November 13, 2017
ComYoot Aims To Make a Successful Connection
By Melissa Silmore
Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Jameel Francis wants to help bring people together. His new app, ComYoot aims to do just that.
"There are a lot of tools out there but there was nothing that connected people based on complementary needs or interests," said Francis, a 2017 MBA graduate of the Tepper School of Business. "We're often part of these large organizations and communities, like companies or universities, but we're only connected to who we're working with on a project or who is in our class."
The inspiration for ComYoot came shortly after his arrival at Carnegie Mellon, when he connected two Tepper School classmates who were unaware they were planning simultaneous trips home to the same city. The resulting carpool saved the grateful pair time and money, and a friendship was born.
The app uses machine learning and data analytics to match users based on their skills, interests and careers. Francis said he hopes to help people make new connections and collaborate in a way to advance their careers and personal lives.
"ComYoot is something that would be helpful for the members of any community where there's an inherent ability to help each other," Francis said. "In a company, for example, you could increase lateral mobility and employee retention just by providing greater access to the entire organization."
With an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, Francis came to the Tepper School as a serial entrepreneur who had founded both a tutoring and an e-commerce company.
"I chose Tepper first, for its emphasis on analytics and use of data to solve business problems," Francis said. "Second, for the access to CMU's computer science and engineering schools and strong cross-campus collaboration. Third, I wanted a school that was entrepreneurial in nature.
"I definitely found that and more," he continued. "I didn't know the depth of what it could provide until I actually arrived. And every week at the CONNECTS series given by CMU's Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, students across campus come together, pitch ideas and work together. I found that very helpful."
While at CMU, Francis was involved with the Swartz Center and was chosen to participate in the James R. Swartz Fellows program, a highly selective technology entrepreneurship initiative that develops potential and leadership through hands-on experiences, networking and mentoring. To develop his idea, he worked closely with incubator Project Olympus, gaining invaluable advice throughout his graduate years and received funding through NSF I-Corps and Olympus Spark grants.
"Project Olympus was so helpful," Francis said. "[Entrepreneur-in-residence] Kit Needham is wonderful. She forces you to think outside of the box, to think about the critical aspects of your idea, and go out and talk to people and make sure there's a real need for the product."
It is a vital lesson that the budding entrepreneur absorbed well.
"Jameel is a great example of how an entrepreneur should go about exploring and developing a business idea," Needham said. "Many want to immediately create the technology without doing the extensive customer discovery necessary. Jameel did a great deal of research, and then explored and pivoted a few times before he found the business model that worked."
Today, Francis works with 13 others on expanding ComYoot's user base, including Andrius Didziulis, ComYoot's chief data scientist and a Swartz Fellow.
ComYoot is available for free download from the Apple app store and is expected to be available for android soon.