MyHeritage Buys Germany's OSN, Now 540 Million Profiles Strong

Comment

Israeli genealogy site MyHeritage has completed its third acquisition,  buying Germany’s OSN. OSN operates seven genealogy sites including Verwandt.de in Germany, Moikrewni.pl in Poland and Dynastree.com in the US. It was launched in 2007 just after LA-based Geni and, at first, it was just your typical German clone. But it added features and grew fast in older European markets like Germany and Poland, and even emerging markets like Brazil. In a clone-rarity, OSN grew twice as fast as Geni in the early days according to TechCrunch.

The merger gives MyHeritage a lot of new features and a whopping combined 540 million profiles, 47 million active users and 13 million family trees. The companies have been quietly merging the sites together for the last few weeks, and all of OSN’s information, profiles, family trees and pictures should be all live on MyHeritage, as of about thirty minutes ago.

This was a big job because each profile has a lot of bits and pieces attached to it and there was only a 5% overlap in accounts. That may be a sign that MyHeritage wasn’t doing so hot in Europe, proving this was a smart deal.

MyHeritage has an algorithm that helps find family tree connections for users, so it should be interesting to see how this influx of European users expands existing users’ family trees in the coming weeks. “A huge amount of people in North America are going to discover unknown roots,” MyHeritage founder Gilad Japhet says.

I visited Japhet the last time I was in Israel  and we chatted about the merger over the weekend. He wouldn’t disclose whether the deal was stock or cash or how much he paid, but it was clear that he was eying OSN for some time. “It was founded by two very talented individuals, and I knew from their track record they were serial entrepreneurs,” he says. “I thought from the start they wouldn’t have the patience to run this for ten years, maybe they’d be willing to merge their vision with ours. Eventually that theory proved correct.”

Japhet is not playing around. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone whose spent time in Israel if I tell you he’s intense, competitive, and relentlessly determined. Post-deal, MyHeritage is far beyond most genealogy competitors with the exception of Ancestry.com, which started in 1983, has spent some $80 million acquiring census information and went public last year.

But there’s a key difference: MyHeritage is more about living family members, and Ancestry.com is more focused on, well, ancestors. So in practice the companies are far different. There’s more interaction, communication, and photo and video sharing on MyHeritage because—bluntly put—more of the profile-owners are alive. Last Saturday when Japhet and I talked, 1 million photos had already been uploaded to the site that day. “There is a clear need for families to have a secure and private place online to share memories, stay in touch and preserve their history,” says Saul Klein, partner at Index Ventures and a MyHeritage board member. “I think the further Facebook opens up to the real-time web and defaults to public, the greater this need will become.”

Indeed privacy is a big issue to Japhet, even if it means slower growth. Unlike competing sites, if you chose to be public on MyHeritage, only your information goes public, not the details of your siblings, nieces, nephews and other members of your family tree.

This is less about beating other genealogy sites now and more about MyHeritage making up the third leg of the social networking stool, which is still largely up for grabs. Facebook has won on friends, LinkedIn has won on professional and MyHeritage is seeking to win on family. It took LinkedIn far longer to get to critical mass because professional relationships were less viral and sexy, and my guess is family relationships may take even longer. Indeed, MyHeritage started six years ago and is still largely unknown in the high-brow Valley circles.

But eventually it’s a huge opportunity, and Japhet is patient. His site has those same endorphin-rush elements of discovery and connection that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have. But here’s kicker—it has to be international to work because the US, Israel, and much of the world are essentially young nations with huge immigrant melting pots communities. You can’t trace distant cousins too far back, if you’re only going to focus on the US. And you only get those moments of true “holy-shit!” joy when other trees start connecting to yours and you discover whole new branches. If you’re just entering your known-relatives, it’s not too exciting.

Don’t expect this to be MyHeritage’s last acquisition. Japhet borderline stalks competitors. He can rattle off any stat from Ancestry.com’s public filings and viewed Geni’s 2007 launch as a huge wake up call for better UI and features. Japhet knew a lot about genealogy, but MyHeritage was a wonky, tech-heavy download before Geni’s beautifully simple site launched—and got a whopping $100 million valuation. Later, when Japhet saw OSN’s faster growth in Europe, he knew he had to have them.

Japhet says OSN didn’t have a deep understanding of genealogy, but they killed it on features, many of which MyHeritage will be keeping. Among other things OSN had an iPhone app, operated in 14 different languages, and offered poster printing of family trees in any size. “There’s nothing like German engineering,” Japhet says. [Update: Originally I wrote “40 languages” which is what I heard via our Skype connection.]

Japhet’s favorite feature is the coat of arms. If you don’t have one, you can create your own, and it appears on all your pages—you can even order merchandise bearing your new coat of arms. The site will soon allow you to register it with the coat of arms authorities– a big hit with its European audience.  When designing his own coat of arms, Japhet was a bit put off by the dragons and swords and instead asked an engineer to design some chess pieces. Yep, tech geeks are the same in every country.

Is all of this making MyHeritage a target for someone like Ancestry.com? “I’d like to say we’re too expensive for them,” Japhet said. MyHeritage has raised $24 million to date and started to focus on revenues last year. It’s profitable now, making money through ecommerce transactions and premium services. MyHeritage has been funded by some of the strongest investors in Europe including Index and Accel.

That’s ultimately the thing I find most exciting about Japhet and MyHeritage—he wants to build a billion dollar business, and he’s not put off by how long that will take or by the rap that Israelis are great at enterprise, but bad at the consumer Internet. Japhet himself wasn’t naturally great at it, but he’s benefited mightily from his competitors who were and moved quickly to compensate—whether it’s learning from them or buying them.

More TechCrunch

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions