Being able to access and work on files in the cloud is often convenient, but it can be somewhat troublesome to constantly sync and track down documents that you have across different cloud services.
That’s where Filelize wants to help. Founded in 2012, the 3-person Seattle-based startup organizes your recent files, email attachments, and web history into a single dashboard and automatically syncs everything to a cloud storage service of your choice, regardless of what device is being used.
Founder Tim Nguyen started the company after he struggled to always remember to move his most-updated files into the cloud.
“That’s when we decided Filelize needed to solve these problems,” he said. “Filelize was created on the premise that people want to stay connected to the work that matters most; they shouldn’t have to think about clicking the right boxes to ensure files are in the cloud.”
Filelize lets users connect to four cloud services: Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. The company currently offers a free version of its app with plans for a paid product in the future.
We caught up with Nguyen, who’s now on his third startup, for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Filelize helps people stay connected to the work that matters most to them. We automatically save your recent work, from wherever it’s opened, and send it to your favorite cloud storage so you don’t have to manually save, move, upload — or worse forget to. This recent work can include files, email attachments and web history. Then we give you access to that content on any device.”
Inspiration hit us when: “In today’s cloud-enabled world we rely on easy access to our files and other important work, whenever, wherever we need it. Our work files are everywhere; on our desktop, different drives, file servers, external drives, email attachments, web pages, etc. I was working on some documents and left for a meeting with my iPad and phone, but then forgot to sync all the meeting files to my cloud storage so I could access them on the iPad.
That’s when I realized the cloud isn’t on my side. I need peace of mind knowing all my important work is available to me, when I need it, without me having to take extra steps. I shouldn’t have to think about clicking the right boxes, or saving it to the right sync folder to ensure my files are in the cloud. This is when we decided Filelize would solve that.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “My previous businesses were both bootstrapped and grew organically. It’s something I know and can execute on. It makes us scrappy and really consider our options before spending money. Our focus when we first started was close the door, put our heads down and focus on getting the product through beta and into production without distractions. As we grow, we’ll come up for air and decide if funding is something we want to go after. However, we have strategic advisors that help us drive toward our goals.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Patent pending. Behind the curtains, Filelize has developed a technology that detects, processes and then intelligently syncs your recent files, attachments, and web history, pushing it to your favorite cloud storage as you work on your computer. If you make changes using your iPad or mobile phone, it will save those changes back to the original location, wherever that may be. In addition to processing recent files, we also save related files, so that you don’t have to remember to get all the supporting files for that next meeting. If you opened the presentation deck, the related files come along.
As you work on new projects, we age out less-used files, so that your recent work bubbles to the top. The application also keeps track of your file history from multiple computers and gives you on-demand access to these historical files when you need it. No more searching through folders in the cloud or filtering a long list of search results. We currently connect to four popular cloud services; Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. In the near future we plan to allow users to selectively sync data from anywhere on their computer to multiple cloud storage accounts.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We talked to a lot of potential users, advisors, and mentors in all industries to see if they can relate to the pain, our solution and if the user experience was simple. One of the key lessons learned was to make the product feel ‘automatic’ and ‘seamless’ without requiring the user to do additional steps and tightly integrating it into their work habits. So we took this concept and turned it into reality; as you are working, opening, editing, etc. on your computer, Filelize is saving automatically to your favorite cloud storage.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “When we first started, we had so many ideas on how to improve the experience of cloud storage. It was information overload and we wanted to solve many things with one product. It took us awhile to distill that list down so we could focus on the big pains that we could develop a winning solution for.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Jobs. He was able to see beyond the current way things work, taking simple problems like portable music players, mobile phones, and tablets and giving users something they didn’t know they wanted. He created a whole new experience starting from the purchase process all the way to how we were supposed to use these devices.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “We build out our distribution channel to increase our user base. With the technology that we created to automatically process, manage, and display recent work for any user, we can apply this to many other solutions. In the future we will tie into other applications and services to give users a full view of all their recent work activities.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We are going to make it easy for users to get much more value from their cloud storage and do it in a way that doesn’t change their behaviors and workflow. By being agile, laser-focused and making quick decisions we can focus on solving these key problems. We already have the start of this with Filelize.”
We are truly unique because: “We focus on bridging the gap between the users’ computing devices and their cloud storage. Ultimately users want to know that the work they are doing is available to them when they need it most, from whatever device — they don’t want to think about where to find it. It should just be there. We are focusing on a pain point that many companies haven’t solved very well.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Ensuring that our application will scale. We spent a lot of time designing and testing the cloud architecture with our beta users who helped us prepare the free version of Filelize for general release. With many users accustomed to working in the cloud and more joining each day, it’s critical that our application works seamlessly. Any disruption or hiccups will make users cautious when using the app, especially as a small startup.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Get as much feedback as you possibly can as you develop your product/service. Don’t do it just at the beginning, then stop. Instead, make it an integral part of your development cycle. Pay special attention to people that give you ‘constructive’ feedback. Many of your family and friends may not tell you the hard truth about what they think of your idea. Some of the feedback will be hard to grasp because you are emotionally connected to your baby. However, these are the times that you should take a step back and challenge yourself on the idea or feature. Be agile, start with a small feature set: develop, launch, and continue to add on enhancements and get more feedback along the way.”