Us millennials are all about shortcuts. We want to take the easiest and cheapest route to achieve our work-related goals, and we want it accomplished at lightning speed. Chicago’s latest tech startup, Branchfire, is setting the bar even higher for our “convenience is king” attitudes.

Branchfire is a software company that simplifies how people work. Creating a digital replica of the traditional paper and pen note taking, this smart technology allows anyone with a tablet or smartphone to do just about anything the classic pen to paper can do, but faster.

How Branchfire Became the Tool of Choice for More than One Million People

Founded in 2011 by Ravi Bhatt, his vision for the business was simple: design awesome tools to help people share ideas powerfully.

Well over one million people worldwide, including students, teachers, investors, lawyers and screenwriters, are using this technology to empower their productivity. Based on the list of impressive clients using the digital platform like professors from Stanford University, the cast of Modern Family and Grammy presenters, it’s safe to say he’s been very successful.

“The thing that’s not great about pen and paper is that you can’t search,” Bhatt explains.

“You can’t quickly find what you want with that, so we’re trying to take the best of digital and the best of paper.”

Ravi Bhatt.

Ravi Bhatt.

The iPad launched around the same time Branchfire did in 2011. In the consumer space, the iPad was largely used for easy Netflix access and comfortable couch browsing.

In the enterprise space, it was a complete game-changer of how people did business. It took on a different meaning and different life for professionals marking up documents, which vastly helped Branchfire get going.

“We saw accounting firms, law firms, real estate companies and big banks taking these devices to work because it was easy,” Bhatt explains, saying the iPad helped out a lot because it was a lot of being in the right place at the right time.

Innovation Inspiration

Bhatt, along with co-founders Jim Brink and Steve Hockema, all came from backgrounds in computer science and cognitive science, where they began seeing trends in productivity software like better tools to create documents. Think: Google Docs, DropBox and Quip.

While there were products out there that allowed for digital editing, they were feature-first rather than workflow-first, making it difficult for users because there wasn’t one general platform that was compatible for everything.

“The thing that we see missing in the world is that every product that’s adding the ability to mark up or add comments…it’s doing it within the context of its own product like Google Doc or Word,” Bhatt says. “There’s no one product that unites all of these things.”

A screenshot of Branchfire's platform.

A screenshot of Branchfire’s platform.

The tech company began with the product iAnnotate, a web page and image markup tool for individual documents like PDF, allowing you to do anything a paper-based version does, digitally. Called the “iPad Pro’s best friend” for multitasking and keyboard shortcuts, it is designed for users to work fluidly through the use of customizable toolbars, pop-up comments and much, much more.

Folia is the latest feature of the platform that is used for shared documents, allowing people to collaborate with others through marking up and editing in real time, and across all devices the way iCloud works.

Branchfire is on Fire

Transforming so many industries is something that Bhatt and the Branchfire team are very proud of, explaining that many graduate schools have gone completely paperless due to the ease and efficiency of the digital application. Bhatt also mentions that the Army, Navy and Homeland Security utilizing the application.

This year alone, Branchfire has been executed by the honorary Grammys, Video Music Awards, Oscars and BET awards, along with Hollywood-based casts from Modern Family, The Walking Dead and Scandal.

“I want people to be excited about the product and feel like they’re doing something transformative, revolutionizing and amazing because of this little tool that we’ve built for them,” Bhatt says.

“And if they feel like they’ve gotten that success, then that’s great.”

The goal with Branchfire is being able to transform anything that you’re working with by freehand, digitally; a piece of paper, an email, a screenshot from the white board. Being able to edit anything within those components in real time with the right tools and building blocks is the hope for the future.

“We want to make it so dead simple and intuitive that you’re able to mark up anything,” he says. “And I truly mean anything, in real time at the speed that you’re thinking about it, and then being able to share and collaborate with anyone.”

Bhatt contests his expert team has access to everything for that form of technology to be possible. It’s just a matter of it all coming together carefully and properly.