Dendron

The note-taking tool that grows with you.
Batch: 2021 Winter
Status: Successful

Dendron

The note-taking tool that grows with you.
Batch: 2021 Winter
Status: Successful

Company

We are making a note taking tool that lets users find notes in seconds, no matter how many notes they have.

If you are familiar with tools like Roam and Obsidian, then you're familiar with Dendron. We provide the same functionality as the aforementioned apps but tuned for our custom hierarchical note taking engine. This engine lets users create notes using flexible hierarchies.

These notes can be found again by searching their path in the hierarchy, a process we call "lookup". Through lookup, users can find any specific note in seconds no matter how many notes they have.

These notes are stored locally on the user's file system and can be synced via tools like Git and Dropbox or Dendron's (upcoming) native cloud sync. Users are also able to publish all or a subset of their notes as a website where they can find their notes using the same hierarchical engine that they use locally.

The current implementation of Dendron is an open-source, markdown- based, note-taking tool that runs as an extension inside VSCode.

Founders

Build a one man AWS consulting company with fortune 50 clients and a standard rate of $320/hour. Shut down said company while I was fully booked and profitable to work full time on Dendron.

Progress

We launched our preview June of 2020. We've hit the following milestones within two months of preview:

- over 100 users in our community Discord channel
- 28 very active users (people who use Dendron multiple times a day and are active on our Discord channel at least once a week)
- formed a community moderator group of half a dozen dendrologist with coverage of every major timezone
- have desktop clients available across all operating systems

I left my full-time job at Amazon to work on Dendron. The first year was split between doing consulting work while working on Dendron. Starting February of 2020, I've moved to working full time on Dendron.

Knowledge management has been a lifelong obsession of mine and I use Dendron to manage a corpus of +20K note

We have over 100 active users in our community Discord, 28 of which are very active users (people who use Dendron multiple times a day and are active on our Discord channel at least once a week).

We plan on getting to 50 very active users before launching our paid plans.

The most notable changes: working on Dendron full time, launched the tool, and have active users.

The idea is still the same but the implementation is different. Instead of building a standalone app, Dendron launched as an extension inside VSCode. This let me avoid much of the undifferentiated scaffolding work required to build a text editor and focus on Dendron's features around hierarchies.

Idea

I'm working in this field because its something I've been trying to solve for myself over the last decade. In that time, I've created a solution that has almost completely solved "information overload" for myself in domains that I care about. I now want to bring that solution to everyone in the world.

Knowledge management tools of the past fifty years allow users to input more information in expanded formats. But when it comes to getting information back out, we are still stuck with the same set of primitives as people in the fifties (keyword search, tags, and folders).

People are overwhelmed with information and stuck in "google doc hell" - the condition caused through tools that make it easy to create new notes but difficult to find existing notes. By storing notes in hierarchies and using lookup to reference them, users can find any particular note in seconds even if they have thousands of notes. Just as important, if a user is unable to find a note using lookup, they can be confident that the note doesn't exist. While the concepts of hierarchies are not new, hierarchies have never been used to their full potential in note taking tools. This is because the tooling around them sucks. All note taking tools (and even your file system), supports hierarchies. But besides holding your notes, these hierarchies do nothing but get in your way. You can't use them to find notes. They are difficult to change. They add friction to creating new notes. Dendron gives you all the good parts of hierarchies and takes away the friction.

I divide competition into two groups: established and upcoming.

Established competitors are Notion and Roam. These tools all provide a better take on knowledge management and have significant traction and funding with their current user base.

Upcoming competitors are Obsidian, Logseq and Foam. These tools are all free and attract a similar customer base as Dendron.

At this point, no competitor offers the equivalent of Dendron's hierarchal features. My greatest fear and hope, is that they do. Using hierarchies to manage notes goes against what is currently trendy (eg. structureless approach to note taking). Half the battle right now is convincing people to give Dendron a shot because of our focus on hierarchies (once they do, they end up sticking with it). If more tools adopt hierarchies, it'll lower the friction for people to adopt Dendron. If we end up in a world where we compete on hierarchical features, not only will Dendron have a headstart but it will also have significant mindshare in pioneering the new trend.

Dendron is hierarchy first because we believe hierarchies are among the most efficient structures for people to make sense of vast quantities of information. The reason we don't see more people using them is because there has never been a note taking tool that has made working with hierarchies simple and scalable. Dendron is such a tool.

We plan on making money in three phases:

- 1st phase: pro account (custom badge, priority support, once a month zoom chat, etc)
- 2nd phase: server side features (eg. private hosting, cloud sync, online editor)
- 3rd phase: team features (small teams to enterprise)

We also have a completely orthogonal revenue plan that involves creating a marketplace for notes. This involves making it easy for people to publish and monetize their knowledge - think substack/medium but for notes. This would vastly increase our addressable marketplace (to anyone that needs to consume information) but also a departure from our current plans of making revenue. This is something that we would likely explore either in conjunction of after phase 3.

We plan on publishing vertical specific notes on particular domains to drive adoption from people within that domain. The "Open AWS Catalogue" (http://aws.dendron.so/) is an example of a domain specific publication to attract people from AWS into Dendron.

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