Twitter and Facebook thrive on big audiences, but Path co-founder Dave Morin wants you to share precious moments with your inner circle.
Path is primarily an iPhone app that lets you share images and memories with up to 50 people. Morin's starting small: 14 employees so far in the heart of San Francisco. But he's also aiming high: In the three months since its launch, Morin says Path users have shared more than 2 million memories. He announced this week he's raised $8.5 million in financing from two prominent venture firms. And he counts Napster founder Shawn Fanning among his advisers.
What makes Morin one to watch? At 30 years old, he's taken a charmed path to prominence. Before Path, Morin was one of Facebook's top engineers managing projects like Facebook Connect. Before that, he worked in education marketing at Apple .
That suggests this entrepreneur knows a thing or two about social and smartphones — two of tech's hottest trends. Here is an edited transcript of my recent conversation with him:
Jon Fortt: Path. Where did the idea come from?
Dave Morin: We started Path with the idea that the mobile phone was a new computing platform, one of the fastest growing platforms ever in the history of the Internet. We looked at a lot of data around the time we were getting going, and a lot of the data said that by 2014 the mobile Internet will be bigger than the desktop Internet. So we started to think about what people do with their mobile phones.
One of the things that we found the most inspiring is the idea that you can use the mobile phone to capture the moments of your life. We think that the mobile phone specifically provides an opportunity to give people the power to capture the moments of their lives and share them with the people that they really care about.
JF: The first wave of social was pretty macro. It’s been about Twitter communicating with everyone. Facebook communicating with broad swaths of people within your real relationships. You chose to get narrower than that. Why?
DM: Because we decided to focus on the mobile phone, we really paid attention and did a lot of research around how people use their phones. What you’ll see if you ask people what they do with their mobile phones is they’ll make phone calls to talk to their family and close friends, they’ll text message the same set of people, and they’re more and more taking a lot of photos with their mobile phones.
Now what’s interesting about that is if you ask someone to show you the photos on their iPhone, they’ll say “Oh yeah, here’s a story of last weekend and some things that I did.” If you ask them a second question: Have you shared those moments anywhere, they’ll say “No, they’re too personal.” So there are a lot of these moments captured on phones all over the world, but they don’t go anywhere. So I think what we’re trying to do is help those moments get shared with the same people you communicate with using your phone, which is your close friends and family. A lot of our strategy is in building a network where you feel comfortable doing that.
JF: Where did you grow up?
DM: I grew up in Montana. Helena, Montana. It’s a small town, and I’m kind of a small-town guy from cowboy country.
JF: Not a lot of big towns in Montana.
DM: My co-founder, Dustin, he’s also from a Northern British Columbia, so we’re both small-town guys.
JF: What did you do growing up in Montana, from the plethora of options you had?
DM: Helena’s about 50,000, so it’s still a pretty normally functioning small community. We had two high schools, and I played a lot of sports. I was actually on the Junior Olympic ski team. I was a big ski racer. And I played a lot of soccer and tennis and things like that. I was also really into technology and I was the associate editor of the school paper, and I was very involved with computers. I always loved creating things with the Macintosh, honestly.
JF: What did you create?
DM: My favorite thing to create with the computer was, early on with the Macintosh, there was an application called HyperCard, and you could build games with it. And I built a game, when I was a kid in fourth grade, called The Great Adventure. It was basically a maze game. You could choose your own adventure through it.