

Are a lot of companies doing that now in terms of using Facebook to target specific demographics?

Ed: Absolutely. I think it’s interesting. I think we’re actually slipstreaming behind the mobile games.

Mobile games have gotten this down to a science. They know very clearly Candy Crush and Fire Age are going out to different markets.

The way our product makes money is it’s, again, like Dropbox. The first 500 photos are free and unlimited audio is free. Beyond that, it’s $4 a month.

People either don’t really cost us that much money, because they don’t have that many stories, or it’s a pretty nominal fee. What that allows us to do is be very competitive when advertising.

Most people are not going to record a story, save a story, and then say, “I don’t care about grandpa’s voice anymore.” You’re going to care more, not less.

The lifetime value of our users is really high. We can afford to be competitive when trying to get our product in front of user eyeballs.

The other thing is we invested a ton of the money that we did into analytics. We’re very good about figuring how many clicks become how many installs become how many users.

That’s actually, in my mind, one of our competitive advantages. We are very detailed about that. We can get it down to the pennies.

As long as you are able to acquire users, through clicks, installs and registrations, for significantly less than their use, their worth to you, then it’s a higher scale model. We are able to acquire users at approximately one-fifth of their value to us.

Patrick: The cost of acquisition, from a margin standpoint, works really well.

Ed: It does. I call it a wholesome arbitrage.

Patrick: That’s awesome. There are a lot people, especially like my parents, people in the baby boomer generation, who still have concerns around, “I don’t want to put all my data out on some server. I’d like to have it in my home.”

I have a couple different questions. You say it’s a secure server. It’s in the cloud. Is it managed storage? Are there backups? What if something happens? Do you give people the capability to download it to something to their home?

Ed: It’s a great question. They’re not our servers. We do everything on Amazon. Everything is on Amazon double region. The whole east coast has to go down and the whole west coast has to go down for any of the data to be at risk.

We don’t have any plan to internalize that. Amazon’s really good at that. Cloud storage is getting less expansive all the time. They’re, both from a security standpoint and from an infrastructure standpoint, amazing. People can augment their options after taking a minute to read these reviews, but it still works beautifully for opening the playing field.

Effectively, we’re putting that stuff with them. Dave’s background has allowed us to build an incredibly secure, scalable product.

When we’re thinking about asking people to do these kinds of things, if you think about how people have stored data in the past, whether it be 8-track, VHS, DVD or flash drive, the problem with all of those things is they do not self update.

In other words, the flash drive is just the flash drive. It doesn’t update itself. If you lose it, you don’t use it.

Amazon is constantly updating server farms. Amazon, Google, and all the people who are in this. The cloud is the first time, I think, in human history that the information is self-protected.

Ancient Sumerian scrolls, if you lost that, it was gone. The idea is that now the same information is in Virginia and Oregon. If you wanted to it could be in Virginia, Oregon and Singapore. It’s the exact same piece of information.

The servers that they used five years ago, they don’t use anymore, because they’re updating them all the time. I think that not just for stuff like us, I think for all information, this is a sea of change.

The idea that the CIA backs up its information on Amazon servers is a testament to things that have changed. I think it’s a good idea to backup to more than one spot.

I think the cloud is a totally different type of technology that’s going to allow us to back things up in a way we never could before.

Patrick: There’s no ability to put it in your home? From what you’re saying, it’s actually more secure and more updateable and more scalable by having it in the cloud.

Is there some gap that you have to bridge with consumers or with potential customers to get them comfortable with that idea?

Ed: For one thing, we’re definitely going to let people export their stories if they wish to. They would export a video. They wouldn’t export with all the meta data and all the ability to say how many people talked on this photo and how many people talked in that story. The reason is it has to be within the system. There is no way to have that integration.

Patrick: You would have to duplicate the whole backend in your home.

Ed: On some level, which is totally unrealistic. What you could do is, let’s say I want to just export this long slideshow. The memories are not at risk. You’d lose the functionality.

Again, I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique. We’ve created a product that allows lots of people to access it a lot of different ways.

The other thing is that if you have that flash drive, you’re the only one who does. If you have your seven-or-eight-person family in your network, more than one person has access to the flash drive. More than one person has access to the security deposit box. I think that adds security.

Patrick: Do you have any competition? It sounds pretty unique.

Ed: I would say from indirect competition, a lot. From slideshows, which is “I want to put photos together and audio and I want to post it to Facebook,” there are a bunch of people doing that.

Most of the time, you’re talking less than three minutes. Sometimes it’s less than 30 seconds. It’s definitely not designed to be archived.

Then you have things that are very much archived. “I want to dump a bunch of photos in here. I can’t tell stories over them and I don’t really interact with them, but they’re there.”

