As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyrone F. Pike, President and CEO of FileShadow. With more than 35 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Tyrone has held numerous top executive positions in software, software systems integration and networking infrastructure companies, including Solid Instance, Sparxent Inc., Bravara Communication, Inc. and InterNAP Network Services Corporate. His expertise spans across a wide range of domain areas: cloud computing, messaging, archiving, disaster recovery, networking and Web services. Mr. Pike holds an AB in Architecture from Princeton University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I studied architecture in college, and my first jobs were in solar engineering and lighting controls. I then went on to building design within the telephony and data industries, where I became a general partner in a venture fund that was part of a nationwide commercial construction company. I saw how digital communications were going to change buildings, so I left the venture fund to start a company called LAN Systems, which was acquired by Intel and RR Donnelley. Because of my background in architecture, I have the ability to see systems and architectures multi-dimensionally. This perspective has allowed for the creation of FileShadow, the first and only cloud service that aggregates files from multiple cloud sources and on-premise storage into one searchable repository.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Throughout my career I have sat at the edge of several major transitions. One interesting transition was the migration from mini computer-based office automation to PC/LAN office automation. That was a fundamental shift from centralized to decentralized computing, and it was an exciting revolution to be involved with at that time.
Another interesting shift was the change in the way that people actually connected machines together. My company had a very close relationship with AT&T and were one of the few VARs that were Premises Distribution System (PDS) certified designers. The reason this was an important thing was that everything we designed for our customers was a certified PDS design. This meant that they could literally go to their Bell operating company and have them pull wire, which became the voice and data network that supported their businesses. That used to be a very hard thing to do, and suddenly it became something that could just be ordered off a menu.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Since the beginning of the personal computer, files have been set up in a folder structure. We create folders to organize our files, similar to a paper filing cabinet. To find something, we either navigate to the file through the folder structure, or perform simple searches based on the file name. If we don’t know the right file name, finding items can be difficult. And, how do you find image files or PDFs through searches if you haven’t created proper tags?
People generally fall into one of two categories of data storage — either they fall into the structured storage model, filing data away in folders, or they are digital natives with no education on hierarchical structures, who want to quickly search for content by using tags and metadata. Today, my company, FileShadow, has created technology that makes the folder structure optional. This will change the world by changing the very structure of digital data storage, protection and organization. We amass digital assets, build metadata about those digital assets and allow for advanced discovery to make content searching very simple. By doing this, we are putting information at a user’s fingertips that may have previously been widely dispersed, with no structured pathways for organization or content location. We are providing people with their own personal digital asset manager (DAM) that allows them to collect, protect and search all of their digital assets.
Through AI and machine learning, the service enables users to connect separate repositories of files together, regardless of where they are stored, into a single, searchable repository. We connect files located in about 95 percent of cloud storage today, including Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe’s Lightroom solutions, macOS desktop (including iCloud Drive files and iCloud Photos), Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, along with Drobo NAS/DAS devices.
The service generates extensive, searchable metadata for each file, including location (GPS), optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning (ML) generated tags for photographic images. For example, a search for the term “sailing” will pull up images of sailboats that have been tagged by automated ML, or can find a scanned contract that includes the words “sailing” or a related term such as “harbor.” By using machine learning, FileShadow provides superior search capabilities, allowing the user to find files in mere seconds effectively.
Because the system analyzes and tags your files, you don’t have to worry about where it’s stored, either in the folder or in its location.
FileShadow offers individuals and small businesses the machine learning power of large, enterprise content management systems for their personal cloud file storage. FileShadow also provides an enterprise-level archive and backup that tracks and stores all revisions, even if a file is deleted from a linked account.
How do you think this will change the world?
With the proliferation of data — 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated each day — FileShadow helps you find information based on where you were and what you were doing, along with other information related to the file. You don’t have to worry about folder structure, file name, etc. You can find information quickly without structure. Our technology gives people the ability to find content through remembering the moment.
In the near future, our technology will have major impacts on the archiving space, helping individuals and companies collect and categorize the immense amount of slides, printed photos and paper documents they have in storage. Our system stores, tags and categorizes files as they are scanned into a digital format, adding value to digital storage as these files are archived and protected in a secure, reliable digital location.
