Aussie alternative social media platform Memories has secured $31 million in Series A funding, off the back of 12 months of growth that’s seen user numbers increase more than ten-fold.
The business was founded by John Bongiorno back in 2014 as Skymorials, a platform for online memorials only. Bongiorno himself had lost his father, and wanted to create a space online to memorialise him.
At the time, chief executive Tom Ainsworth was actually one of Skymorials’ first ever users, having set up a memorial page for his own father, who died suddenly in 2014.
Five years later, he was invited to join the startup to lead it through a new phase of growth as it expanded to provide memory banks for stories and experiences, for users to save and share as they see fit.
It was “completely serendipitous,” Ainsworth tells SmartCompany.
In 2020, the business rebranded to become Memories, and in September last year it raised $10 million in capital. In December, it made its first acquisition of online memorial brand HeavenAddress.
Since Ainsworth took the helm, the business has seen “exponential” growth, he says.
The platform has grown from 3,000 users to more than 377,000 across 195 countries.
It’s home to about 400,000 tribute pages and 1.8 million ‘memory’ pages, marking a 61% growth rate, month-on-month, since August last year.
This funding round will be first and foremost a driver of growth.
The business has proven it has global appeal, Ainsworth says. Now, he’s planning on investing in marketing to continue organic growth in regions such as the US, the UK, Canada, the Philippines and India.
He’s also gearing up for ‘inorganic’ growth through merger and acquisition activities.
At the same time, there will be investment in the technology, including the app and web products.
“We need to continue to ensure our experience is world class,” he notes.
Some of the cash will also go towards the general operational costs that come with scaling fast — building out the team, for example.
A new kind of social media
Ainsworth puts Memories’ growth rate over the past 12 months or so partly down to the fact that the platform offers an alternative to ‘traditional’ social media.
It’s also not focused on likes, views or affirmations. A users’ page could be just for them, or they can invite a select few people to contribute or comment.
Equally, it’s something of a more wholesome offering than the social media we’re used to.
“We’re ad-free, we’re private, we’re secure, we don’t mine our users’ data,” he says.
Instead, it has a freemium model, inviting users to upgrade to a monthly or annual storage plan. Or, for memorial pages, there’s a one-off cost to upgrade for life.
The business also makes money through enterprise partnerships. It powers the obituaries for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, for example, and has more partnerships in the pipeline.
As public sentiment is shifting away from platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which have almost become synonymous with trolls, conflict and toxicity, there’s demand for more wholesome space online.
“We’ve created the digital legacy category,” Ainsworth says.
“We’re the market leaders in that newly created category.”
The space is not designed for judgement, it’s designed to be a space for people to be their authentic selves, he adds.
Even as the business grows and attracts more people, Ainsworth doesn’t see trolls and negativity becoming a challenge.
Memories is designed for people to have smaller networks of people who they genuinely know, and people have total control over who can view, contribute and comment on their pages.
“Being more intimate means the likelihood of that is so small.”