In this middle section is collaborative storytelling, which is we want to be able to tell stories for hours, in any order that we want, and we want different family members to be talking about the same story. So far we haven’t seen anyone else doing that.

We also haven’t seen anyone else doing all three. It only works if you’re doing all three. What you’re doing is you’re separating time and place from the story.

If all of us were together in the same Thanksgiving room, we’d have this story. Now, people can have those same conversations, even if they’re years apart, on the other side of the country.

Tell a story about this event and then tell a story about this event and it intertwines. It’s a lot more magical.

Patrick: It sounds like there’s a lot of intellectual property built into the product based on Dave’s background, based on your background.

What’s your sustainable competitive advantage? Are there barriers to other people coming in and just eating their lunch, which are bigger companies? How does that work?

Ed: I think there are a couple. We certainly have provisional patents, which helps. I think, quite transparently, if someone had a Dave- and there are not a lot of Daves out there- and unlimited financial resources, they could build this.

They couldn’t build it in six months, but they could probably build it in a year.

Everyone says that they have a sticky product. I understand good people would like to say that. If you record an hour of EveryStory with your grandfather, you’re not going to make him do it all over again on something else.

If we had a competitor come in, which we inevitably will, I think what they could do is get future users who we could have gotten. They take away that opportunity to us.

However, they’re not going to take the users we have. The people who we have, who record stories, and their families, we have them for life.

From that aspect, it’s very straightforward for us in that we are going to continue to drive user growth until all of our operating expenses could be paid for by subscription fees.

Our goal is to continue to grow users. Every dollar we make, we’re just going to continue to pour into user growth. If you can buy something for $5 and sell it for $25, you should do that. We’re just going to keep reinvesting in growth.

Patrick: Okay. The main way you’re doing that today is through targeted Facebook ads. Are there other ways that you plan on doing customer acquisition in the future?

Ed: For sure. When we think of the greatest single chance for growth that we have- again, using a buzzword very cautiously- it’s viral.

When people say viral, I think they normally misuse it. I think what they mean is something hits the internet and gets big. I don’t know if that really counts as viral. I think that counts as organic. It just happened.

I think a much more analogous example of viral is Uber or Dropbox, which is “I, from within the app, am going to make you join in to the app. I’m going to get a free ride and you’re going to get a free ride.”

The thing itself replicates. Dropbox is the same way. If I invite you to Dropbox, we both get more storage. The thing itself is replicating, not the story about it, but the thing.

One of the things we saw in the market research is we asked people, “If you liked EveryStory, how many people would you share it with?”

We were hoping between one and two. They said 9 to 12. I guess if you go back and think about it, no one is going to create an EveryStory and share it with no one. You just wouldn’t do that.

I think from our standpoint, we’re going to continue to use mobile marketing to gain a critical mass of users because viral, from what we’ve seen, doesn’t really kick in until you’ve reached a critical mass. Once this happens, you can use companies similar to Singular to map your customer journey through mobile marketing.

Patrick: What do you consider? Do you have a number?

Ed: It’s 100,000. What we’ve seen when you get that invite from that service you’ve never heard from and you say, “I’m not going to do that. I’ve never heard of that” to “Oh, yes. I know those guys. Accept.”

We think that when we tip from being able to mechanically acquire users, which is what we mean by social network ad marketing, to virally acquiring users, then you’re in a situation where the thing you’re buying for $1 and then you can sell for $5, the $5 turns into two $5s, three $5s, or four $5s.

Our near term growth is going to be through this mechanical growth. Our future growth is, for sure, through people using EveryStory and saying, “Now that I’ve created a story, I’m going to have someone share it.” I think from that aspect, it’s an incredibly scalable idea.

Patrick: Cool. Was there anything you wanted to talk about that we didn’t cover?

Ed: No. Someone said this to me once they heard what EveryStory was, and it stuck with me. They said it’s very hard to do well doing good. It’s very hard to find something that’s going to socially impact people in a positive way that’s going to better their lives and is still a good business model.

I think, from that aspect, it’s been really exciting. Every single person we’ve told about it, the way that they react to it is so uplifting.

It makes for a really exciting team. Everyone feels like they’re doing good and fortunate enough because of the value and social media and the value of users, we can also really do well.

Patrick: Awesome. For our viewers, how do you sign up for EveryStory?

Ed: If you’re on an iOS device, just type in EveryStory into the app store. If you’re on an Android, do the same. If you’d like to sign up through the internet, our website is

Patrick: Awesome. Thank you so much, Ed.

Ed: Thanks for the time. This was awesome.

Patrick: I appreciate it.

Patrick Henry Entropic

This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters