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FindIt, a new mobile application offering universal search across emails and files stored in the cloud, is today making its official debut. With the FindIt app for iOS, you can quickly connect your Gmail, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, and then proceed to search by keyword, person, time or file type. But the ability to search for items is not what makes FindIt unique – it’s how you search.

The concept of aggregating a user’s email, local file systems, and various cloud services in order to offer a single mechanism to search across data sets is not a new one. FindIt currently competes with other file aggregators on web and mobile, including, for example, CloudMagic and Younity (which, coincidentally, TechCrunch just took a look at today). But more broadly, FindIt also competes with some of the moves Google has been making in recent months to personalize search. Its opt-in Google Search “Field Trial,” for instance, combines data stored in Google’s more personal services like Drive, Calendar and Gmail, which then becomes searchable through Google.com.

However, explains FindIt co-founder and CEO Levi Belnap, the problem with search, and especially mobile search, is not in the capabilities of the back-end search technology involved. It’s the process of searching and the way that search results can be narrowed and filtered that needs a change.

“Search technology, in and of itself, is actually pretty good these days,” he says, noting that many companies, his included, likely take advantage of the same open-source technologies to power their backends. “But the process of searching on a phone is broken. There’s not enough space to open up advanced search and type in all these different variables. Plus, nobody wants to type anything on a phone,” he adds.

With FindIt, after you connect your accounts during setup, you can then search in a manner that more closely resembles how humans think about the things they’re trying to remember. For instance, if you’re trying to remember a restaurant you visited, you wouldn’t just type in “Italian,” but you may remember that you ate there a month ago, or that you went there with certain friends.

That same concept of drilling down in a more natural way is applied to FindIt’s own search interface, and to get there, you just tap. You can either kick off a search with a keyword then apply filters, or you can start off by tapping on “search by person,” “time” or “type” directly from the homescreen.

After you type in your keyword(s), you then tap on filters to narrow your results, specifying you only want emails or images or presentations, perhaps, or only want to see files from last week or 30 days ago.

This is easier than swiping through a long list of results on your phone, which is what you have to do today when using some competing apps, or even your native mail client, or the Gmail, Dropbox or Drive apps themselves.

In the version of FindIt awaiting App Store approval now, the app will support multiple accounts and will introduce an even more visual way to search through time. (Pictured below.)

Belnap says the idea came to him after having left his earlier work with a clean-tech nonprofit to attend Harvard Business School. He trained his replacement for half a year, but then found out that a month after he started school, the guy had quit. “I learned that he didn’t work with the right people and the right things,” says Belnap.”He just didn’t have the information he needed when he needed it.”

Belnap had, of course, left a wealth of this info in files and folders, but for the new hire, it was a matter of not knowing where to look to find it. This, he says, inspired him to begin thinking about whether or not there could be a technical solution to that problem.

Initially, FindIt was conceived as a web app, but user feedback soon pushed the team, which also includes co-founders Alex Pak and Ben Morrise, toward mobile.

Now participating in TechStars Chicago, the company is planning on quickly adding several more cloud services to FindIt, beginning with ones professionals would need, such as Box or Microsoft Exchange, for example. Longer-term, the plan will be to go freemium, where paid users will be able to access data from more complex, business-focused platforms, like Salesforce.

FindIt plans to move to the Bay Area following TechStars (likely Mountain View/Sunnyvale), and has a small amount of seed funding from the incubator, friends and family.

The app is a free download here in the iTunes App Store.

Janet Balis Headshot

Betaworks has hired former Huffington Post Media Group publisher Janet Balis as its chief revenue officer.

The New York technology studio – which owns and develops varied media-focused companies, such as social news aggregator Digg, news-saving app Instapaper and the hugely popular Dots mobile game app – has been girding its efforts to monetize its portfolio, said Betaworks CEO John Borthwick.

“Phase One of Betaworks was building great companies,” he said. “And Phase Two is really building Betaworks as an operating media company.”

Balis left her job at the AOL-owned HuffPost in May, after a year-long stint. She has also worked at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Time Inc. and Newsweek.

In an interview, she noted that there was ample opportunity to knit together tech and data to serve advertisers better.

“There is a thread of social discovery for brands to think very creatively and strategically, and Betaworks properties are well positioned for that,” said Balis. “We have to think differently to bring those brands into the process.”

Betaworks has been searching for a CRO to work on a common monetization effort that it could apply across its many platforms, said Borthwick.

“We have been trying to tie together and figure out all the places we could monetize, and it surprised me how well it has gone with some early efforts,” he said.

Borthwick pointed to a partnership effort around Dots with industrial giant GE, which sponsored a new game mode called Gravity that was made available free for a week. The native ad implementation garnered 30 games played and 172 million views, he said. Later – due to its popularity – Betaworks rereleased the Gravity mode within the game, for $1.99.

Borthwick said that to help develop more such ideas with marketers, the company had also hired James Cooper as its head of creative, to “explore creative opportunities for Betaworks products and to help tell the Betaworks brand story.”

Cooper was previously at the production company Tool of North America, and has worked on a number of well-known digital advertising initiatives, such as the “Help I Have the Flu” Facebook app.