SquareHub co-founder Dave Cotter thinks families need a new type of social network — one that’s “elastic” enough to adapt to the various devices or technologies that multiple generations are using.
That’s why Cotter, a former general manager at Amazon.com who launched SquareHub earlier this year with backing from some of the region’s top angel investors, is so excited about a new offering called “Family Sharing.”
The feature allows family members to selectively choose to share photos, events or other information with extended family members or close friends without granting full access to their more guarded personal network.
Launching today, the new feature is only available on the iPhone. But the company does plan to make the functionality available on Android soon, just today launching its first app for Android users.
“You can take any SquareHub moment — photo, text message or new event — and send it to those people in your private network,” said Cotter, noting that users can select who will receive the message from a contacts list. “But the coolest part is that those individuals who get the email are able to respond via email; and those people in SquareHub are able to respond back SquareHub.”
Cotter said that this allows a group of people to create an “elastic network” around a particular object — say a photo from a soccer game or a planning discussion for a kid’s birthday party. It also combines that in such a way that it doesn’t matter whether someone is viewing the content in the app; via email or on another type of device. (Of course, like the early days of Hotmail, there’s always a pitch for folks to download SquareHub).
“It is a very innovative feature for how families interact with that kind of second concentric circle of extended family and close friends, without opening up the entire SquareHub network to them,” said Cotter, a divorced father of three.
SquareHub is looking to build a new type of social network for families, wiping out the multiple text message or email threads that often loosely bind a family. It also wants to eliminate the need to post information to more public channels. Coordinating that communication in one spot is the goal of SquareHub, while also giving users privacy control.
As Cotter sees it, most social networks today force you to be in a group or a list or a circle.
“That’s the first decision, and then comes: Now what piece of content do we share?” he said. “What we are doing is we are basically saying: ‘No. This is a lot more like relational databases.’ The content is the thing, and from there … you may want to share it with other people. But, on the same hand, there’s no reason to give them full access to everything in the network, which is what is happening” now with existing social networks.
In addition to Cotter, SquareHub’s founding team includes Barry Chu, a former vice president at Blue Kai, Medio Systems and DS-IQ, and Gilles Anquetil, the former CEO of Paris mobile search company MotionBridge (sold to Microsoft in 2006). A fourth co-founder and Chief Technology Officer is Bruno Botvinik, the former CTO of Valu Valu, BookieJar and MotionBridge.
Investors include former drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore; Jeff Wilke, senior vice president at Amazon; Sujal Patel, co-founder of Isilon Systems; super angel Geoff Entress; Cole Brodman, former chief marketing officer, T-Mobile USA; and many others.
Cotter declined to say how many people have downloaded the app to date.
Here’s a closer look at how the new Family Sharing feature works.