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familiar33There are so many photo sharing apps floating around today — from Flickr to Instagram to PhotoBucket — that it can be hard for a startup company to make its mark. Just ask Marcus Womack, the co-founder and CEO of Familiar.

And that’s why his company is shifting gears today, looking to create something that really differentiates from the other players in the market.

Womack, a former developer at iLike, the Seattle music sharing startup that was acquired by MySpace, thinks he’s found the special sauce.

The secret? Utilizing idle iPad screens to deliver a new picture and video experience, seamlessly sharing those powerful memories with family and friends miles away.

Marcus Womack
Marcus Womack

Womack hesitates to call the transition a pivot from the original idea, since it is really just extended some of the existing screensaver ideas they developed around photos.

But Womack, who raised $1.3 million from Greylock Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Acequia Capital, Allen & Company and angel investors Ali and Hadi Partovi last year, says adding video to the mix is a real showstopper.

Here’s more from Womack:

To this point we’ve done all sorts of photo-sharing, but the screensaver is what resonated most and was most sticky with people. But, other than being social, our original photo screensaver was too similar to the built-in screensaver that comes with your computer. It didn’t stand out enough so nobody looking at a photo screensaver has an a-ha moment to ask ‘whoa, what’s that? how do you do that?’ even if it’s social. We wanted to change enough to have a product that turned eyes. Our new experience, on both the tablet and screensaver, catch eyes for sure — and it uses all that video content everybody has on their phones or laptops that we never know how we’ll use again. By including snippets of those personal home videos in a photo frame it’s a cool way to relive some of those memories without hours of video editing. We initially weren’t sure if it would work well in real usage, but our beta users have been running it in their homes and feedback is great.

Womack says they are the only ones developing a social photo frame that takes snippets of videos from one’s camera library, sharing it with family or friends. The new Familiar integrates with Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and Instagram, pulling photos and videos from those channels in the background.

The shift in the business will put the company on “an unprecedented path” to disrupt the multi-billion dollar physical picture frame market, he says. 

“Your tablet, and eventually the larger connected screens in your home, can do your growing library of memories more justice,” he says. “Rather than putting away a tablet when not in use — like when it’s being charged —  users now enjoy it as a 21st century photo frame.”

In that way, Familiar is like Pandora, just for your favorite photo and video memories.

Here’s a quick look at the new service:

Quick Preview – New Familiar from Familiar App on Vimeo.

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