Jeanne Lewis is the founder of Capsure, a mobile app that lets you share personal moments in private with family and friends. Follow Capsure on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
What inspired you to begin your start up?
I had started a company (Creativebug.com) in 2012. We were later acquired and I stayed on for one more year, then hired a new CEO and left the company. A few months later I was in New Orleans visiting my parents and attending my high school reunion. My dad had started a company in his late 20’s with very little money and a family to support. As the youngest of six, I don’t remember the “rough years” when he was working around the clock. Now that I’ve started a business and experienced that rollercoaster, I was curious to hear all the stories of those earlier years. I started asking him questions with the grand idea that I would record his answers to keep for my kids and their kids and so on. Well, this wasn’t easy because my dad is now in his 80’s and hard of hearing. Shouting questions at him wasn’t working and I grew impatient. I then decided I would create an app where I could send questions to his iPad and he could respond by tapping a button and typing his answer, recording an audio response and attach a photo as well.
One week later, I was back in SF and a former colleague asked me to lunch. A few months earlier, when I left Creativebug, he had asked where I was going and if I was working on something new because he would be interested in joining me. I quickly said “No” because I had no interest in starting another company especially since I was still recovering from my first one.
At our lunch a few weeks later, I assured him I still had no plans to start a company. He then told me a story. His wife was extremely close to her mother who had passed away 4 years ago. He said it was still very raw for his wife and for him as well. One day, he was cleaning behind some wine boxes in his living room clearing out cobwebs and dust and he spotted an old answering machine.
As he lifted the answering machine, his thumb pressed the play button and his mother-in-laws’ voice came from the machine with a message for his wife. Hearing her mother’s voice so clearly in the house had an enormous effect on his wife. She sat down on the floor and sobbed. For a second, she said she thought her mother was in the room — and that’s when she realized the need for an app to capture personal moments in private.
As he was telling me this story, the hairs on my neck started to stick up. It suddenly felt like things were moving in slow motion and I was listening to someone tell me a story I already knew. He said there was something about audio and hearing someone’s voice that had a visceral effect on people, compared to just watching a video. He’s right. The brain processes the two differently. With audio, you’re building the images that go with it from your memories — it’s intimate and engaging. When watching a video, you’re more detached as the whole experience is curated for you — more passive.
I told him about my encounter with my dad and how I was struggling to capture memories and stories which will be lost when my parents are no longer here. We also talked about how Facebook and other social platforms don’t really function as a time capsule that can be easily searched for us to explore our history. That’s not their purpose.
So, here I was again. In a position where I personally needed and wanted something to exist.
This is how the idea for Capsure came to be.
How did you overcome challenges?
I probably would never have started Capsure if it weren’t for my co-founder Mark. I knew he had the right experience and I could trust him to see this through with me. I feel it’s so important to have a co-founder rather than go it alone. When things get rough, it’s vital to have someone who understands where you are and who can balance your bad days with encouragement to stay the course.
We were also lucky that we knew engineers who wanted to work with us and were willing to jump on board.
How does starting a business and raising a family work for your life?
My first company took a pretty big toll on my marriage and home life. I was gone a lot of the time and when I was home I was always in “work” mode.
This time around, I’m determined not to have my work life become so disruptive to my home life. My kids aren’t getting any younger and I don’t want to squander the few years I have left with them being at home by burying my nose in my laptop. I’m trying hard to compartmentalize things so I can be “present” with them when I have a few hours free. I feel that I’m more efficient now with work in order to ensure I have that time to really unplug.