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This open source tool used by Google, Meta and MIT is helping rethink knowledge management

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Graph connections on a blue background.
Image Credits: enot-poloskun / Getty Images

Logseq founder Tienson Qin takes a lot of notes about his work. He also likes to draw together with his six-year-old daughter on an iPad, and he found that the notes tool he had been using for years doesn’t run on the tablet. So like all enterprising engineers, he decided to build a new tool that does.

Being able to share drawings with his child may have been an initial motivation for Qin, but he also wanted to build a tool for connecting his work documents in a kind of internal web that could be shared across any device, either for an individual or a team of users.

“I needed to make my life easier, and to connect my notes so I could build my thoughts incrementally and connect them together. So it started as a solo project, and now we’re expanding that, and it will be a company that we will build a team around,” Qin told me.

The idea is not unlike the web itself, which lets you connect related information across systems, but in this case, it’s about sharing knowledge and research semantically for individuals and teams. Eventually, this has the potential to be a system for more easily managing knowledge inside an organization, a goal that has been attempted for years, but so far has never succeeded completely.

Qin found that existing note tools like Evernote and Notion didn’t connect and organize related documents the way he needed, relying too much on a hierarchical file structure. “Logseq is entirely different. Those platforms store text in single documents. Logseq stores inter-connected information in infinite graphs. This means that you can traverse a research volume or dataset or CRM in Logseq by browsing these interconnected graphs.”

That’s because the open source tool is built on a graph database to allow the system to build semantic connections between documents, whether notes, research, information or PDF markups. “You have a set of keywords, and you can connect those ideas together through keywords and what we call a reference so you can reference this page or this idea in another page and build the connections in this way,” he said.

It’s also designed to allow the development of plug-ins to add elements that don’t exist in the base product, such as Google Calendar integration and a tagging tool to extend the capabilities of the base tool.

What’s more, Qin says the project has put a priority on privacy, and the company doesn’t have access to any notes on the system, which are all stored locally. The company only launched the tool in open source in October, but reports that large organizations like Google, Meta and MIT have been using Logseq.

For now the product just consists of an editor, which is Markup language-based, but they are working on additional pieces, including real-time collaboration in which multiple users can work on the same document at the same time like multiple people working on a Google Doc. That capability is expected to be ready soon.

The idea is so compelling that Qin has raised $4.1 million in initial capital led by Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke, and Nat Friedman, former CEO of GitHub. Other participants include traditional VCs Day One Ventures, Craft Ventures, Matrix Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. Users, including teams at Google Brain, IDEO, Meta, Tesla, MIT, Stanford and Harvard, also contributed to the round. The fact that users are contributing is pretty unusual, according to the company.

Weavit’s new app wants to be a ‘Shazam for your thoughts’

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