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Knowledge, as the old saying goes, is power. But when that knowledge is splayed across sprawling, fragmented repositories, it can be difficult for even the most organized individual to join the dots and make sense of it all.

This is something that fledgling startup Logseq is setting out to solve, with a privacy-focused open-source knowledge base that helps people and companies combine all their disparate notes, research, PDF markups, and more into an interconnected system for storing and retrieving information.

With support for markup languages such as Markdown and Emacs’ Org-mode, Logseq enables users to create tasks, manage and store notes or to-do lists, embed pages, annotate PDFs, and create links between all the information contained within, to create a freeflow of information.

Connecting ideas in Logseq

Logseq is entering a space that includes incumbents such as Roam, Obsidian, Foam, and Athens, though in reality it’s looking to supplant legacy knowledge management systems that are designed “skeuomorphicly” to mimic linear systems built around pages, files, and folders. Indeed, Logseq is conceptually more akin to something like a global wiki that stores data “like a human brain” — a graph of nodes consisting of myriad inter-connected concepts. It also supports visualizations based on a graph database, allowing users to express particular tasks and sub-tasks on a graph that shows their interconnectedness.

To take things to the next level, Logseq today revealed that it has raised $4.1 million in seed funding from a slew of notable backers, including the CEOs and founders of companies such as Stripe, Shopify, and Quora.

Logseq in action

Logseq, which users can already access via a desktop app or native iPad / iOS app, can be used to write and connect just about any type of text-based note. For example, it can enhance note-taking for project meetings, through bi-directional links and graph databases on top of simple Markdown files — this can help any participant revisit previous conversations and notes, and use filters to select topics relevant to the meeting.

Also, Logseq touts itself as “local-first,” meaning that it supports storing information in Markdown text files on users’ local machines, which gives them full, unfettered access to all their information. And because it supports Markdown and Org-mode out-the-box, it means that it’s interoperable with other platforms and systems.

Another potential use-case lies in PDF annotation, with Logseq enabling users to highlight a chunk of text on the document and write notes associated with those highlights.

Annotating PDFs with Logseq

So who, exactly, is the intended end-user with Logseq? Anyone and everyone, according to Logseq cofounder and CEO Tienson Qin.

“Individual researchers and consumers at home already rely on Logseq to store complex knowledge bases and personal CRMs,” Qin told VentureBeat. “SMEs and enterprise teams use Logseq to store notes for teams in ways that establish deeply-interconnected relationships to give faster context to new hires, more practical data management, and keep more detailed logs of their collective mental thought processes.”

The story so far

Qin and Co. created Logseq as an open source “passion project” in early 2020, though it has only existed as a formal company for the past year. But in the intervening months, the company has garnered a growing user base that includes developers, researchers, and academics from a host of high-profile organizations such as Google, Meta, MIT, and Stanford.

“It’s a great platform for researchers and academics who are cataloging a lot of information, both in groups and on their own,” Qin told VentureBeat. “Logseq is used by teams at companies who need to better store information in interconnected structures. Logseq’s product is designed to be so incredibly easy to use, that even young children can pick it up and begin exploring.”

In terms of how Logseq plans to make money beyond its existing donation-based approach, the company intends to put at least some of its seed investment toward hiring and product development — this translates into premium features for individuals and companies.

“We’re exploring a Logseq ‘pro’ plan for individuals that would include end-to-end encrypted sync, publishing, an AI assistant, and collaboration, as well as potential for enterprise plans,” Qin explained. “But, first, we’re focused on growing fast by allowing open-source, widespread collaboration.”

Indeed, it’s this open-source foundation that could set the company up well as it builds out a commercial product, particularly in sectors where data ownership and control are a top priority.

“Because it’s open-source and prioritizes privacy, we have an extensive user-base that we do not actively track the identities of, which also speeds up compliance reviews,” Qin said.

Moreover, the fact that Logseq is a community-driven project means that contributors the world over can add (or request) their own features. Qin said that in the past three months alone, the Logseq community has created more than 80 plugins to support integrations with calendars, natural language processing (NLP) applications, and even Readwise.

In the coming weeks, Logseq is gearing up to launch features to better support real-time collaboration, enabling teams to edit notes on their Logseq knowledge graphs concurrently, a little like Google Docs.

“Logseq is great at helping teams work on datasets together — it’s even better at allowing multiple teams to work on the same dataset,” Qin noted. “This is because the ideas and information contained in that dataset becomes naturally connected in a bi-directional graph, meaning organization are not limited just to files and folders, but rather logically, like a brain works, to keep research moving forward.”

Logseq’s seed funding round included investments from Stripe CEO Patrick Collison; Shopify founder Tobias Lütke; ex-GitHub CEO Nat Friedman; Quora founder Charlie Cheever; renowned software developer Dave Winer; Andreessen Horowitz partner Sriram Krishnan; Craft Ventures; Matrix Partners; and Day One Ventures.

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