Have you ever found yourself trying to find the right piece of information from a file on your computer? One Cornell-based startup has the solution. Comake is an online platform designed to help users access and understand their files. Simply put, Comake understands how a file or a piece of information has been previously used and creates a preview of its past to help you determine if and how it can be leveraged in the present. In creating a new sort of social productivity network around files, Comake has formed with a goal of making files more intuitive and collaborative.
Cornell co-founders Andrés Gutiérrez ’15, M.S. ’17 and Adler Faulkner ’18 recently sat down with Entrepreneurship@Dyson to share their thoughts on Comake. While the team has begun testing a private alpha of the platform with architects and designers, their vision is to expand it across disciplines and to make more information more accessible to more people. For more, read below:
Can you tell me a little about Comake?
Andrés: Comake is an online platform that helps you easily access the information you need in your personal and shared libraries. Today, with so many files, platforms, and information sources, it can be hard to tell which is the right file or even the right version of a file. Comake brings together the disparate interactions and conversations with and around files and puts it all in one place with a preview of each file. The goal is to improve access to and understanding of the information stored in files based on the way that people collectively interact with their files. It’s like going to the library and picking out a book based on who’s used that book in the past, how it’s been useful to them, what they’ve said about it, who they’ve shared it with, etc. No longer do you have to judge a book by its cover, title, or author alone. On Comake, each file is “alive,” and its metadata, relevant discussions, and contextual information is constantly and dynamically evolving.
How do you foresee people using Comake?
Andrés: Classifying and organizing content or information into complex hierarchies have their benefits, but it also tends to limit access. Comake works so that information is accessible regardless of where it is saved or what it is called. We help you organize work and communication around files into different contexts (i.e. by channels, people, or topics). One example that I like to give is around the commercialization of new technologies. When Corning invented Gorilla Glass, they didn’t say, “This will be great for iPhones.” iPhones didn’t exist at that time. Corning protected their IP and shared it with a broad audience, and in doing so, learned more about the practical applications of their own ideas. By following through and seeing how others interpret your ideas, and by being able to see and share contextual information around ideas, inventors, and makers (in this case Corning) can learn new things about their own work. We strive to foster collaborative workflows that encourage multiple perspectives on content and create multiple and alternate access points to files and information.
What stage of development are you at?
Andrés: Right now we have users exploring and testing the alpha version of Comake. The immediate use case is Cornell’s architecture school which collects all of the work from all of its students in all of its classes at the end of each semester. Multiple people end up sorting through and organizing all of this content so that every five years it can be pulled out for accreditation purposes. The students also organize and contextualize the same (their own) work to make their portfolios and pursue job opportunities. The professors then also take the same content and contextualize it in yet another way. Really, we saw an opportunity to take these overlapping efforts and connect them all – to build a knowledge base for the school that could relate information together based on what it actually is about instead of only by year, by class, or by student.
What has the development process been like?
Adler: We’ve been working on this for 18 months, and been in development for about a year. It’s been a lot of iteration and candid discussions between the two of us and our prospective users.I actually took last year off to work on this full time and try to dedicate as much of my time to this project. It’s a bit difficult managing both school work and this business but we’re reaching a huge milestone now. We are also starting eLab this semester as we release our platform.
How do you divide responsibility in the company?
Andrés: I was exploring a similar concept with someone before Adler. That didn’t end up going anywhere, and we didn’t establish the company until I met Adler. I engaged Adler initially to help me explore the development of some very early ideas, and Adler really killed it. Adler now leads everything related to the product. I trust him completely. I wouldn’t do this with anyone else and I do what I can to support him.
Adler: Andrés is the vision. Reaching out, talking to people, coming up with the ideas, making the big decisions, etc. We always go back and forth and don’t make decisions that we’re not aligned on, but he acts as the CEO.
How do you plan on growing Comake?
Andrés: Through architecture. Architects work on projects with a lot of files and collaborate with a lot of people. In other words, architects have large libraries that get shared a lot. We’re providing access to that information not just based on an arbitrary project number in some folder hierarchy, but on how it was used and what it contains. Every single firm we’ve spoken with has acknowledged the importance of managing this information cleanly and clearly. These 3D projects deal with large and complicated files without searchable text so the categorization and organization become very important. We’re testing the concept right now at the top architecture school in the country, as well as other departments and students groups within the Cornell community.
What drives your passion for this?
Adler: It’s our vision and what we want to see built in this world. We believe it will improve our own lives, and many others. It will give users access to their history, their files, and their workflow like they’ve never had. It’s about building something that I care deeply about.
Andrés: Architecture’s in a tough spot. It’s a professional service that takes a very long time, and the world is moving increasingly fast. Architects aren’t alone, however. People are already struggling with the increasing automation that’s been taking place. You know there are articles that you’ve read online that were written by a computer. We want to give people the tools they need to compete in this new economy. To be able to leverage each other and to access and share communal knowledge based on what something actually is, and not just some top-down categorization and rigid hierarchy. What motivates me is the value and impact that I know we can provide to professionals and teams in this coming world.
Want to get involved in Comake? The team is recruiting software engineers and cyber-security professionals, preferably with Ruby on Rails experience. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org