Notes can be set as visible to any site user, or just to certain people that you’ve chosen to follow on the site. Currently, notes can only include text or photos, but Fake says this could eventually expand to audio or video clips as well.
As of early last week, only about 1,000 people were using the site, but Fake says tens of thousands of people have requested invites, and Pinwheel is now sending those out.
Jason Hong, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies mobile social technology, sees interesting possibilities for Pinwheel as well as several challenges, including how to gain a critical mass of users and content given the popularity of existing tools like Yelp, Foursquare, and Twitter. “People are still struggling with what, exactly, they’re using this for,” he says.
Regardless, investors are confident Pinwheel is on to something. The site recently raised $7.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Redpoint Ventures, which added to the $2 million in funding Pinwheel had previously raised. Fake’s past success helped, too—photo-sharing site Flickr sold to Yahoo in 2005 and the recommendation engine Hunch, which she also cofounded, sold to eBay in 2011, both for undisclosed amounts.
And, unlike many other Silicon Valley startups, Pinwheel does have a business model: it plans to make money by allowing sponsored notes, something that it’s already testing out.
Redpoint partner Geoff Yang says he liked the notion of bringing an offline activity like leaving notes onto the Web, and he sees the site as the combination of social, mobile, and local trends. “I thought the idea was really interesting—the notion that Pinwheel, in many respects, makes places come alive,” he says.