ANDERSON — Long before he was a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School MBA graduate, investment banker, private equity investor or Internet entrepreneur, Brandon Sokol was a historian.
As a junior high school student in 1997, the Anderson native created a publication for his family “dedicated to all of our ancestors,” according to an early issue.
He named it the “Falcon Journal,” because “Sokol” means falcon in Polish, the homeland of his people.
Fast forward 12 years. Business school was coming to an end and the real world beckoned. Sokol and friend Jason Becker were thinking of what to do next when they found a hole in the real-time phenomenon of social media. Memories. Where were all the memories?
“There was no platform on the Internet dedicated to memories or first-person accounts of historical events,” said Sokol, 29.
So the pair decided to launch one. They call it Remember.com.
Sokol describes it as a Wikipedia of memories because anyone can add to it.
Remember.com is distinctive, Sokol said, because the basic idea isn’t just social networking like Facebook. Rather, the idea is crowd-sourcing.
Account holders can write, post and publish memories and first-person experiences on based on people, places and topics, all of which are searchable.
Both Sokol and Becker are DePauw University graduates and they launched the site in time for the university’s 175th anniversary in March.
Their initial investors have been friends and family, including Becker’s father, David Becker who, among other enterprises, funded the First Internet Back. The men used that money to hire software engineers to build the site.
Although the company has offices on the northeast side of Indianapolis, Sokol lives in Anderson because “I do have a lot of loyalty to the city,” he said.
The site is organized in a grid format. You can find memories of Peyton Manning, James Dean and Michael Jackson or places like Anderson High School, or Anderson Acre and the Polish Lodge. Under topics, visitors to the website will find memories of the Civil Rights movement, World War II and Indianapolis Colts.
That wasn’t what Sokol and Becker originally planned, though. They envisioned a digital timeline. Then Facebook debuted its version of that concept and the pair changed direction rather than compete directly.
“Building the site was expensive,” Sokol said, “but the product will always be free.”
In the week since an initial story about the website was published, Sokol said there have been 3,000 new visitors to the site, and more people have contributed memories.
They also have a new investor, the founder of digital media company from Warsaw, Poland.
That cash infusion, Sokol said, made it possible to hire a graphic designer to redesign Remember.com.
Ken Owen, executive director of media relations at Depauw, said “it was kismet that made this work out.”
He said the response at DePauw for the anniversary was favorable, but the website hasn’t extended its reach very far yet. He believes that will come in time.
“This will become a very special little corner of the Internet,” he said.