Content Curation Startup Wakelet: We Contribute To A Meaningful Internet

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Jamil Khalil, the CEO of the content curation startup Wakelet, talks about the importance of establishing company values early on and how he believes his startup helps build a more meaningful Internet.

How would you describe Wakelet in a few words?

Wakelet is a content curation platform that lets you save articles, videos, tweets, podcasts, and pretty much anything you find online to use later.

You can organize and curate the content that you save in story-like collections called Wakes. Wakes can be created in minutes on any topic, made public or kept private and edited at any time.

What inspired you to create the content curation platform? How did it all start?

I started Wakelet with a couple of friends. We were frustrated with the vast amount of information on the web and on social media. Because it was so fast moving and growing at an unprecedented rate, perfectly good content would often get buried or lost.

When I was at University, traveling around the world and working at Airbus, I frequently came across online content that I wanted to keep and use later. I would save this content in bookmark lists or word documents that quickly became pretty dull and impractical. Beyond simply saving content, I often wanted to curate, edit and share the content that I saved in a visual and meaningful way. There was nothing that allowed me to do this how I wanted to. So we built Wakelet to give us the ability to easily collect and organize anything we read, view or listen to in a way that’s useful to us and to others.

With other players like Pocket on the market, the competition appears to be fierce. What makes Wakelet stand out of the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

From 35,000 feet I can see why there are other products that can seem quite similar and hence give the impression that there’s a lot of competition. In fact, this is generally one of the challenges that a lot of startups face. There’s so much of the same sounding thing out there that it sometimes becomes difficult to explain the difference, especially in a single sentence.

For Wakelet, the key differentiator lies in our vision and the way we have executed (visually and technically). This is very clear when you look at the diverse ways that people, businesses, athletes and academic institutions etc. are already using our platform. I enjoy discovering the cool ways in how people use Wakelet. In meetings, I love to show people five of my favorite use cases that are all completely different from each other and ask them to show me a platform that they can do the same on.

Facebook will soon roll out its “Explore” tool, suggesting content based on a user’s preferences. Why did you not just create such an algorithm for Wakelet?

At Wakelet we believe that the future of the Internet lies in personalized, relevant and contextual information. Algorithms alone cannot achieve this; humans are key. Making content curation easy, useful and fun for the everyday user is an important step to creating a better and more meaningful Internet. We believe that the best curation is when experts, enthusiasts, fans, and observers are collectively engaged in choosing the content they find compelling, entertaining, timely and authentic.

Are you using Wakelet internally? How does that affect the viewpoints of the development team?

For sure, it’s important to eat what you cook. Wakelet is part of our daily lives and we use the platform for numerous things including collecting and organizing content we come across online, gathering research, learning, collecting and sharing PR content, hobbies, interests and more. Using it daily helps us to continuously improve our platform and come up with new features.

An example of a new feature would be ‘quickwake’. One day one of the guys in the team was in the process of sending a list of links to a friend via email. We’ve all sent numerous links via email. He wanted to use Wakelet because it would have made his list look much more stunning and interactive but he didn’t want this collection to be saved on his profile. After some discussion, quickwake was born. The idea was to allow people to easily turn any group of links into a beautiful interactive collection within seconds without needing to sign up.

You have strong values standing behind your company, some of which are to be limitless, be ingenious and to stay human. In what ways do you think that contributes to success and how do you live those values internally?

I believe that strong values provide direction and inspire people, and people who are inspired help build more successful companies.

Deciding on company values early on was much more difficult than I imagined. They are important and I wanted to get this right. Once I was clear on the values, I decided to keep them fluid. This would allow me to leave room for the team to shape and define them with the aim to solidify them as we grow.

What is the biggest challenge that the company has faced?

Cash is crucial to all companies. Ensuring that we’re adequately capitalized is critical especially since we’re not looking to generate revenue early on. This is the biggest challenge we face is being based in Manchester, UK. This early tech investment ecosystem is not as mature as the one in Silicon Valley. Investors here do not have a lot of experience in early-stage tech startups and are generally are more risk-averse. This makes the process of raising capital slow and difficult.

To get off the ground, startups need to be more creative, get lucky and rely on angel investors. This forces us to be more frugal and creative, to plan, prioritize and keep looking to do things better, day in day out. This is simply part of the journey.

What’s next for Wakelet?

One thing I’m thankful for is that even though we’re still early in our journey our excitement grows every day. We’ve gotten great responses to Wakelet so far. There’s a lot of people who are using our platform in really interesting ways and users consistently provide useful feedback. We’re currently working on improving the onboarding and usability to make it as seamless and as enjoyable as possible before we add more functionality.

As a UK-based startup, what do you wish for in improving the European startup ecosystem?

I would wish for investors to be bolder and less risk-averse. If we want to create more success stories in Europe, startups need investors who are prepared to dream about the future, back the unknown and look beyond excel sheets.

A place like Silicon Valley is so successful because it embraces risk and failure. Today and because of this, it has an amazing culture of development, mentoring and support. There’s a system in place, which allows companies to succeed. Whether it’s through financial investment or support networks, businesses all work together to preserve this culture and to give back. I think this is the winning formula, it’s proven. There isn’t much point having tech accelerators and incubators if we cannot financially support the startups that come out of them.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

This is one of the craziest journeys you’ll ever go on. There will be constant setbacks and obstacles. So make sure that you are obsessed with what you are doing and why you are doing it. Make it a priority to visualize your goals and understand why you’ll win. This will give you the focus, drive, and perseverance that is needed to get there.

You will always feel like you never know enough and sometimes be forced to make a decision without full visibility of what’s coming. Surround yourself with good people who are supportive, work hard, never give up and get comfortable with the chaos, its part of the excitement.



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