Pinwheel! In Private Beta

I’m happy we’re about to start inviting people into the thing we’ve been working on!! It’s called Pinwheel, and it’s a way to find and leave notes all around the world.

We’re opening it up in private beta on the web and mobile web. An iOS version is coming next. You can sign up to be a beta tester/contributor at We’re starting to build the content and community in advance of the full native mobile version, which we anticipate will be the primary experience. We’ll start inviting people in batches next week. To answer the inevitable questions, a FAQ!

What IS it?

On Pinwheel you can find and leave notes all around the world. The notes can be public or private, shared with an individual, a group or everyone. They can be organized into sets, such as, say, the “Tales from the Road: KISS’s 1974 Hotter Than Hell Tour”, “Best Spots for Butterfly Hunting”, “Every place that you told me that you loved me, circa 2008” or “Find me a Nearby Toilet NOW”. You can follow people, places and sets. And in the future, you will get notifications on your phone from who and what you choose. Following sets is useful, because that friend of yours with the great taste in coffee shops may also have an unhealthy obsession with, say, 1970s glam metal band KISS, and frankly, in childhood you were traumatized by a photograph of Gene Simmons and don’t need to repeat that in your dotage. Here’s an example of what a note looks like. This is one of my notes from Grand Central Station:

We’re already seeing original and inventive types of notes. Ancestry, located poems, old postcards, found objects. But the most wonderful thing is receiving (and writing!) private notes. Here is a note I left for my friend Lauren:

But, that’s like…Flickr for Places!

You said it, not me. Is it like Flickr for Places? Ish. Part of why making Pinwheel is so fun, is so exploding with possibility, is that a note, like a photo, can be a container for all kinds of things. It is the perfect social object. Stories, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestoes can all be put into a note. It is the perfectly constrained, perfectly open thing that you can make into what you want.

That sounds fantastic. But how are you going to make money?

Sponsored notes. You, the people you love, and businesses of all shapes and sizes will all be able to drop notes around the world, highlighted for all to open and see. Some examples. Our friend, Dinah Sanders, to promote her book Discardia, is leaving sponsored notes of places to recycle, places to stop and enjoy, places every good Discardian should know about. Our friend Alex Clark, a realtor with Zephyr Real Estate, is leaving sponsored notes of his properties for sale, things coming on the market, notable things in neighborhoods his clients should notice, and general area knowledge to promote his real estate business. Here’s a screen shot of one of Alex’s notes:

Who works on Pinwheel?

Seven brilliant people, and maybe you! We are hiring a iOS Developer, and Content Interns. Email us your resume and info at if you’re interested. We’re proud to be funded by Redpoint, True, Betaworks, Founder Collective, SV Angel, Obvious Corp, and individual angels.

Where can we learn more?

Please follow us on Twitter: PinwheelHQ on Twitter.

Author: Caterina Fake

Literature, Art, Poetry, Homeschooling Mother. Founder & CEO, Findery. Co-founder, Flickr & Hunch.

45 thoughts on “Pinwheel! In Private Beta”

  1. Looks a lot like our iPhone app, Dropp and mirrors some of our future plans for it:

    On the other hand, you’re starting with the web first, while we went mobile-first. Interesting angle! Can’t wait to see what comes of it.


  2. My friends and I were thinking about building something very similar about a year ago but never pursued it.

    If anyone’s interested in the domain, is available. 🙂 Ping me.


  3. Congrats Caterina, sounds interesting and financially possible.

    For me, I really like the part where you say “That sounds fantastic. But how are you going to make money?”

    Because 90% of the shit out there I see and attempt to use I have to ask that same question. More often than not, I find I can’t figure an answer.

    Being a brick and mortar startup, I get grilled on that all the time. But I’m always fascinated how many tech ideas can sound good, have no basis in the market, and get financing, when folks like me, with sound ideas, still have to struggle. Woe is me I know, but putting it out there. Glad to see a tech start up that answers it right away. Nice work.


  4. Congratulations, Caterina. And my compliments on naming this after my favorite cookie when I was a kid. (As opposed to naming it after my favorite cookie now. I don’t think Mallomar would be as evocative.)

    Anyway, it looks cool and interesting, and I rarely think things look cool and interesting.


  5. Wonderful idea.

    I like the idea of ‘taking’ a note. It is the opposite of a feed – which we have more than enough of, don’t you think?

    I am sure – with your experience – that the execution is more fun that it has ever been.

    Enjoy what is sure to be a lengthy and fast moving ride.


  6. I would love to help but would probably be useless as I have only a basic cel phone. (note cel gets a red line spelling error under it) I like the name, “Pin Wheel”. It resonates for me, but then, I have only a basic cel phone.


  7. I like Pinwheel. At 65, I’ve been an early adopter of social media, networking, blogging, and CMS for small business. I’m completely remodeling my website and adding two new Facebook pages to focus on intuitive platforms like Pinwheel for small business and entrepreneurs. My mind is running wide open on all the possibilities for for small business and the potential revenue streams that will follow for users and Pinwheel.

    Dinah Sanders and Alex Clark are prime examples of having another new media platform to announce, attract, and engage prospective customers and clients to their value proposition. It may not be quick like Twitter (or maybe it will), but for these old eyes and tri-focal eyewear, I like to see a visual and text vs. a lot of #hashtags and’s that have me scratching out what hair is left.

    As I re-brand and re-focus my website and Facebook pages to share stories of application and ideas using new media, I look forward to following your evolving enterprise. Webster might describe Pinwheel as a new firework that will spark the imagination of entrepreneurial minded individuals.

    I see great revenue streams with three valued added services. Great idea Caterina! I can’t help myself, I love Free Enterprise.


  8. Congrats Caterina. Very interesting project. My mind is spinning with the application ideas that businesses can use Pinwheel for.

    As someone who helps small businesses leverage the new technology and media for getting more business and beat the recession blues, I am very excited.

    Kudos and best wishes!


  9. Hello,

    Interesting idea! I had a similar idea that I called Net-Trekking which is based on the idea of virtual Trekkers that are located on the globe and located via mobile devices such as iPhones. They can then be picked up and moved around the globe and as they travel they gain points. It’s currently available on the iPhone and Android devices. I’ll be interested to see how you get on.


  10. Congratulations Caterina! I think Pinwheel is brilliant. And the timing is ideal with the profusion of Smartphones adoption worldwide. This could become quite disruptive in the world of social discovery. I also love the name and its brand possibilities. Best wishes for success.

    p.s. I greatly enjoyed your talk at Women 2.0 this past Tuesday. Thank you for participating!

    Best regards,


  11. Look, Caterina, I’ve got a cancer battle going right now and I want to see Pinwheel in action. Sorry to pull the cancer card, but sometimes it really works. Please send me a beta invitation!


  12. Great Idea!

    I work in Real Estate and I believe the applications of this service to my field will be very useful and probably valuable if integrated with the correct tools.

    Awesome work, and hopefully we will be able to work with your service soon.


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