An Interview with Jamil Khalil, Founder and CEO of Wakelet, a new media platform that offers people the ability to curate and organise the world’s information
If I had to picture the office of a tech start-up, Wakelet would fit the bill exactly. The beanbags, the fresh enthusiastic faces, and the whiteboard covered in words I had no hope of understanding. All of it made me feel I was amongst people who knew who they were, and what they were about. I sat down with Jamil Khalil, Wakelet’s Founder and CEO, and discussed how it all began, where it’s all headed, and what sets Wakelet apart from the pack.
“It’s not a social network,” Jamil was intent to reassure me, running me through the many ways his users have utilised Wakelet’s functionality.
What, then, is Wakelet? Essentially it allows users to take any sort of media, be that links, images, text, videos, and seamlessly assemble them as they wish on their Wakelet page. Comparisons to sites like Pinterest are obvious, and the implementation of LinkedIn-esque networking features seems possible, but the site’s selling point is undoubtedly the user’s ability to curate and organise.
Talking to me about the birth of Wakelet, Jamil, or Jammy as his motivational desktop background refers to him as, explains that being able to store and categorise a range of different media sources wasn’t something available anywhere else. His previous job at Airbus saw him trawling through information with no easy way to present it. “I had hundreds and thousands of results and I spent a lot of time searching through the different pages and assembling links, and over a period of time it began to grow, getting bigger and bigger.”
After searching for an internal solution and running into similar issues showing off his travels and at university, Jamil decided he could take matters into his own hands. “That’s where the idea came, how can we allow people to not just find the world’s information, but also allow them to organise the world’s information.” It’s that which defines Wakelet, the organisation of a vast array of information, all contained in very easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing interface.
Jamil’s student experiences have also played a part in shaping what Wakelet is today, and as an educational tool it can be used in a multitude of ways, something Jamil wanted so that users didn’t have to face the same struggles he did. “At university I used to bookmark loads, but I could never find them, I could never get back to them”. He sees Wakelet as a platform for organisation of ideas and uses a PhD student’s thesis on food waste to prove it. The student’s research has been grouped together by topic, his progress laid out in a timeline, and all of this is accessible through a handful of clicks on the defined boxes of Wakelet’s interface.
After seeing Wakelet in action it fits its purpose extremely well. Running through a range of different pages, Jamil took me into collections detailing current scientific research, the discographies of singers, even artists’ portfolios. The applicability and diversity of Wakelet is certainly apparent from the start, and that seems to be growing.
“The users are quite vocal, we like speaking to them and we engage with them frequently”, Jamil explains. His belief that communication with users is important certainly aligns with the concept of Wakelet as a whole. “We have guys up until 3am working support, talking to users in America, and we actually implement a lot of the features they suggest.”
That idea of a connected user base is what seems to set Wakelet apart from other media platforms. The company is a large proponent of the idea that the internet needs to be put back into the hands of people, rather than complex algorithms that deliver content to people. Wakelet offers people a chance to take what’s important to them and organise it for the world (or just them if they’d rather) to see.
With the expansive nature of Wakelet, and the open-minded approach to its development, the future seems bright for what proves to be a tech start-up with a difference, and one with a very human touch.