Creately’s Origin Story
In this exclusive interview with visual collaboration software expert Chandika Jayasundara, we explore Creately's Origin Story. Creately started as a visual collaboration and diagramming platform in 2008. The company was founded by Chandika and his co-founder when they were in a research program at the University of Melbourne. At the time, there was no natural collaborative way to create diagrams online – it required desktop software like Visio. Chandika realized that “when you work on anything that is sufficiently complex, it's a visual design that comes out – a diagram, schematic, etc. – and a lot of information is captured in this visual form.” However, these visual designs were consumed as flat JPEG images in documents, losing all the rich data.
Deep, native diagramming capabilities
Creately set out to combine visual collaboration with the data and knowledge behind diagrams. As Chandika explains: “We have native support for 70 types of diagrams, and each of these diagram types has their conventions and certain connectors, certain behaviors that we've made it very, very easy to draw and create.”
Diagrams integrate with databases, Jira, GitHub, etc.
The key differentiation for Creately is enabling users to link diagrams to live data sources. Chandika noted, “You can combine this with a database built into Creately. And you can take the same thing and… have a multimodal view of this information.” For example, you can copy and paste a process flow diagram into another workspace, and updates will automatically sync across due to the underlying data linkage. Creately can also import data from sources like GitHub, Jira, and HR systems, visualizing it while retaining the live sync with original data sources.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Chandika Jayasundara's Role As Co-Founder
Chandika was involved in the same University of Melbourne research program as Creately's other founder. He recognized the lack of collaborative diagramming tools and the need to link diagrams with data.
As co-founder, Chandika helped drive Creately's vision to create more innovative, data-connected diagrams. He was instrumental in developing the product's capabilities to combine visual diagrams with underlying data layers.
Visualizing Complex Networks Made Easy
Central knowledge management across linked diagram views
Maintaining a link with the original data sources allows for central knowledge management, as Chandika explains: “And when you update the process flow in another workspace. it'll also update the ones in the original workspace because it's linked to the same thing.” The platform enables users to “have a multimodal view of the same data you just drew anyway” and continue working seamlessly across linked diagrams.
Enterprise security with SOC 2 and ISO 27001 certifications
For enterprise clients, Creately has invested heavily in security and compliance. As Chandika noted in our discussion, “Just earlier this year, we achieved our SOC 2, Type 2 certification and ISO 27001 certification.” The platform offers robust access, sharing, and data management controls for enterprise use.
Library of templates and frameworks to guide teams
Beyond core diagramming and collaboration, Creately provides significant value through its template library. Per Chandika, “We have… thousands of custom design templates that people can use on Creately.” These templates, including visual frameworks like SWOT analysis and business model canvases, guide teams in applying visuals effectively across diverse use cases.
Creately's deep native diagramming, integration with live data sources, central knowledge management, enterprise-grade security, and library of templates enable powerful visual collaboration for teams. Its vision of combining visuals, data, and collaboration in one platform has made Creately a must-have for visual work.
Overcoming Limitations of Traditional Visual Design with Creately
Visual design and information capture are critical for complex projects, but traditional methods have vital limitations. Creately was founded to address these challenges with a new approach combining diagrams and data.
Challenges With Traditional Visual Design And Information Capture
Chandika noted, “When you work on anything that is sufficiently complex, it's a visual design that comes out, diagram, schematic, and so on, and a lot of information is captured in this visual form.”
However, he explains that traditionally, “the consumption of this visual form is either in a PowerPoint or in a Word document where it is reduced into a flat JPEG image, a screenshot of that rich information you put in. And when you also put in that information, it's just pictures. None of the data on the inside that you have in each of those blocks you put on the screen is captured.”
Chandika saw an opportunity to improve on this: “So what we thought was what if we just combine these two things and allow you to sort of explore, document, or think around the visual problem in that visual form, but also embed the data and the knowledge that goes around it into this co-form of a, you know, that looks like a diagram, but behind it, there are so many layers.”
Visualize Google Cloud Architectures with Creately
Creately's Unique Approach To Combining Data And Diagrams
Creately set out to enable “people to create diagrams with the data and the rest of the information around it.” Chandika explains that when Creately launched in 2008, “creating was a new thing that allowed people to create diagrams on the browser, which was a huge deal because Vizio was incumbent at the time, and you had desktop software for this.” He continues: “Where we stand out is that once you create a diagram or a visual in Creately, you can combine this with a database built into Creately. And you can take the same thing and… have a multimodal view of this information.”
