Sanjay Maharaj envisions people using Virtual LockBox to send important messages, photos, and video to loved ones long after they’ve died. The 38-year-old, Fiji-born Coal Harbour resident is the president and chief executive officer of ShareMyLife, the startup developing the Web application.
ShareMyLife was founded in 2007 by Jeff Booth and Chris Nickerson. Booth is also the president and CEO of BuildDirect, the on-line building-materials wholesaler for which Maharaj previously worked. In June 2009, ShareMyLife soft launched Virtual LockBox at Ideas on Tap, and Maharaj’s product pitch was voted the best of the evening. December 16 marked the site’s official launch.
According to Maharaj, ShareMyLife has a staff of six people and Virtual LockBox has about 500 users. It's free up to 50 megabytes of storage space. Then subscription fees (for example, $9.99 per year for one gigabyte) kick in. A Virtual LockBox application for the iPhone is in the works and is expected to be App Store-ready within three months.
The Georgia Straight reached Maharaj by phone at his office in downtown Vancouver.
What is Virtual LockBox?
It’s basically a safe, simple, and reliable place to store and share your memories on-line and send them to someone in the future.
Why would you use Virtual LockBox instead of, say, Flickr to save your photos for the future?
Because with Virtual LockBox we have a date-driven technology, which gives a specific release date to a specific recipient at the date designated by you. It’s also shared in private, as opposed to social media, which is very public. Virtual LockBox is for the people that ultimately matter to you—that you care about.
With the Internet changing so fast and startups coming and going, why should someone entrust Virtual LockBox with messages that they might want to release in several years?
Why would they want to entrust us? Because we have provided a platform for them to do so. It’s designed for people that would like to share their own memories, their own legacy with people that really matter to them in their life. In the social media, we do realize that companies come and go, and there’s a lot of companies out there. We do chase people on-line, on Facebook, on Twitter, and there’s thousands and thousands of friends. But ultimately what it comes down to is who are the people that really matter to us.
What happens if the intended recipient’s e-mail address changes?
Good question. How we’ve done it is the creator of the LockBox has full control of the content, and they can go in and edit it when they like, up to the delivery date. So, there are checks and balances we’ve put in place. The creator of the LockBox can always update and correct and enter new e-mail addresses. And, if you’re a recipient of a LockBox, we have e-mails going out, say every six months, to you, checking if your e-mail address is correct.
Do you think people will use Virtual LockBox as a way to send messages to people after they’ve died?
That’s exactly the reason why we created LockBox. People love to be remembered, and they do want to leave a legacy behind. There are many cases and examples out there that people don’t have the opportunity to communicate in the future with their loved ones when they’re gone. Can you imagine a young mother dying of cancer could have comfort in the fact that she could release words of encouragement and advice at certain milestones for her young family, her young children? That’s what the premise of LockBox was.
That’s how we developed it, because, you know, we—the cofounders and me—thought about this. We do have people that we care about—and what if they were alive today? What would they have said to us? That’s the whole premise of Virtual LockBox. And, of course, with any platform, the use is only limited by your own imagination really.
How have you personally used it?
Great question. I have started using it. I have a three-month-old son, and I am capturing every moment of his life through videos, through pictures, and all that. What I have done is I’ve started creating certain milestones for him that I want all these things to be released at.
My parents, they are in their early 70s, retired, with God’s grace in good health. But, let’s face it, when my son turns 21, my parents probably will not be alive. There are a lot of things that he could learn from my father. So, what I will be doing is I will be getting him to take videos documenting his journey through life, his experiences through life, and making sure that reaches my son at the appropriate time.
What other projects will your company be working on?
Well, this is the only project that we are working on right now—Virtual LockBox. This is what our focus is right now. We want to make it the best platform out there for people to store and share their memories into the future. That is what our 100-percent focus is on right now.
What will the iPhone app allow the user to do?
Basically, whatever the user would be able to do on the Web site. The beauty of the iPhone app is you can take a video, you can take a picture, and then turn that into a LockBox right away and send that to whoever you want, into the future.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.