Fetchnotes Wants to Get Your “To Do” List Out of Your Head

You’re walking around out in the world and an idea strikes you. How do you best trap that random neuron and save it for later?

Fetchnotes, a small start-up out of Ann Arbor, Mich., is hoping to be your answer to those pesky, brain-leaking notes. 

The service, still in closed beta, is pretty simple thus far. Basically, users register for an account and then are allowed to text a note to a special phone number. 

The notes are saved on the Fetchnotes Web app, where they can be “auto-organized at the point of capture,” said Fetchnotes co-founder Alex Schiff.

The notes are arranged based on hashtags inserted in the notes themselves, and will eventually be automatically available for sharing using Twitterlike @ symbols. 

But, according to Schiff, tomorrow’s Fetchnotes will look a lot different than today’s.

“We’ve only built in about 10 percent of the functionality we want,” he said. “The goal is to be able to get notes into Fetchnotes any way you want.”

Next, he said, the start-up will add the ability to call in notes, instant-message them via tools such as Google Chat, and link notes with dates in them right into Google Calendar. 

It’s a pretty ambitious road map for a bootstrapped start-up outside Silicon Valley — although less so, when you consider that all of the things Fetchnotes hopes to loop together are really just hooks into everyone else’s APIs.

When I asked about competitors in the space — and there are a lot — Schiff was quick to address the elephant in the room: Evernote, which currently dominates the mobile memory space. 

Schiff said that while Evernote wants to be your digital memory, Fetchnotes wants to be how you commit things to memory.

“In Evernote, it takes 12 steps to add a note with a tag on their mobile apps,” said Schiff. “That’s too much for short things.”

Fetchnotes came out of a collaboration between Schiff and Chase Lee — both juniors at the University of Michigan’s start-up incubator, called TechArb

The team is now nearly 10, and Schiff said the company isn’t yet interested in taking money, although it has been approached. 

The big question about these sorts of memory-helpers has to do with the battle between native tools and the cross-platformers. 

Apple recently added the Reminders app, with its iOS 5 release, to the creatively-named Notes app that has shipped with every iPhone since the start. 

Clearly, there is some mindshare they are after — enough to warrant the famously target-specific Apple building another OEM app. 

The other side of this niche market includes services like Evernote, which try to be as cross-platform as possible, and collect everything into the cloud, where, theoretically, it will be safe. 

Schiff’s company comes down in the Evernote camp, but he said he sees his real competition as “native apps like Notes, and more ‘lifehack’ stuff, like emailing yourself.” 

I will add that the API-powered note-taking idea isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s nearly a demo product for what is possible with Internet telephony-based APIs. In fact, Fetchnotes is currently powered by an Internet telephony-via-API service.

Schiff and Fetchnotes may not be the only way forward, but light, fast, feature-oriented companies like his make a compelling argument for competing with the big boys by adding even more ease of use.

Here is a video I did with the Fetchnotes team: 


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