When Elijah Woolery's father-in-law, Don, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, his family members felt a powerful desire to record as many of his memories as possible before his mind began to slip away.
Eli's sister-in-law, Kathy, was amazed by how, even when he struggled to remember what day it was or what he ate for breakfast, her father could eloquently recall stories about his past --especially when looking at old photographs. She spent a year scanning photos, reviewing them with both her parents and recording their memories so that the family could treasure and retell the stories for future generations.
One story Don enjoyed sharing took place when he was in his 20s and serving in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed in Bermuda, working as a navigation engineer. One day, he took off with a buddy for a routine flight, but they ran into a patch of bad weather and lost radio contact. They circled for hours, running low on fuel and growing increasingly worried. Eventually, they found their way back to base. They'd had a real Bermuda Triangle experience!
The process gave Eli, a young entrepreneur enrolled at the time in an accelerator program called Runway, an idea. Why not build an app to facilitate the process that his sister-in-law was going through with her father? Could Eli make it super simple for families to record stories for future generations? To honor their elders by sharing their wisdom and life experiences?
Joining forces with Rylan Peery, Eli created Storied. The app allows people to scan old family photos using their iPads or pull in photos already on Facebook or the cloud into the app, then record voiceover to accompany the pictures and even add effects and music. Presto! You are able to quickly, easily create "mini-documentaries." You can then share the clips -- containing anywhere from one photo to dozens -- with others via email, Facebook, etc.
Initially, Eli and Rylan were targeting other families struggling with Alzheimer's, but they soon realized that anyone with aging parents, friends or relatives would be interested in their product, as well as parents wanting to record stories for their own children.
When I heard about Storied, I thought, "I have got to do that." My parents have boxes and boxes of pictures from their childhoods -- and mine -- just sitting in storage, collecting dust. How fantastic would it be to get the photos digitized, and recordings made of their stories, told in their voices? I'm determined to make this project happen, and plan to start this holiday season. I only hope that Storied succeeds in reaching their funding goal on Kickstarter!
When I asked Eli and Rylan what inspired them to pursue this particular business idea, Eli replied:
There are many people in professions out there that I admire, like doctors and others on the front lines of suffering. I wanted to do what I could to bring something into being that has a real positive impact on the world. That's something I strive for in life. Also, I have a young daughter now. I want to be able to save her grandparent's stories, told in their own voices -- which is something I wasn't able to do with my own grandparents.
Also, on an idealistic level, it goes beyond the individual or family unit. I believe it was James Joyce who said, when we know each other's stories, we're not able to be enemies anymore. By sharing our stories with others, we expose common themes of humanity, the suffering that we all experience. Something happens when we start to share those deeper stories -- especially outside our cultural context. In order for there to be world peace or an end to hunger, we have to first believe that it's possible. For me, storytelling is an integral part of that, of creating a global community.
That's our big picture vision of where we'd love to see Storied go. It starts with the grounded, pragmatic idea of sharing with our loved ones. From that, we can begin to expand outward and reach further, sharing deeply personal stories with people across the globe. I really believe we have the power to change people's views by virtue of having heard these stories.