Back when people actually went into the office, before “work days” were wrought with a constant bevy of distracting Slack notifications, staying focused on your computer was not quite so difficult. Now, working from home makes juggling the responsibility of responding to messages, taking notes, and completing work far messier and less manageable—even for software engineers.
That’s why the wife-and-husband team of Cara Borenstein and Theo Marin have built the web-based app ByteBase, a fast and easy way for software engineers to create and share notes as they work without losing their flow. The couple recently moved themselves, and ByteBase, to Durham from the Bay Area.
Borenstein (ByteBase’s CEO) and Marin (CTO), while working as software engineers for Twilio and Nextdoor, respectively, in 2019, said they noticed many software engineering teams like theirs used a tool called Wiki to keep track of shared documents. But individual workers themselves generally did not actually use the platform for taking notes.
“Something that we found is that everyone feels like they should be updating the Wiki all the time and adding things there,” Borenstein said. “But in reality, what they are doing instead is writing to a personal scratchpad like Apple Notes and constantly copy-and-pasting into Slack.”
Borenstein and Marin surveyed 70 other software engineers and found 90% felt they had interruptive workflows. So they set out to build a less hectic and more manageable way for the software engineering community to take notes.
“We want to provide a tool that fits the way people actually work,” Marin said. “Sometimes reality is messy and chaotic, and we think our notes app should be designed with these times in mind—not just for polished work.”
ByteBase is built to fit seamlessly into the messiness of a typical workday of a software engineering professional—and all of the creative “brain dumps,” brainstorming sessions, and meetings that come with it. Simply typing “q” on the keyboard automatically opens up a new scratchpad—deemed “No Man’s Land”—a seamless way to start taking notes immediately, without missing a beat.
“We use the same keyboard shortcuts that are already familiar to software engineers,” Borenstein said, “because it’s really core to our value proposition that we are a fast note-taking app and because our goal with ByteBase is to help you stay in flow so that you can enjoy your work.”
How it works
Every chunk of text is a “byte,” which makes the notes more modular and manageable, “like texting yourself,” Borenstein said. Bytes in No Man’s Land can later be organized or put into a shared meeting bucket, so someone can indulge in their brain dump without losing flow over logistical organization. Team members can also collaborate live on notes during a brainstorming session by creating a new bucket.
Borenstein and Marin launched the first iteration of the ByteBase web app in April 2020 and after collecting customer data from a couple thousand beta testers, they began charging for the product in August and are continually letting people off the waitlist now, Borenstein said.
ByteBase offers a freemium subscription service for individual engineers and engineering teams. The first 200 bytes are free, and after that the per-user charge is $7 a month or $60 a year. While most of their customers have been individual users or small businesses, Borenstein said they offer additional features for enterprise companies.
ByteBase is currently closing out a pre-seed round led by TechStars Anywhere. The three-month accelerator program began January 25, and Borenstein said they are using the opportunity to focus on product development and adding features to make it more seamless for teams.
“We’re really excited to get to work closely with the other companies who have a lot of similar challenges to what we have,” Borenstein said. “We are looking forward to getting to meet with a ton of other founders, technical experts, product experts, sales expert—all these experts—and just bounce ideas off of them.”