Comake: Rethinking Your File Browser

What is Comake and why does it matter? 

Andrés: Comake is the cloud-based software platform that’s transforming your desktop’s finder and file explorer into a browse-able network. The platform exposes and empowers the hidden connections across your content by constantly and continuously correlating and interconnecting your files and communication as you work. Comake essentially enables you to browse content contextually across platforms, projects, teams, and time. We create added value by offering better organization without additional work. Of course, this results in better access to your files and information.

 Who is Comake for?

Adler: Comake is focused on B2B. We’ve talked to a lot of professionals and have done a ton of research into how people organize and access information collaboratively. We know that employees spend on average 1.8 hours a day searching for and tracking down information that’s already been created. That’s like saying nearly 20% of your workforce doesn’t actually produce anything, but is instead focused on trying to find existing work!

The architecture industry gave us one of the strongest responses of all the groups we interviewed and we’ve gotten a lot of traction with some very exciting companies. You can think of architecture as an information industry, not actually producing buildings, but rather the information required for someone else to create that building. And the value add to architecture is much greater since a lot of their content is complex 3d models and drawings that cannot be searched using traditional means like text-based documents and spreadsheets. We also have some engineering services companies, film-makers, companies that have grown through M&A, and individual consumers that want to work with us.

How did Comake initially start? What changed from your initial idea?

Andrés: Comake started out as a project to address frustrations caused by information and communication breakdowns across hierarchies and silos. I recognized an opportunity to try and improve a system that everyone in any architecture school deals with. I received my Bachelor in Architecture here at Cornell where at the end of each semester, every architecture student must clean up, rename, and organize all his or her work from every class on to a CD or USB to give to their professors. This is a substantial amount of work and includes rough sketches, drawings, pictures of models, renderings, etc. The school then ranks the work and files it into an archive on a central server that is organized by year and by class for accreditation and ranking purposes. Wouldn’t it be great if you could pull up all the best work from one professor or one class across all the years it was taught? Right now, that is not possible because the information is broken up into folders at the highest level by year and semester. This is similar to the central server you will find in an architecture firm, where all the information is broken up by project number. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see all the research about a city and local buildings codes created across folders and projects in real time? This could really save you a lot of time and help avoid duplicate efforts.

Our initial idea was a cloud based platform with a more powerful way of organizing content. The big change happened when we decided to bring Comake’s more powerful organization to the content already sitting on your desktop, drives, and servers. Comake doesn’t ask you to change your workflow or storage solutions, we know that plugging into how you already work and store your information will add the most long-term value.

How will your platform attract students who are not architectural, who don’t use, or need these organizational skills? How it will attract them instead of just letting them stick to their own organizational skills?

Andrés: Comake doesn’t ask you to change where you store your content or how you organize it. We simply help you by building a network over your existing file hierarchies. Imagine that after you copy a file from one folder to another, you’re able to see the relationships with the original folder/location/project as well as the original file. Now imagine you’re an investment banker working on a financial model. Do you start from scratch or do you start from an existing similar model? As people collectively copy and modify these files across teams and time, being able to see how the information is all connected is a pretty substantial value add. Comake offers value across industries and groups, we just chose to focus on architecture first because they have the strongest pain point.

This sounds awesome. When can I use this?

Adler: We’ve done quite a bit of alpha testing and are slowly adding users to our MVP. Our Beta is launching in May and we have a growing waiting list. To join the waiting list, go to www.comake.io and put in your email. Also, if this sounds like something you might want to work on with us, please email us at info@comake.io, we would love to hear from you.

So then how did you come up with the name Comake?

Andrés: I was hand making a small, leather-bound sketch book as a side project for a friend. And I wanted to give credit to the people involved by laser-etching their names into the leather. Above the names, I wrote “Co-made by” and that's the name that inspired me.

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How did you two meet?

Adler: A mutual friend. Actually a few mutual friends. It’s a bit weird how many random close connections we share. We also have similar interests and motivations. Andrés is a designer with some a technical background. He just finished his Master of Science in Computer Graphics. And I’m an engineer with a life-long passion for art and design. Since Cornell doesn’t offer an interdisciplinary product design major yet, I’m currently pursuing an independent major in the College of Engineering that lets me break across the departments and silos within Cornell to get the type of education I want. I also took a year off from school to work and hone the skills I need to build great products. During this year off, Andrés and I lived together for 8 months and Comake was born.

Are you also planning on going international with Comake?

Andrés: We have had inquiries from places like Germany, Denmark, and India so there is definitely some pretty exciting interest, but being able to provide a good reliable service internationally is a lot more difficult and expensive than doing it just in the US, so we are focusing our Beta launch on US market.

I’ve read a lot of articles on how the healthcare sector and how there’s a big problem in that field, in that doctors, they’re not using all the information. I keep thinking about how your platform can even help doctors, and the larger healthcare sector. What your thoughts?

Andrés: Yes, I fully agree with your sentiment. And we know we can add value in a lot of industries, but we also need to focus to be able to get our solution to market quickly. And healthcare is a pretty tricky space that we do not have the industry knowledge for. That being said, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on healthcare this summer once you’ve used the Comake platform.

Will this be over cloud?

Andrés: It is a cloud based software platform.

Will it be available offline too?

Adler: Not initially, but we are working our way there.

Do you think there will be any hesitation in people to use your cloud?

Adler: People have become much more comfortable with cloud-based services in the past few years. We know that the pain we're addressing is big enough and that cloud services are established enough for this to happen now. We’ve had pretty big companies, even from Fortune 500, recognize the value of what we’re doing and sign up to pilot with us. We know that redefining the file browser as a network will happen, and that you will have this functionality natively on your computer in the next year or two years. It’s an intuitive next step and we're very excited to be the first to market.

What are some of the challenges you had creating the application?

Adler: We have gotten through a lot of reiterations of the platform. Getting the network down right and getting the features right has taken us a couple tries.

Andrés: Initially we were dealing with a much smaller problem, and when realized the potential, we had to rework the platform quite a bit. Over the past few months, we’ve been able to really narrow in on our focus and know we will deliver something that provides a lot value. It’s not the full vision of everything we want to do, but it is something we can actually execute right now.

How would you define success?

Adler: I come at it from more of a product perspective of what we are actually creating. It has always been my dream to build something that improves the daily lives of tons and tons of people. Comake helps people keep track of their work and ideas and to interconnect them across platforms, teams, and projects. In doing so we are helping people access information more intuitively, in a similar way to how your brain works. We are also tracking the development and evolution of ideas. This starts to get at intellectual property and shared authorship. Improved sharing and access to ideas and information will ultimately improve the pace of innovation. I will be momentarily satisfied when we achieve that, but also view success as a constantly moving finish line.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs starting out?  

Andrés: Entrepreneurship is a lot of work and you shouldn’t get into it for the sake of just doing it. You should really start a company around an idea and not the other way around. And don’t do it alone, talk to people about your idea, and bring the best people together around it. This is your first sell. Most people don’t get multiple chances at this, so make sure you focus on something that really interests you. Once you find the right idea and the right people, you have to believe in yourself and in your team to get there. There will be a lot of ups and downs and it will be difficult.