Catch: The Online Notekeeping System for the Non-Organized

3/29/11Follow @xconomy

Steve Brown, co-founder and CEO of Catch.com, a cloud-based personal content management system, says he’s the only dad at his daughter’s end of the season pizza party who remembers every single soccer game. And he can pull out the notes and pictures to prove it.

During the season, Brown uses his phone to snap pictures, take notes, and tag content with places and dates. He lets Catch organize all the information for him. That way, at the end of the season, it’s no problem for him to review all the penalty kicks and game-winning goals.

“Every other season, like every other parent, I’d forgotten everything,” he says. ”Having that handy and being able to bring that all back is super powerful.”

Catch is a digital content management system that uses mobile apps and a Web platform to help users organize personal information. Conceptually, it works like a digital version of an old-school spiral notebook or a journal, Brown says. It’s a place for users to record their thoughts, file their photos, update their calendars, store recipe ideas and make grocery lists. But instead of storing information in a linear way—like alphabetical files in a filing cabinet—Catch organizes its information more like the human brain, Brown asserts.

“In the brain, there is no notebook,” Brown says. “There is a growing map of linked information.” Ever find your keys by retracing your steps? With Catch, you can arrange your data alphabetically, or based on where you were at the time you tagged it, the date, the time, font size, key words and more. Can’t remember where you took a certain photo? You can filter your saved photos on Catch based on where you were when you took them. And you can do it on the go through your Android phone, your iPad or iPhone, or online.

The company started in late 2008 with two guys in an apartment—Brown and co-founder and CTO Andreas Schobel—trying to figure out a way to “use smart phone technology to be smarter,” Brown says. As they developed the idea for their personal content management system, they realized that it was really modeled on the way the human brain organizes information, and originally named the company Snaptic because of the similarities to brain function (it’s a reference to synapses). But eventually, they decided the name was “too academic,” and renamed the company Catch, because capturing information was “the fundamental starting point,” Brown says. Now, the name of the company, the site, the platform, and the button that you press on your screen are all Catch.

Catch is free for personal users, but the company also just announced a product called Catch Pro, which gives users a larger monthly upload limit (1 gigabyte vs. 70 megabytes), and allows them to attach Word documents and PDFs to Catch notes. A subscription costs $5 per month or $45 per year—the same as Evernote, the online notekeeping service that is currently the leading player in Catch’s market. Catch’s premium service is new enough that the company is only just about to start marketing it, and hasn’t yet figured out if it will eventually change the pricing structure to allow for group memberships for offices or companies. Brown looks at Catch Pro as a “prosumer” product, and says that an enterprise version of Catch will come further down the line.

Because it’s not a social networking site, Catch has put security measures in place to keep content private, though users can choose to share bits and pieces. The Catch site is secured over an encrypted SSL browser connection, and mobile syncing is encrypted as well. “Unlike some of the very popular social sites, we have been SSL, all the way, all the time, end to end,” Brown says. “There’s no way somebody is going to see your stuff on a Starbucks Wi-Fi.”

The company’s seed funding came from “a number of super angels in the silicon valley area.” Catch also raised about $7 million in series A funding this year from investors including ,” Reid Hoffman’s Greylock Partners Discovery Fund and Boston-based Excel Venture Management. Now, the company of two founders has grown to a staff of 15, and Brown says they plan to “add significantly to their team” this year.

So far, Catch’s uptake has been promising, a feat Brown attributes to “betting early on Android and doing really well in the Android ecosystem.” Catch offers several apps for Android phones, including the notepad app Catch Notes; Compass, a personal check-in app that gives GPS directions and can even help users find their car in a crowded parking lot; and a simple text-based app called AK notebook. In aggregate the company’s Android apps have been downloaded 15 million times. In the last 30 days, the Catch website has had 5.6 million monthly active users and 43 million page views. “That puts us as not just one of the leading players in productivity [apps] on Android, but also one of the big players on Android,” Brown says.

The company has also opened up its platform so that other developers can tie their apps into Catch. For example, if you download the Daily Horoscope app there’s a Catch button in there so that you can save your horoscope. A recipe app with a Catch button can add ingredients to your shopping list. The BBC news app includes a button so that you can bookmark stories in Catch. “For the developers of those apps, it’s three lines of code and they have all of their notebook functionality integrated into their app,” he says.

Last year, Catch partnered with the TED Prize for the Move Your App competition, which challenged developers to use the Catch technology to build an app that would track physical activity. A total of 246 developers entered the contest, and the grand prize winner got to speak at the TED Global conference in Oxford. In a couple of months, Catch will kick of its second contest, the subject of which has not yet been announced.

Brown sees Catch’s open platform and its ability to organize its users’ information for them as the big difference between it and competing services like Evernote. Catch users don’t have to be neat freaks or pack rats to find it useful. “What’s different in our approach and philosophy is that you don’t have to be an organized person to use catch, ” Brown says. “It’s very lightweight and easy to capture information, and then powerful in the backend in terms of organizing more and more of that for you automatically. It’s for normal people who aren’t necessarily organized.”

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