A Year After TechStars, Fetchnotes Focuses on Stickier Sharing

When we last caught up with the University of Michigan student startup Fetchnotes, the team was preparing for a stint in the elite TechStars Boston accelerator, the first U-M student startup to do so. Now, a year later, the digital note-capturing/life organizing service is relaunching today with a majorly overhauled iPhone app that includes a new and improved ability to share.

Fetchnotes uses the same conventions as Twitter and Facebook, with hashtags for organizing topics and @mentions to send notes to specific people. (For example, “Ask @AyshaSiddique about lunch next Saturday #todo.”) What’s new is that now, that note I just wrote about lunch will also appear on Aysha’s list of notes because I’ve tagged her.

Aysha will also get a push notification alerting her that a note has been shared, which is another new feature. And since Fetchnotes integrates with a user’s address book, even non-users will get copies of notes via text message. Fetchnotes has always helped users keep track of what they need to do or remember, Fetchnotes co-founder and CEO Alex Schiff points out, but this version allows them to also include the people involved in each task.

Schiff says Fetchnotes isn’t just a sort of digital sticky note—it can also be used to recommend books or places to eat. The company is in the early stages of testing its next iteration, where an Amazon link to a book title or link to a restaurant’s homepage will pop up upon mention.

“We don’t want to be the place just storing up information, we also want to help you act on that information,” he adds.

The new version of the company’s iPhone app is the result of Fetchnotes’ work at TechStars. While there, they noticed interesting user behavior. “If we could get people over the three-week hump, there was a strong chance of retaining them as a user,” Schiff says. “Fetchnotes gets stickier as time goes on. The hard part is building the initial habit.”

The company dug into that user data even further over the summer and found that users who shared notes with each other were 10 times more likely to stay with Fetchnotes. The ability to share in the previous version of the app was there, but it was an afterthought, Schiff says. The new version puts it front and center.

Schiff jokes that the Fetchnotes team graduated from TechStars instead of college. The company, which has raised a total of $425,000 since its inception, is staying in Cambridge, MA, although it still has a presence in (and strong ties to) Michigan. He’s excited about Fetchnotes’ relaunch because he believes the company is doing something unique.

“Google mines e-mail and calendar items, but it doesn’t capture the same kind of data we do,” he says. “Springpad is also doing a similar thing, but they want the notes to be public. With Fetchnotes, families are using it to manage household stuff. Everyone’s experience is tailored to the way their brain organizes information.”

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