I read your FastCompany and Forbes articles. That’s some pretty crazy stuff. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Sedarius lived in the jungles of Borneo and the Amazon for extended periods of time. So why in the world did you really do that?
I was on a quest, Ameer, a quest to go beyond books and film and to really understand the world around me. I think it’s so easy to get lost in the culture-scape and to believe the things you see and hear on the news and social media. What’s truly difficult is pushing beyond your comfort zone and interacting with the greater world around you in search for what is real. Nowhere on earth have I found greater truth than the jungle; it is pure, raw, savage nature in its greatest glory. I’d never been so uncomfortable or distressed in my life but once you push past what you thought were your limitations, there is a power there that brings focus and direction in life.
How do you apply the stuff you learned in the jungle to being a founder of a tech startup?
That’s funny. I think I must be a masochist because I’m always moving toward the very things that give me the greatest pain. Entrepreneurship is similar to being in the jungle, actually, because you have to learn to embrace uncertainty and live in the present. I’m still struggling to master these skills but I know that the struggle is the way.
So why did you found Shelf?
Right now, the workplace is going through the greatest transformation since the dawn of the industrial era. We can live and work anywhere. Teams are distributed across cities, states, and even countries. This is changing how humans interact in a work setting. Informal water cooler conversations and happy hours are being replaced with virtual communications on platforms like Gmail, Slack, and Google Docs. These tools are incredibly flexible, but critical information gets lost and buried very quickly. Work has to be redone and things need to be relearned all the time. The pain is doubled when key members of a team leave or new people are hired. I would guess that about 25% of a distributed team and company’s time is wasted because things weren’t organized properly, causing critical learning to slip through the cracks.
This impacted me on both a personal and professional level when I worked as a US Peace Corps volunteer and later when I ran a software services company. I felt the problem all the time when trying to locate a document or a link to something. I felt that something was missing that could help me quickly find and organize stuff. That’s why we created Shelf; we’re on a mission to bring knowledge management to the distributed workforce and help teams instantly find the exact information they need to learn, share and succeed.
Sounds interesting, but how is that different than Google Drive or Dropbox?
Shelf sits on top of cloud storage platforms and makes it easier to organize and find content. We’re not a cloud storage or document collaboration platform. We’re solely focused on making relevant content for distributed teams much quicker to locate and discover.
To do this, we focused on very different things during the R&D process. We sought out world-class experts on knowledge management and studied the science of organizing. We worked with Harvard librarians, information architects, and change management experts. We made sure that the best practices and innovations in harnessing intellectual capital were at the very core of the product.
This resulted in a technology that makes it easy to find anything instantly through in-document search, OCR technology, and advanced filters that enable content to be found by approximate date, content source, tags, or the person who created it. We also automatically structure and organize content in a more powerful way by adding a metadata layer that can be customized.
Nearly all Shelf users also have Dropbox or Google Drive accounts. They typically use other platforms for storage and Shelf as a knowledge management solution that helps them organize and find their most important information.
Can you give me an example?
There are many, but I’ll give you one. A consulting firm called Partners for School Innovation is a distributed organization with over 80 consultants across northern California. They use Shelf to centralize their most relevant documents so that their workforce is on the same page.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
We’re working on advancing our AI algorithms on Shelf to further automate organizing and understanding. Currently, you have to manually organize and manage content on your cloud storage platforms. Soon, just based on what you add to your system, Shelf will act like your own personal librarian. It will suggest and recommend things that you didn’t know existed, it will anticipate what you need to know next, and it will connect you with people and resources just like a knowledgeable person would.
That’s interesting. Where do you see AI going in the future?
The future of work as it relates to knowledge sharing and Shelf is automating what you need to know next in order to do your job. AI is going to know what you need to learn, in what order, and with what supporting materials before you even start. It will automatically create a path of learning that is the shortest and most optimal for each individual. Shelf aims to be part of this cutting edge of learning and knowledge acquisition over the next decades.
What are your Thoughts on Cryptocurrency?
I am no expert on Crypto so I’m not sure what to say. Generally speaking, taking anything out of the hands of the central bank and the greed and corruption that goes along with a small group of people controlling the interests of the masses is a good idea to me.
How can people reach you?
Best way to contact me is through LinkedIn.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.