Artifact’s Digital Platform Helps Families Preserve Spoken Stories

Journalists interview users’ family members to help craft unique web-based documentaries.

Written by Ashley Bowden
Published on Feb. 22, 2023
Artifact’s Digital Platform Helps Families Preserve Spoken Stories
Artifact’s founding team pose together for a group photo in front of a wooden background.
The Artifact founding team. | Photo: Artifact

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming tech companies, Built In launched The Future 5 across seven major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five early-stage tech companies, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of San Francisco’s rising startups from last quarter here.

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Life is fleeting, making our time in this world incomparably valuable. Since we’re only given so much time, how we spend it — and who we spend it with — becomes all the more precious. Artifact wants to help families everywhere commemorate important moments, relationships and milestones with digital stories that follow the flow of a person’s life. 

From losing a tooth to graduating college, Artifact wants to be there every step of the way and help each member of the family look back on these experiences. Combining live interviews and its web-based platform, Artifact strives to provide users with both the impetus and the space to capture great stories, the company’s CEO and co-founder Ross Chanin told Built In.

“Our goal is to build the home for family stories everywhere in the world,” Chanin said. “People spend a lot of money trying to do versions of story capture, and we would say that the unmet need is the actual narrative itself.” 

Living somewhere between a documentary and a podcast, Artifact’s final product showcases someone’s story with family photos and videos pertaining to a particular chapter of their life. As this media plays, the corresponding audio plays alongside the slideshow. Users can watch this imagery while listening to details about a loved one’s life, as recounted by that person or their family members. 

Artifact strives to be as personable as possible when recording these stories, so it has a network of journalists who conduct the interviews with users and their families. This measure serves to create a more natural and comfortable space for conversation while users recount details of their life. Users can purchase an interview with one of these professionals, then Artifact edits that audio into a 20-minute episode. 

Family members can also create highlights from these episodes, rather than playing back the entire piece. These highlights are visible on the account holder’s Artifact dashboard.

The platform organizes these interviews by chapters of a person’s life. A mother, for instance, might record an interview about her child’s early years as one chapter, and then the child could record a separate interview highlighting their coming of age.

We provide reflective, really emotional spaces for our families.”

Artifact also places a large emphasis on privacy. Each recorded interview, or artifact, lives on the company’s digital platform and is only accessible to whomever the account holder chooses to share it with. Going a step further, the account holder can determine sharing permissions for these artifacts as well. 

Ultimately, Artifact’s goal is to paint a rich portrait of a particular person using verbal storytelling. The idea for the solution arose after Chanin lost a loved one he wished he could have spoken to more.

Chanin grew up surrounded by his boisterous Jewish family and was close with his grandfather. In the midst of Chanin advancing his career as an entrepreneur, his grandfather passed away, taking with him an array of historical recounts. While Chanin knew his grandfather had been a labor organizer in the 1960s and was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for questioning during the Red Scare, Chanin regretted never inquiring about these events in detail.

Chanin and his co-founders Martin Gouy, Moncef Biaz and George Quraishi founded Artifact in 2020. The company launched during the pandemic when many people refocused their attention on their loved ones. Artifact became a way to provide people everywhere with a new opportunity to engage with their families.

“We provide reflective, really emotional spaces for our families. I think that these spaces are a universal human desire to take stock and talk about what’s important and have a lot of fun doing it,” Chanin said.

Images of Artifact's platform on mobile
Photo: Artifact

Artifact has recorded 2x to 3x year-over-year growth since its launch, according to Chanin. It also pulled in a round of seed capital from lead investor Google Ventures at the end of last year to build out new features for its solution. 

Alongside its main storytelling offering, Artifact includes a product specifically focused on recording the life stories of children as they grow. Parents can purchase a membership where they get monthly, seasonal or annual interview sessions. During these talks, they and their kids can discuss who their child is and who they’re becoming as they age.

“Parents, we’re finding, want to talk to us sometimes monthly for a newborn, might be quarterly for a toddler, and as the child gets into school ages, annually and then maybe we start talking to that child as well,” Chanin said. “In addition to the interviews, we have monthly check-ins as well [where] the interviewer will send you like a text message to ask an incisive question about [your kid]. And you’ll reply with a voice note, add some photos, and that [creates] storytelling in between the interviews themselves.”

In the coming months, Artifact plans to launch another membership offering called Family Spaces. This offering will allow users to add family members of all ages to their Artifact account and keep track of which stories are already stored in the platform and which tales have yet to be told.

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