For example, “Say you create a process flow, and you have one view of this, and you're going to use some of these processes in another flow or on another context to explain how this works, how this is applied. And you can copy and paste that into another context. And when you update the process flow in another workspace. It'll also update the ones in the original workspace because it's linked to the same thing.”
Viewing Data from Different Perspectives
Chandika emphasizes the value of this “multimodal view of the same data that's, which you just drew anyway, right.” It “allows people to, you know, work, you know, continue, you know, working on…things without having to think about going, do I have to update multiple places?” He adds that Creately can also visualize and sync data from third-party sources like GitHub, Jira, or HR systems while maintaining that multimodal view.
Creately aims to provide a flexible visual workspace to bring teams, ideas, data, and documents together in new ways, overcoming the limitations of traditional diagramming and documentation approaches. Its unique integration of visuals and data enables efficient collaboration for complex projects.
Visualizing Ideas and Data: How Creately Brings Teams and Information Together
When the founders of Creately first envisioned the product in 2008, they saw an opportunity to reinvent how teams collaborate visually online. Chandika explains, “There was no real collaborative way to draw things online.” At the time, complex visual information was often trapped in static PowerPoint slides or Word docs. The Creately team wanted to create an online space where people could draw diagrams and link them to underlying data sources.
Visualize Azure Architectures with Creately
One of Creately's standout features is its deep, native support for diagramming. As Chandika shares, “We have native support for 70 types of diagrams, and each of these diagram types has their conventions and certain connectors, certain behaviors that we've made it very, very easy to draw and create.” Creately aims to provide robust tools tailored to each diagram type, from flowcharts to UML diagrams and everything in between.
Connecting The Dots Between Data, Teams, and Diagrams
While online diagramming was a novel idea back in 2008, Creately's bigger vision was breaking down data silos. As Chandika explains, “What we thought was what if we just combine these two things and allow you to sort of explore, document, or think around the visual problem in that visual form, but have all the data and the knowledge that goes around it into this co-form of a, you know, that looks like a diagram, but behind it there are so many layers.”
Creately's ability to integrate diagrams with external data sources is critical. “You can combine this with a database that's built into Creately. And you can take the same thing and… have a multimodal view of this information,” says Chandika. For example, you could create a process flow diagram linked to a Jira ticket. If that process gets updated in another project, the changes stay in sync across diagrams. This enables teams to reuse visual information in different contexts without manually keeping duplicate versions up-to-date.
We believe that Visual collaboration software enables teams to think and work visually, unlocking new levels of productivity, innovation, and connection. Mural expresses a similar sentiment.
A Central Knowledge Hub
By linking diagrams to data and other team members, Creately aims to serve as a central knowledge hub for organizations. “What we want it to be, designed to be, is a place to put stuff in,” Chandika explains. “And the idea is you can bring your stuff, bring your ideas, bring your data, bring your team, and you can play with this stuff.” He emphasizes the flexibility to visualize information in whatever shapes make sense while maintaining connections to the underlying data.
Visualize Kubernetes Architectures with Creately
Looking Ahead with AI
As for the future, Chandika sees AI playing a more significant role in augmenting visual collaboration. Creately plans to integrate generative AI to help with brainstorming and diagram creation. “Having AI in your team, generative AI in your team to help you brainstorm is like a huge superpower,” he says. While still in the early days, Chandika envisions AI acting as a “co-pilot” that broadens thinking and unlocks new angles.
Creately pioneered a new approach to collaboration and knowledge sharing by starting with a vision for unlocking data through visuals. Their continued innovation promises to further transform how teams work together.
Creately was founded in 2008 by Chandika Jayasundara and co-founders to reinvent visual collaboration for the digital age. At the time, complex visual information was often trapped in static documents, disconnected from the underlying data. As a co-founder, Chandika helped drive Creately's vision to create more innovative, data-connected diagrams online.
Key innovations include deep support for 70+ diagram types, integrating data sources like databases and Jira, and enabling a “multimodal view” to reuse visuals across linked diagrams. This allows Creately to serve as a central knowledge hub for teams by connecting visuals, data, and people. Looking ahead, Creately plans to leverage AI as a “co-pilot” to augment human creativity and collaboration. By starting with the goal of unlocking data through visuals, Creately has transformed how teams manage knowledge and work together.
Watch our episode featuring Creately: In this Software Spotlight podcast, Michael Bernzweig interviews Chandika Jayasundara, Co-Founder of visual collaboration platform Creately, on the company's growth from a 2008 research project to over 10 million users today. Chandika explains how the initial vision of diagrams with data layers evolved to a focus on enabling collaboration across tools like Microsoft Teams. With recent ISO and SOC 2 certifications, Creately continues to build trust and integration capabilities.