One of the earliest "Web 2.0" family tree start-ups is Geni.com, which launched in January 2007 and has since received $11.5 million in venture capital (valuing the company at $100 million) and attracted nearly 1 million registered users. The company’s founder, former PayPal chief operating officer David Sacks, wants his site to be useful throughout the year as family members mark birthdays, anniversaries and other life events. But like all social networks, Sacks’ challenge is recruiting more members to join, and getting them to return.
Though nearly 1 million Geni members have created more than 10 million "profiles" of relations in their family trees on the site–not all of those people are interested in joining up. Many of them aren’t alive, they’re merely extensions of a living member’s tree. For living relatives, then, the key is to invite them to join the site via an introductory e-mail that offers to show off a relative’s tree.
"We have a good response rate to those invitations," says Sacks. "A much higher percentage actually join than other social networks. It’s a draw because not everyone wants to make a tree, but everyone wants to look at what their relatives have done."