FindIt, a new mobile application offering universal search across emails and files stored in the cloud, is today making its official debut. With the FindIt app for iOS, you can quickly connect your Gmail, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, and then proceed to search by keyword, person, time or file type. But the ability to search for items is not what makes FindIt unique — it’s how you search.
The concept of aggregating a user’s email, local file systems, and various cloud services in order to offer a single mechanism to search across data sets is not a new one. FindIt currently competes with other file aggregators on web and mobile, including, for example, CloudMagic and Younity (which, coincidentally, TechCrunch just took a look at today). But more broadly, FindIt also competes with some of the moves Google has been making in recent months to personalize search. Its opt-in Google Search “Field Trial,” for instance, combines data stored in Google’s more personal services like Drive, Calendar and Gmail, which then becomes searchable through Google.com.
However, explains FindIt co-founder and CEO Levi Belnap, the problem with search, and especially mobile search, is not in the capabilities of the back-end search technology involved. It’s the process of searching and the way that search results can be narrowed and filtered that needs a change.
“Search technology, in and of itself, is actually pretty good these days,” he says, noting that many companies, his included, likely take advantage of the same open-source technologies to power their backends. “But the process of searching on a phone is broken. There’s not enough space to open up advanced search and type in all these different variables. Plus, nobody wants to type anything on a phone,” he adds.
With FindIt, after you connect your accounts during setup, you can then search in a manner that more closely resembles how humans think about the things they’re trying to remember. For instance, if you’re trying to remember a restaurant you visited, you wouldn’t just type in “Italian,” but you may remember that you ate there a month ago, or that you went there with certain friends.
That same concept of drilling down in a more natural way is applied to FindIt’s own search interface – and to get there, you just tap. You can either kick off a search with a keyword, then apply filters, or you can start off by tapping on “search by person,” “time” or “type” directly from the homescreen.
After you type in your keyword(s), you then tap on filters to narrow your results, specifying you only want emails or images or presentations, perhaps, or only want to see files from last week or 30 days ago.
This is easier than swiping through a long list of results on your phone, which is what you have to do today when using some competing apps, or even your native mail client, or the Gmail, Dropbox or Drive apps themselves.
In the version of FindIt awaiting App Store approval now, the app will support multiple accounts, and will introduce an even more visual way to search through time. (Pictured below.)
Belnap says the idea came to him after having left his earlier work with a cleantech nonprofit to attend Harvard Business School. He trained his replacement for half a year, but then found out the a month after he started school, the guy had quit. “I learned that he didn’t work with the right people and the right things,” says Belnap.”He just didn’t have the information he needed when he needed it.”
Belnap had, of course, left a wealth of this info in files and folders, but for the new hire, it was a matter of not knowing where to look to find it. This, he says, inspired him to begin thinking about whether or not there could be a technical solution to that problem.
Initially, FindIt was conceived as a web app, but user feedback soon pushed the team, which also includes co-founders Alex Pak and Ben Morrise, toward mobile.
Now participating in TechStars Chicago, the company is planning on quickly adding several more cloud services to FindIt, beginning with those professionals would need, such as Box or Microsoft Exchange, for example. Longer-term, the plan will be to go freemium, where paid users will be able to access data from more complex, business-focused platforms, like Salesforce.
FindIt plans to move to the Bay Area following TechStars (likely Mountain View/Sunnyvale), and has a small amount of seed funding from the incubator, friends and family.