Why I Started Reel You

Jay Alberts
5 min readJul 3, 2021

In April 2016, I flew from San Francisco to Amsterdam to begin a two-year work assignment. While living in Europe, I traveled to 30+ countries, made lifelong friends, and dove into cultural experiences that were new and interesting. I learned a new language! More importantly, I learned about myself and the world.

April 5, 2016: At SFO, on my way to Amsterdam.

These experiences and moments of growth were worth documenting. In fact, I always tried capturing my life somehow but never found a great way. Nothing sufficiently reflected my experiences how I really lived them; the story was somehow always incomplete. No tool made it easy to collect the perspectives and photos from the other people I experienced a given moment with. I always thought: how nice would it be to create a collective memory of this occasion?

I was looking for something personal, yet social. Something flexible and nuanced enough to capture every type of moment. I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find this thing.

Here are a few examples of how I tried to capture my life over the years:

  • Journaling (pen & paper)
  • Relatively short-lived stints on Facebook (2006–2010) and Instagram (2016–2019)
  • Writing one thing from each day on a tiny piece of paper and stuffing it in a can to be rediscovered later
  • Taking notes on my phone
  • Organizing my photo library
  • Hoping I remember (sadly, memories don’t last forever)

Although it had been brewing for a while, the idea for what became Reel You started to take shape in 2018. I spoke with family and friends to validate the idea and we had fun dreaming up the possibilities. People had the craziest makeshift ways of capturing their memories (like sending text messages to themselves!) and were intrigued with my vision for something more flexible, organized, accessible and selectively social.

October 11, 2019: Leaving ServiceNow for the last time. Reel You was born a few days later.

I was seeking a professional change and began interviewing in 2019, but I couldn’t shake this idea for a personal space where my experiences could live. I thought, maybe, this was the big idea I’ve been looking for my whole life. The prospect of taking on such an enormous and unknown challenge was scary, to say the least, but I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t try.

In mid-October 2019, Reel You was officially founded.

Then, almost immediately, the unthinkable.

My mom — healthy, active, and energetic mom— was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer.

When something like that happens, it gives you a new perspective of everything. Not only the time you spend with love ones, but it makes you question how you spend your time in general. Are you doing the things that give you purpose and leave you fulfilled?

Reel You was already a deeply personal project but another layer of meaning was added on top.

May 23, 2021: Another puzzle solved by the Alberts family.

Now, more than ever, I cherish every moment I share with my mom and family. It can be a moment as simple as hanging in the backyard, playing a game, or doing a puzzle together. I came to the realization that all of these “in-between moments” are just as important as the highlights. Driving my mom to her treatment in Los Angeles is just as meaningful as criss-crossing Europe by train. When we stay with my grandparents in LA, I can learn just as much from them as I can from going on safari in Africa or scuba diving in the most remote regions of Asia.

All of these moments play an equal part in the story of my life and truly matter in their own unique way.

Despite my mom’s illness, despite the pandemic, despite the enormous challenges of starting a company… or perhaps because of these things… I’ve never felt more appreciative of my life.

When I take a step back and look at all of the moments I’ve stitched together in my Reel, I can see the storylines of my life taking shape. I better understand myself and the people, places and activities that make me who I am.

I live my life more presently and purposefully because I’m unburdened from
carrying around all the thoughts, feelings, concerns, life lessons and details from every experience. Reel You allows me to savor every moment, with the full story and without any facade.

We’ve barely scratched the surface and I’m passionately committed to turning my vision into reality. I built Reel You for me, but I believe everyone’s stories deserve to be told. I’m incredibly proud that others also find value in capturing their moments that matter, and we’re able to play a role in helping people find joy in their journey. I’m optimistic Reel You will become a positive force for good in the world and I have some big goals in mind:

  • Be the memory bank of humanity. Help 100 million+ people get in touch with their real selves, live intentionally, and create more moments that matter.
  • Become the Amazon of experiences.
  • Be the social network that reflects how people actually socialize.
  • Become a profitable and sustainable business, but never by compromising our Yousers or principles.
  • Put Reel You in a position to give back a portion of our profits to support Youser-selected organizations that are making a big impact in their communities.

We’ve made progress, but we still have a very long way to go. The journey ahead will be challenging, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding. If my story resonates with you or you share a similar perspective, then let’s find a way to work together to achieve these dreams.