Back when we reported that Eric Feng, newly appointed partner at Kleiner Perkins and previously founding CTO of Hulu was leaving the venture fund for a new stealth startup, we were sure it was going to be in the video space. Well, we were definitely a little off in our assumptions. Feng’s new startup, who he started with two other former Hulu employees, Eugene Wei and Andrew Lin (who were previously Head of Product and Head of Engineering at Hulu, respectively); is launching today in the social ‘experience’ space, with an undisclosed backing from Kleiner Perkins. The company’s first product ‘collections’ is debuting today.
Feng, joined the venture firm over the summer of 2010 as a partner investing in greentech and also a tech advisor to former Vice President Al Gore, says that he realized he still had an urge to make a direct impact on the consumer and eventually spun out Erly, with his two cofounders Wei and Lin earlier this year. For background, from 2007-2010, the three co-founders were the most senior technology and product team members at Hulu and were directly responsible for the Hulu website, the backend infrastructure, the desktop app, the mobile app, the social features, and more
Feng explains that researchers have shown that we tend to retrieve memories in two ways – by people and by experiences. When remembering through people, you might first think about your friends John and Sara and then remember a bike ride the three of you took down to the coast. When recalling through experiences, you would first remember the bike ride to the coast before noting that you were with John and Sara.
Feng tells us that while so many social interactions are characterized by people, there’s a huge opportunity in building content around experiences. Many social websites and services today organize content around people first and experience second, resulting in a friend graph. On Facebook, images, updates, videos and more are captured in the context of the people involved. While Twitter allows you to segment an experience by using a hashtag, there’s so centralized (or private) place to easily find all the media, updates, video and more around a given experience.
The point is that Friend graphs are powerful, but why not aggregate social content around a specific event or experience instead of navigating among all the friends who were there?
Erly aims to capture all of your photos, status updates, news, videos and more around experiences with your friends. The startup, says Feng, will segment what he calls the ‘experience graph,’ into timeframes of the past, present and future. Feng says that for past experiences, you usually want to remember, retrieve, and share. For current experiences, you need to communicate and coordinate and record. And for future experiences, you want to discover and plan. All of Erly’s products will be built around these timeframes.
Today, Erly’s first product, Collections, which addresses the past timeframe is launching to the public. Simply put, collections is an awesome place to house all the content around a given experience. It’s sort of like a next generation photo album, but with more than just photos.
Collection is a single place for you and your friends to aggregate and share content around experiences. Using a tool, a group can collaborate to build an album of photos, links, updates, and more. As Feng explains, it’s a living, breathing place on the web around an experience, sort of like a Wikipedia page for a trip, or an IMDB movie page for an event.
All collections are built on top of Facebook. When you start a collection you can sign in with Facebook, and a number of other services, including Google, Yahoo, Picasa, Flickr, And Instagram. You can then create a collection around an experience.
So if you wanted to create a collection around your wedding and the photos posted on these various sites, you can drag and drop photos into these collections, add texts, images, news stories, comments, videos, tag your friends, add contributors and more.
What makes Collections easy to use is that it provides a layer of intelligence technology so much of this work is already done for you. Collections will actually scan your newsfeed, photos, albums and more and will suggest content to pull in. These collections are displayed in a sleek, grid like format, and you can simply send users a link to see the collection or post a link to Facebook.
Another interesting feature for Collections—a week in review. Basically the platform will collect pictures and content from your Facebook newsfeed and other services, and will give you a snapshot of your social world every week.
And Collections is completely free to use. Feng says that Erly hasn’t turned on monetization yet but he feels that there are monetization opportunities in the ‘future’ product, especially in the realm of commerce and data. Erly’s next product will actually focus on building around the ‘future’ experience graph.
We can expect a new product every two months, says Feng. “The fast, rapid execution plays into out talent,” he explains. “This is the same team that built the Hulu beta in 84 days.” He has an expectation that some products will work some won’t, but when you add all the products together; you’ll be able to get a new way to manage your life, share experiences and help users never miss out on anything going on their lives. “In the end, we want to showcase how interesting your own life is,” says Feng.
As for funding, Erly raised a full Series A, and Feng declined to give us the amount but did say that it wasn’t a ‘Color-sized round’ and that it should last the company for some time.
Kleiner Perkins Partner John Doerr, who sits on Erly’s board, says Erly has a big idea, to create interactions around the ‘Experience graph.’ Experiences extend over time, he explains, and Erly is the way photo albums were meant to be. Feng is also a huge talent, says Doerr, and he and his team built this product in around 50 days. He also said the valuation is more than $4 to $5 million and less than $50 million.
I think Feng and his team may be on to something here. There are missing elements in Facebook’s own photo sharing application, and Erly helps fill some of these gaps. Plus your can import a variety of content into these collections of experiences. It should be interesting to see what Erly has up its sleeve next.