With the FileShadow tool, you will have the ability to know where all of your content is because it is stored in one place.
Through FileShadow, one of our users discovered he had documents stored on his Google Drive that weren’t supposed to be outside of his office hard drives. An unintended consequence is discovering information you may not have known you had stored. Having the knowledge of what your vulnerabilities are can be a good unintended consequence. The last thing you’d want is to come to a point where you may be involved in a lawsuit and forced to surrender files that you may not have realized you had.
In another instance, a franchise owner had a folder that contained meeting agendas for each of the franchise locations. She found that people in other cities had deleted the files. FileShadow was able to recover the files because the system retains all version history.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
With the sheer amount of data I was accumulating over time, and between multiple devices (old and new) and cloud storage sources, it was becoming harder and harder to accurately keep track of all of my files, let alone search for content quickly or easily. I wanted to create a system that would allow me to aggregate data from multiple physical and cloud sources, store it securely and allow me to search using advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). This was the “tipping point” that led me to start FileShadow.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
We need to raise awareness of the vulnerability of loss or corruption of one’s digital assets if incorrectly stored, whether on a hard drive, external device or insecure cloud source. We must advocate for user safety by educating on/explaining conditions that are causing damage and loss of data to happen, and show people that a safe solution exists in our product. FileShadow makes people’s lives safer by protecting their digital assets. Anyone who has lost a physical device in a disaster or by self-inflicted damage (accidental deletion or override, etc.) is glad they had their content stored/backed up in the Cloud.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- “Nail it, then scale it” : Author Paul Ahlstrom coined this phrase, and it’s been true for me. Stay as small as possible while finding the right audience for your product before taking it to market. With our current company, we have tried out different markets and strategies on a small scale before focusing our efforts in one direction. We have attended numerous trade shows with different focuses and have spoken with people in different markets that have helped us shape our product.
- Sometimes partners are “fair weather” friends: Not all partners are as committed to your success as they are their own. Don’t get tied up with just one partner. Ramp up multiple partnerships and see what works out best in the long run. Over the years, I’ve had partners offer things like marketing resources, and then retract them at a later date. Intentions may not equal actions. Make sure all commitments are binding, and make sure you have multiple options.
- Expect your partnerships to change over time: Companies, partnerships and strategies change. Expect it and plan for it. Don’t believe that an engagement is forever. Find out the term of what the engagement is with a partner, make sure it is understood on both sides, and reaffirm the terms. One time, I had a company offer a partnership, and then discovered they didn’t even have a current product. Trust, but verify your partners’ claims.
- Conduct early competitive research: The earlier you know your market, the better you can position your offering. If you know your competition, you can better position your offering against their products. None of the existing cloud services are doing what FileShadow does, and that led me to start the company — to provide file assurance services for all of your cloud storage.
- Biggest is not always the best: Don’t assume that the biggest companies will provide the best partnership or service for your company. Be open to partnerships from all types of companies, because sometimes a smaller company will have better service and features than a long-established one. Revisit partnerships and services on a regular basis because things change. I find that many small companies are more aggressive and more willing to be your champion than large companies, especially early in your product’s development.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Do lots of experiments with new technologies.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Cloud-based technologies, which I am investing in currently with FileShadow.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Be adventurous and follow your heart.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
We are blessed with the Internet. Go research things. It used to be a multi-week or month-long effort to research things, and one sometimes had to have proprietary access to find the information needed. I can research every person who will be on a call I’m on within minutes. Though not everything on the web is 100 percent factual, a basis for analysis can be created and later compared with experience.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
Not too many other companies have as much experience as we do with archiving, vaulting and metadata. As such, we have created a service that aggregates files from multiple cloud sources, PC and macOS desktops, and Drobo network and direct attached storage (NAS/DAS) devices into one secure, reliable and searchable cloud vault. Using machine learning, FileShadow provides superior indexing and searching capabilities. With FileShadow, users can quickly find any file with advanced search features such as file/image content, OCR of PDFs, GPS location and image searches. Use of FileShadow is making the folder storage system obsolete.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.