This startup wants to be the Google for your personal data

Picture this: It’s an awfully busy day. In midst of all the chaos an email lands in your inbox, from your boss demanding certain documents urgently. What do you do? Spend next 30 minutes frantically searching for the documents across your multiple accounts. No luck. Panic sets in.

What if there was an easier way to do the same task in less than 5 minutes? That’s VaultEdge.

This new startup is aiming to be the Google for your personal data.

VaultEdge is a vault that will automatically organize all your documents from multiple accounts into categories like taxes, bill, and so on. It will let you search all your files from one place.

The web app currently supports Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, and Outlook. Evernote and Slack will also be added in a month, along with Windows desktop.

Here is how it works

Sign up with VaultEdge and give it access to all the accounts you would like it to organize and pull out files from. The application will use a spider search technique to search your mails and files, and it will categorize all of them under relevant fields.

If you are looking for something, VaultEdge uses machine learning to pull out the relevant information. The algorithm behind the application is trained to identify words like bills, salary slip, tax, and 12 other such categories. Even if the words are not mentioned in the body of the text, the algorithm has the intelligence to search through the attached document and filter it accordingly.

The technology behind VaultEdge can also create sub categories. Suppose you have multiple bills – mobile phone, electricity, water, and so on. The system will filter each under the name of the company, like Airtel bill or Vodafone bill. To make it easier, the document description will mention the time and period when the bill was generated and when you received it.

Usually, VaultEdge stores your documents on the cloud. But if you are worried about the security of your sensitive documents, you can choose not to store the data. In any case, the documents you click on will open in the original source.

There is really no need to worry, founder and CEO Sajeev Aravindan explains. “Our encryption is far superior. The data is broken down into thousands and thousands of tiny pieces. Each of these is encrypted.” So if a hacker is looking to play nasty with your data, it will take them years to crack the code, he adds.

The story so far

Sajeev was working with NetApp as a worldwide technology architect for storage and analytics when the idea struck him. “I would have at least 50 documents open at one time; some on my home computer and some at work. It was difficult to keep track of every document. I would download one document multiple times, having forgotten where I stored it,” Sajeev says.

What if all his digital data was accessible from one place, auto-classified and auto-tagged, so that he could easily find his documents, he thought. Sajeev soon started toying with the idea of using vault-like document storage for individual users.

He employed his experience of working with such a technology at NetApp for enterprise users. He was excited about its potential but kept his nerves. To convince himself that a product like this could work for mass consumption, he first turned to his colleagues, friends, and family for feedback.

By August 2015, he was convinced the product will be well received. By September, he quit his plush corporate job, even before the product was built.

After 12 long months of dealing with technical glitches and cost issues, Sajeev released the first private beta in April of 2016 with around 50 users. It was followed by a second beta soon after, with 100 users.

In September, Sajeev decided to debut VaultEdge on Product Hunt, an online compendium of tech launches. The three-year-old website lets founders and people interested in tech post new products such as apps or podcasts, and users can upvote, downvote, and chat about them.

Prominent CEOs and VCs of Silicon Valley hang around on Product Hunt, so the verdict there could make or break a product. VaultEdge received 150 upvotes, and it got 661 signups in a day.

“We had to close the signups because there were too many to handle in a day. We had accounts with over 1 terabyte data. Processing such high data takes time,” Sajeev says.

VaultEdge launched for the public in October and has already garnered over 1,000 users. On a usual day, VaultEdge gets about 10 signups, with a maximum of 20.

What next?

Sajeev believes the product has unlimited potential. In the future, he wants to take a cue from Google and add a semantic search feature. Semantic search takes the context of the searched topic into consideration besides just the words typed in. It then throws up the most accurate option to the user.

For instance, if you type “INR to USD” in Google search, it will show a relevant currency converter as the top feed, instead of a link. You can do the calculations right there on the Google page.

Sajeev wants to use the concept to let data travel to the user, than the other way around. “Suppose you get a mail from boss asking for your tax-filing documents. VaultEdge can recognize the request and will automatically pull it out and attach it in the reply mail,” he explains.

It will be extended to images also, so that you can find your places, people, and events through pictures.

However, that feature will be a reality when VaultEdge’s machine learning is 100 percent accurate. “As new users join, the machine will be trained to identify new and more complex keywords. When we are near accuracy, like Google, we will be able to bring data to the user,” Sajeev says. At present, he pegs VaultEdges’ accuracy at 80 percent.

Tech in Asia tried out the application, and we see what Sajeev says about accuracy. You might see your diet plan under bills or your tax computation under electricity. But when we checked again after a week, some of those misplaced documents had found their way back to the right place.

Show me the money

Sajeev hasn’t yet initiated talks with any angel investors or VCs, and he expects to keep it that way for some time. “When we are big enough, investors will seek us out,” he says.

No advertising model for him either. He is fierce about protecting the privacy of his users, and intends to keep the platform private and ad-free.

So how does VaultEdge plan to earn? It’s still early days, but the company is working on a freemium model, where basic services are provided free of charge while advanced features must be paid for. For VaultEdge, users start with the freemium pack, which will allow 60 days of data search. For advanced packs, VaultEdge plans to charge US$3 a month for a gold subscription, and US$5 for platinum.

But the question is, are users ready to pay for the service? After all VaultEdge isn’t alone in this space. There are companies like CloudO and FindO, and more recently Meta, which is in beta stage. Sajeev acknowledges the competition. “These companies offer more of search feature, while our unique point is automatic classification and categorization,” he says.

“In India, it may be difficult to get paid customers for classification, but I think once they use VaultEdge, they will see the value in it. In markets like the US, the paid model will definitely work,” Sajeev adds.

This article by Durba Ghosh originally appeared on Tech in Asia, a Burn Media publishing partner.

Feature image via Tech in Asia.



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