Tim Bucher Wants to Build a 'Master Database of Your Life Memories'
Imagine what it would be like if all of your computing devices -- mobile phone, tablet, desktop computer, laptop -- shared photos and videos amongst themselves, and did it quietly and automatically, so that you could access all of your media files on any device. Now imagine if the devices could do this without using the cloud, and were smart enough not to transfer data when your battery was running low. That kind of service, says serial entrepreneur Tim Bucher, would provide "a consistent view of your entire life."
But then again, he would say that. It's the kind of thing you say when you've spent the past year of your life thinking about issues of media storage, device syncing, peer-to-peer communications and about how pushing the envelope on all of these things can give average people a hassle-free experience of their documented lives.
Bucher is the founder and chief executive of Lyve Minds, Inc., a 1-year-old startup that is about to come out of stealth mode. Like many of-the-moment startups, Lyve, as the company is informally known, is both a hardware and a software company. It's offering a service that works in conjunction with Lyve's proprietary apps and a sleek box-shaped device called the Lyve Home.
Lyve's service captures, collects and sorts your photos and videos, creating a full thumbnail index. This index is made available on every device. The service then tells your devices how to move data between them - for example storing new files on a device with plenty of free space, and fetching high-resolution images that correspond to thumbnails upon request. "We synchronize the metadata amongst all the devices, and then the 'brain' -- the head of the file system -- gives these devices commands," Bucher says.
If that sounds complicated, think of it like your Facebook Timeline, only private, comprehensive and mobile. You will carry it with you wherever you go -- and that "it" which the service creates, in Bucher's words, is "a master database of your life memories."
Bucher has held senior positions at Microsoft, Apple and Dell, and is one of the few men - if not the only man - who has worked directly for Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Michael Dell. When it came to hiring for the Cupertino, Calif.-based Lyve, Bucher's deep background in the American tech sector helped him to poach talent from Netflix and other top companies. He now employs about 100 people.
All that time spent with Jobs appears to have taught Bucher the value of both secrecy and showmanship. Lyve will announce its innovations in a press release on Wednesday, but the big reveal won't take place until the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month. The mobile apps will be released publicly in March, after about two months of private beta testing.
A key component of Lyve's initial release will be the Lyve Home, which provides redundancy for your data. By backing up your photos and videos on the Home device, the service enables you to access these files even when their device of origin -- say, your laptop -- is turned off.
For most users, the Lyve Home will be the highest-capacity device they own; it can handle 6 million photos and many months of video. But the Lyve Home device is more than an external hard drive, more than a "server for your mobile life," Bucher says. He is keeping some features of the device, which will retail for $299, under wraps until March.
Unlike Dropbox and other cloud services that sync with the user's devices, Lyve's service won't be "one sync fits all," Bucher says. That is, it won't place a full copy of your total photo and video library on all of your devices -- some of which may have a great deal of storage space and others not so much. "We realize that your devices are not created equal, nor should what gets synchronized to and from each be equal," says Bucher.
Indeed, Lyve exploits the uniqueness of each device in its algorithms. It recognizes, for instance, that a desktop computer is less likely to get lost than a laptop, and a laptop less likely than a phone. "There are all these different algorithm values that we use to tell each device how to move and copy data," says Bucher. And this activity happens in the background, at a low priority; it never takes over your device, he says. If your battery is low, Lyve will wait until it you recharge it before resuming its operations.
Lyve's service is similarly savvy when it comes to bandwidth. Although your devices can pass photos and videos back and forth using either Wi-Fi or cellular networks, the service knows that sending large files over cellular networks might exceed your monthly data allotment. It won't send anything over cell networks except metadata unless you tell it to.
Lyve raised a Series A round from angel investors and large institutional investors, Bucher says, though he declines to provide specifics. For the time being, the company's revenue model will depend largely on selling Home devices. But in Lyve version 2.0, says Bucher, the Home device will no longer be necessary, and the company will instead release premium features "that people will be willing to pay for."
Which is not to say that he isn't proud of version 1.0. "We love devices as a society," he says, referring to the Home box's appeal. And as devices go, he thinks he can offer you a pretty good one.