Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Students' Fetchnotes startup launching note-taking system

Fetchnotes, a U-M student-founded startup, on Friday will launch a public version of its cloud-based system for jotting and organizing quick notes to oneself.

The company will release a new Android, iPhone and desktop app for its system that attracted more than 3,300 users in invitation-only beta since October. A new Web app also is forthcoming, the company founders say.

The Fetchnotes system lets users call, text, email or type notes directly into their account through a phone, smartphone app, desktop widget or Web browser. Users categorize notes with hashtags for easy retrieval. They can view a category directly in the app or in their Web account, or they can text the category's hashtag to a special Fetchnotes number.

"When we went out and talked with people about how they keep track of all the stuff in their lives, all the information we're bombarded with on a daily basis, we found that most of what they needed to keep track of were short little blips, not bigger items such as meeting minutes. Unfortunately, no one had found a really good way to handle these little bits of info," says co-founder Chase Lee, a junior in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. "This is the problem that Fetchnotes solves."

Lee and co-founder Alex Schiff, also a junior at Michigan Ross, think they've hit on a real need. Schiff used to use his Blackberry's memo pad for this purpose, until "one day all of my notes were randomly deleted by Blackberry demons. I lost hundreds of them. I'm a writer, so I had jotted down ideas for columns and blog posts," Schiff says. "I was very unhappy."

He moved to a clunky new system of self-texts and Word documents while searching for a long-term solution. He couldn't find one.

"I found a crazy patchwork of how people do this. A lot of people send texts or emails to themselves. I looked at different apps like Evernote, but everything seemed geared toward long-form notes. Nothing was streamlined for the kinds of notes I took most often — not a page, but three or four sentences."

The team, which includes 14 U-M students from computer science and informatics, has had space in U-M's TechArb student business incubator for the past year. TechArb is sponsored by the College of Engineering (CoE)' Center for Entrepreneurship, the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

"Fetchnotes shows the business potential when an innovative product is targeted at a clearly identified emerging market," says Tom Kinnear, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute.

One of its early customers is Thomas Zurbuchen, associate dean of entrepreneurial programs at CoE.

"I use Fetchnotes every day," Zurbuchen says. "I love when our student companies help me be more effective. It's the most direct payback of an entrepreneurship program."