Forever.com guards personal memories from prying eyes


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One year after social media archives site forever.com was launched with plans to corner the long-term digital storage market, a secondary goal of guarding personal memories from prying eyes has taken center stage.

Part digital family album and part time capsule, Forever targets mature audiences seeking to share and maintain family histories. Ancestral photos, marriage licenses and senior graduation pictures can be uploaded to the site and, before the year is out, audio and video streams also will be able to be saved.

A one-time $295 fee buys permanent membership, a unique subdomain name, two hours of customer service support via phone and one permanent "social gigabyte," which holds around 1,000 photos. Customers still holding on to special moments via VHS or even Super 8 film can send them to Forever's digital team to transfer to a high-definition digital video.

The company promises that any media saved on the site is preserved for the member's entire life and then can be accessed by approved parties for another 100 years. The money is invested in a fund to guarantee the site is maintained.

Forever has made security a top priority by backing up all data three times in several locations around the world and by using bank-level encryption for transmissions.

The cloud-based social sharing site founded last December by Meakem Becker Venture Capital co-founder Glen Meakem has already reached financial and statistical milestones hard to come by for breakout companies.

Six months after its May 2012 founding, the company closed a $9 million round of Series A financing funded at least partially through Meakem Becker. One month later, it opened for business in a gleaming Downtown office space on the 20th floor of One PPG Place.

In December 2013, after a successful August launch and November consumer campaign netted more than 1,000 paid members, Forever closed a Series B funding round worth $8.6 million. Mr. Meakem declined to say how much of each round was funded by Meakem Becker.

Mr. Meakem acknowledged his venture capitalist background and entrepreneurial experience have given him a leg up on the average startup when it comes to fundraising. After an extensive career with companies such as Kraft-General Foods and General Electric, he founded automated software and services site FreeMarkets Inc.. That grew to more than 1,200 employees and nearly $200 million in revenues by 2004, when it was sold to Ariba for approximately $500 million.

He believes Forever's greatest marketplace advantage comes from filling a need in an untapped market.

"We offer a more transparent, intimate experience," he said. "Other social networking sites purposefully make privacy settings ambiguous -- you may not even be sure who will see your post until after you hit 'Send.'

"On Forever, your sharing permissions are always very clear. Every piece of content can be marked private, friends and family, or public."

Noting a class action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook claiming that site scans private messages in order to sell information to advertisers, Mr. Meakem said the public is growing tired of the idea that free service equals full access to personal data.

He believes Forever is at the forefront of a movement that says true privacy is worth paying for. "Google, Facebook and Flickr aren't free, they're data mining you and selling access to you."

Deborah M. Todd: dtodd@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1652.


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