Oakland Startup, The History Project, Raises $2M To Build Digital Time Capsules of Family, Personal Histories

After years of working in mobile advertising, founder Niles Lichtenstein discovered a box of records from his late father.

That compelled him to start putting together memories and online histories earlier, by documenting his mother’s life history and how he first met his wife.

That developed into an interactive timeline where he collected songs from when he started dating his wife to voice recordings of the couple recalling what it was like to sit across the table from each other for the first time.

It was a sort-of digital time capsule that he’s now turning into a company called The History Project. The startup just closed $2 million in investments with backers include The New York Times as well as Matter Ventures and Altpoint Ventures.

Lichtenstein said social networking sites like Facebook are good at surfacing what’s happening at the moment. but they don’t have historical depth. In addition to capturing what’s happening now, The History Project also focusing on digitizing offline content and creating a cloud storage product that lets users collect and curate personal stories.

“A ton of our offline assets are vanishing,” said Lichtenstein.

These are stories that are multi-layered and provide multiple perspectives. Lichtenstein’s story of his first date with his wife has both of their narratives.

“People want to leave multiple stories so that you can have confirming and conflicting experiences of what happened,” he said. “This is really about what’s your story, not what’s your status. The focus is on storytelling rather than putting in bits of media or content here or there.”

With his mother, he started pulling together the history of her early life, including what it was like to escape a pre-arranged marriage. Her whole history contains the time in her youth where she hung out with members of the Beat poets in the East Bay to how she met her husband.

“She called going through this process — my revival of spirit. She even wrote herself a letter,” Lichtenstein said. “We’re able to give people that moment where they are able to reflect.”

To get distribution, The History Project has partnered with film makers. They have a History Project narrative going for an HBO documentary about the life of Richard Holbrooke.

The company has a freemium model. There’s a self-service portion where you can put a timeline together yourself. Or there’s a paid version where they will digitize hundreds of assets for you starting at $295. An even more premium version will put together a photobook, video and time capsule for $995.

Welcome to The History Project from Niles Lichtenstein on Vimeo.