Milanote bags $780k seed to tool up its ‘Evernote for creatives’

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Creative types looking for software to help seed and spark inspiration don’t usually have to look too far. There are a fair few options to play with — whether it’s a mainstream visual sharing platform like Pinterest or a design-focused moodboard-maker like Niice. But just as writers have a variety of workspace preferences, the needs of visual creatives are hardly uniform. So the Australian startup behind Milanote reckons there’s room for another approach here.

Milanote’s platform feels part Evernote, part Pinterest — indeed, it describes itself as an “Evernote for creatives” — given it’s offering users digital spaces (“boards”) paired with a drag and drop interface that can be used to add and position photos and notes to create visual moodboards or display a grouping of ideas. Its boards are also designed for storing (and/or linking) to related assets — nesting assets within new boards acting like folders.

Boards can also be shared so groups can collaborate and view updates across a project. And Milanote includes a to-do list feature. So, all in all, the platform feels like more of a multipurpose tool than purely a place for designers to play with visuals (though of course you can do that too). But you could also use it to organize and keep on top of research, say, or to create a more visual checklist or chronicle of an event.

The platform actually started as an internal tool for the founders’ other business (a UX agency) but they decided to spin it out — launching Milanote in February, and garnering some 35,000 users thus far, according to CEO Ollie Campbell. At this point he says the tool is being used by “designers, writers, marketers and other creative professionals” — working at companies such as Facebook, Apple, Uber, Dropbox, Google, Adobe, Sony and Nike.

The team has just closed a $780,000 seed round, led by Simon Martin, the former CFO of MYOB. This will be spent on expanding Milanote’s feature set to support what Campbell dubs “key creative tasks [such as] gathering inspiration from around the web” (for that it has a “Pinterest style web clipper” in the works), as well as on support for video embedding and for more file types.

They are also planning to strengthen the collaboration features — including by adding the ability for users to get feedback from clients, and to comment on updates.

“Milanote is a very ‘horizontal” tool (like Trello/Evernote etc) so we have users from all different industries and roles. Construction workers, poets, artists, authors, game designers, you name it. We have users who are writing novels, planning sermons and organising art exhibitions. But our core target audience is what we call ‘visual creative professionals’,” he says when asked who the core user is.

“Creativity is all about synthesising and combining different pieces of information into something new. The problem lots of people face is that their creative work is spread across multiple tools and platforms — images in Pinterest, notes in Evernote, tasks in Trello, files in Dropbox, messages in Slack. This fragmentation makes it impossible to see the whole picture, which makes it harder to figure things out,” Campbell adds.

“The key benefit of Milanote is having all of your creative work in one place. This lets you see connections between different pieces of information and trigger new ideas.”

Milanote is a freemium SaaS, so there’s a free version with a cap on the number of notes, images or links that can be added to boards, with unlimited storage unlocked at a price — pricing being dependent on whether it’s a sole user or a team.

The core push to get visual creatives centralizing more of their project work within Milanote’s nested board structure does of course amp up the potential storage requirements which plays into its pricing structure. Though it remains to be seen how much demand there is from visual creatives to do more of their “communicating spatially”, as the team puts it, vs using a series of digital tools at different points of their creative workflow process — be it Slack for comms, Dropbox for hosting (and sharing) files, Pinterest for making and sharing moodboards, Google Docs for collaborating and so on.

As with any job role that involves playing around with ideas, it’s likely to be a case of ‘horses for courses’. But Milanote reckons its platform can at least be a contender in the race to gobble up creatives’ dollars.