It’s fair to say that Jonathan Gheller‘s goals for his newest startup are somewhat ambitious.
“We’re trying to build this library of human experience,” he explained to me in an interview. Okay. That’s quite a goal.
But logging into Storylane, I felt my suspicions begin to fade as I explored Gheller’s product, which looks most like a cross between Tumblr and Quora, with individual users posting questions, musings, photos, and advice. While it’s still unclear what the product might look like in polished form, it’s already prompted a significant degree of user response and engagement in its first few days of existence.
All it takes to set up a profile is a picture of yourself, and everyone is automatically labeled a “storyteller.” When users go to create a post, they’re automatically prompted to answer a variety of questions intended to jog old memories and elicit personal responses.
“The product built so it’s super easy to use, and at the same time it makes you think about what really matters,” Gheller said.
However, users are welcome to ignore those questions and post their own content. So far, the platform runs the gamut from Quora-like discussions of the evolution of tech companies to inspirational photos to life advice for other people. The resulting front page of posts hosts an interesting mix of content. Gheller said he hopes users can begin to develop a readership oriented around their interests, whether those are motorcycle repairs, quilting, or photography.
“The way we look at it is that hopefully, we want to go beyond basic connections of people to get beyond people, places, and things,” he said.
Social startups designed to allow users to express themselves are as old as LiveJournal. Not all of them succeed, but Storylane was easy to understand, easy to use, and had an intriguing mix of content to look through, which are all key factors for user adoption.
Storylane is officially launching in beta on Wednesday, although it’s been in alpha for the past 80 days or so. Before his current project, Gheller founded Fashmash, a fashion site acquired by Like.com in 2009, which was then acquired by Google in 2010.