This post is also available in: German
How did you come up with MyHeritage.com?
MyHeritage started from my own passion for family history. I started the company as a garage startup from home. And I thought it would be a one-man-company, actually. But then I became very ambitious and thought that this should be a family network that is global, that covers every family on the planet. And I raised money. Built a fantastic team. And it all started and grew like a tree.
How does your platform work?
The way it would work is, you would sign up. Enter the names of your parents and grand-parents. And we will tell you in a few seconds, this is your family story, this is where your family came from. And these are the people related to you. This is our vision.
What’s your goal?
Our goal is, that everybody would contribute a little bit of MyHeritage and MyHeritage will contribute a lot back to every user. For that we’re creating a network-effect, where our system becomes more capable and powerful the more users and data it adds.
Even if you’re using us for free, that’s fine, you’re contributing information and data.
What’s the business model?
The current business model, which is extremely successful, is freemium with subscriptions. So the basic usage of the service is free. And there are subscriptions for value added features. For example, we make discoveries and we match you with people related to you and with historical documents and newspapers about your ancestors and we deliver that as an extract for free. But when you want to try then to look at the information, contact other people, then you need a subscription. So we are a subscription business. It is extremely successful. We’re not worried, that not every user converts to be a subscriber. Because even if you’re using us for free, that’s fine, you’re contributing information and data, that is valuable for the other users.
What about privacy issues?
Privacy is a major concern of ours. We take great measures to insure that our users feel confident about sharing the information. And we provide a lot of control for he user. One example of that is that we don’t expose information about living people. The only people who can see living people are you, the person who enter them, and the family members that you specifically invite to the service. We have managed to collect so far 75 million registered users. They have entered 1 and a half billion profiles, with not a single complaint about privacy, so I think we must have done it right.
If you don’t want to know the answers, don’t ask the questions.
You’re also offering DNA search?
Family history based on paper trail research and documents is about the documented history, what people know. DNA is the biological truth of how families wer really constructed. My vision for that is that in the future you would be tested for DNA and our system would find DNA-matches for you, people who share your DNA. We will integrate that with the family trees and tell you exactly how you are related. So it will figure out that it was through your father and the other persons mother and so on. It will actually chart a family tree for you that can go back a thousand years.
What about relationships that should better stay secret?
Well, what I say about that is, if you don’t want to know the answers, don’t ask the questions.
But what if your competitors start doing research about you?
No, because information about living people is not exposed, not through our system.
What about Germany? Aren’t Germans afraid to find out about their grandparents and their role in the Deutsche Reich?
When I started the com pay ten years ago, I conducted some interesting market research. I wanted to measure the interest in family history in different markets. So I remember that I looked at keywords like family tree genealogy in the top languages and measured in every country versus the size of the population how many searches were made. Germany was unique. There is less searches about family history than in other countries – but still a significant number, and it is a significant market. Families are not a trend. They are something that is so important to human nature, they have aways been important, and they always will be important. So even if people are not asking some questions today, they will ask them in 50 or 100 years. We are a longterm business. We will be around then.
Who are you dressing up for? Facebook or Google?
That is an interesting question. It is possible that we are dressing up to be an independent public company. Would we like to be more like Google, more like Facebook? Probably there are similarities with each one. Google is trying to make the data of the world accessible. so they are scanning and collecting and developing search technologies, which is very similar to what we are doing. We are collecting billions of records, historical information, family trees and creating technology to match them and search them efficiently. On the other hand we have some similarities also, because we are very social. And it’s all about collaboration between family members and interaction. So I would say a combination of both.