October 29, 2014
Gorham company developing personalized digital family archive wins 2nd round funding from Maine Technology Institute
Gorham, Maine - Four local entrepreneurs and career moms, Pamela Castrucci, Kirsten Schultz Marjerison, Janna Smith and Kate St. Clair were awarded a second round of funding from the Maine Technology Institute to develop and test a cloud-based digital archival system specifically to enable families to preserve personal stories and photos, videos, audios and other forms of content, and to do so while also preserving the individual voices and character of the original family member. According to Castrucci, "While most people carefully plan to pass down physical valuables to loved ones there is no simple and reliable solution available today to organize, preserve and transition those personal memories and stories for generations to come." Current 'Big Photo' storage, sharing and editing options are incomplete, antiquated and/or confusing. The four women joined together to create a secure and permanent family archive system called Voice Kite. "Voice Kite empowers customers to create unique and personal narratives for their photos to pass down to their loved ones in a safe, accessible and simple fashion," she said.
The idea for Voice Kite took shape as both St. Clair and Castrucci faced the tragedy of losing children. These life events created urgency in the pair to find a better way to hold on to their loved ones throughout time by digitally recording, preserving and sharing their personal memories. "Photo albums and scrap books have helped people document and organize their personal experiences, these forms are cumbersome to create, do not hold up well, are difficult to share with distant relatives, and lose the personality of the family members that often makes the message so meaningful," said St. Clair.
Voice Kite has won several grants, awards and honors from MTI, the Maine Small Business Development Center ("SBDC") and from Gorham Savings Bank in their LaunchPad competition. The MTI Seed Grant award of approximately $16,000 will allow the Voice Kite team to build their software prototype and to perform critical market testing.
"MTI is delighted to award PJ Coeur LLC a Seed Grant for the development of its Voice Kite technology," said Brian Whitney, MTI's Acting Director. "The innovativeness demonstrated by this technology exemplifies the creativity of Maine entrepreneurs and MTI is pleased to continue to play a role in its development."
Castrucci reports that Voice Kite has benefitted greatly from the many entrepreneurial resources in Maine, including SCORE, Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development ("MCED"), USM's Campus Ventures Program and several other organizations supporting fledgling technology companies. "These resources have made us smarter, more efficient and more nimble as we have methodically determined the best way forward with an eye towards containing costs," said Castrucci. Two Maine firms will be helping Voice Kite develop their prototype: shines & jecker laboratories and Big Room Studios.
On November 12, 2014, Voice Kite will be launching their first Kickstarter campaign live at a Launch Party at Big Room Studios in Portland to raise additional funds for testing usability. "It has been a long, fairly unlikely journey, but one that has been exciting, gratifying, humbling and fulfilling," said Castrucci. The Voice Kite team is ready to move to the next stage in development and even more excited to see their dreams for their customers come to life.