By Casey Verderosa,
Comake is out to change the way knowledge workers manage their digital workflow. Things are off to a strong start for the smart desktop startup. The company recently hired its first full-time employee, made possible by a $225,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR grant, opened its Culver City, CA office, and is launching its product with a Fortune 500 company.
The product, developed by co-founders Andrés Gutiérrez ’15, M.S. ’19 and Adler Faulkner ’18, is a smart workstation that consolidates the vast number of accounts and cloud services used by knowledge workers. Comake lets you work normally with your favorite tools and that provides additional cross-account and cross-service functionality like universal search, consolidated contact profiles, and more. Most exciting is Comake’s focus on empowering contextual work. For example, when a worker emails a colleague with a document, Comake will automatically show both people any related versions, files, people, and other messages that they each have access to see.
The co-founders originally pursued a business idea to commercialize a physical structural system that can be shipped in pieces and can easily “self-assemble” on site. These structures are made of simple components, and could be used for disaster relief shelter, military operations, and even space exploration. The “self-assembly” magic is possible by understanding and mapping various complex relationships between components ahead of time. Throughout the course of digitally mapping out these physical structures and their subcomponents, the founders began to realize that their digital mapping approach could generate tremendous widespread value for individuals and businesses and the foundation for Comake was born.
Gutiérrez and Faulkner began to hone in on the potential commercial applications for Comake in Cornell’s eLab Accelerator program and, through the course’s unique entrepreneurship curriculum, they learned to describe their relatively abstract business idea in concise terms. “eLab was a lot of very early customer discovery and conceptual work,” said Gutiérrez.
eLab also introduced the co-founders to several mentors to whom they still go for advice including the eLab program director, Ken Rother, and instructors Tom Schryver, Steve Gal, and Brad Treat. “Ken was our mentor – he met with us weekly, helped us try to communicate what our product was, helped us synthesize concepts. Steve helped us with sales and figuring out how to talk to customers. Brad was the reason we did the NSF SBIR Phase 0 program that led to our grant, and Tom helped us practice for interviews,” said Gutiérrez.
eLab also prepared Gutiérrez and Faulkner for the NSF SBIR Phase 0 program which helps entrepreneurs develop their products for market and apply for grant funding. Since participating in the NSF program, which included I-Corps training to commercialize their business idea, the pair has conducted close to 300 prospective customer interviews in pursuit of narrowing their customer base.
Through Comake, knowledge workers can easily and quickly call-up and share digital information anywhere in their organization while continuing to use their preferred productivity tools and services. “While the big tech players are each trying to create their own ecosystem monopolies where everyone uses only their products, we understand the reality is that people use different systems from different providers in their daily lives,” said Faulkner.
“We believe fundamentally that special tools exist for a reason,” said Gutiérrez. “People have various needs, habits, and preferences that make them choose one system over another, and it’s difficult to make everyone in an organization happily adhere to one way of working. We want people to get the job done in the best way that works for them while maintaining a layer of shared access and clarity across the organization that allows everyone to communicate and coordinate clearly. That layer is Comake.”