exegesis pitch

Nicholas Chen thursday, february 4, 2021
This is a pitch on why investing in exegesis is a good idea.

What is exegesis?

exegesis is a writing platform for networked, nonlinear thought. It has two parts: a powerful writing app with tagging features that allow for unorganized, stream-of-consciousness thought, and a blogging platform that allows you to publish your writings. Try it here.
You are reading this post on exegesis right now!

Is there a market for nonlinear writing apps?

In the past year, a variety of nonlinear writing apps have rocketed in popularity. The biggest names right now are Roam Research and Obsidian, but a variety of smaller players have popped up as well, like LogSeq and Athens Research. These apps have taken off and grown so popular that existing players like Notion have attempted to build similar features into their product (with mixed successes).
Before working on exegesis, I released a proof-of-concept called YANA. It made the front page of ProductHunt, accrued almost 400 users, and put a few enthusiastic emails in my inbox. Because YANA was built with a rudimentary text engine that I wanted to upgrade, I decided to start over - the product of which is exegesis. Though it is not actively maintained, there are still a dozen or so active YANA users.
The space itself is incredibly young - Roam Research was founded in 2017, and brings in over $1M dollars of annual recurring revenue. The other players are even more recent - at time of writing, none of the companies mentioned here (except Notion) have a Wikipedia page. Notion, an older player, is valued a 2 billion. This is a promising market with a lot of room for growth.

What distinguishes exegesis from existing nonlinear writing apps?

I strongly believe tools for thought have leaned too much towards knowledge management and underindexed on enabling creatives. The latest advances in the space - backlinks, transclusion, spatial interfaces, language models/NLP - will be useful for knowledge work, but they will prove even more powerful in the hands of creatives.
Visionaries, artists, and creatives do not want to live in a spreadsheet. They have no interest in writing emacs macros or writing custom JS plugins for Roam Research. They want something like the Macbook of tools for thought - something beautiful and well crafted that gets out of the way and lets you do your best work.
exegesis will be exactly that. Compared to other tools for thought, exegesis provides the familiar interface of a text editor, instead of clunky bullet points or markdown. It is accessible through a browser, and it loads fast. Finally, it just looks better than the competition.
By their own admission, Roam Research are trying to summon the energies of a cult. They have a quality product, but the rhetoric surrounding it is incredibly strange, and there is a steep learning curve to picking it up.
Obsidian.md is a desktop app, and is built around Markdown. Non-technical writers are not familiar with markdown, and are used to the convenience of browser apps.
exegesis offers the familiar interface of Google Docs in a convenient browser app, with the added powers of a networked, nonlinear writing app. For a casual user, interested in capturing and organizing their thoughts, exegesis presents a unique and compelling value proposition.

How will you make money?

I see three ways to monetize exegesis:
The first is to focus in on the notetaking app, and charge a monthly subscription for additional features (I do want to keep the base version free). The second is to focus in on the blogging feature, and enable people to start their own paid networked newsletters (like Substack), then take a portion of those subscriptions. The last is to turn exegesis into a knowledge base for companies.
Of these options, the first two interest me the most. As a browser app with a familiar interface, exegesis has many advantages over existing notetaking apps, and I think it can compete effectively in that area. I also think it would be incredibly cool to enable people to monetize their own networked intellectual gardens.
The last option is less appealing to me personally, and it would be technically difficult (building all the permissioning code for a company's knowledge base, allowing multiple edits, etc. etc.), but it could be an interesting avenue to explore further, and I'm not counting it out.

What makes you suited to take on this challenge?

I studied Computer Science at UC Davis, currently work at Facebook, and have full-stack experience with React, Node, and Postgres. I have been working on nonlinear notetaking apps for almost two years, which is around half the time the space has existed.
Most importantly, I've been a creative my whole life. I understand how satisfying it is to make ideas a reality, and how frustrating it is when our tools fall short of our vision (a bad artist blames his tool, a great artist crafts his own).
I started building exegesis because I've struggled my entire life to organize my thoughts - see Why I made exegesis for more information.
I understand this space intimately, have a personal need for the product, and have the technical capability to build the product - this makes me especially suited to take on this challenge.

Target Users

Kanye West, Don Draper, Milan Kudera, Martin Scorsese (I'm only half joking)


Here is a naked and honest appraisal of investing in exegesis.
Hot space, lots of room for growth
Passionate, technically literate founder who has experience in the space
Unique product with unique advantages
Business vision is not totally fleshed out. I have ideas, but I will need your help developing and refining them.
If you'd like to talk further, please email me at nichwch@gmail.com. Any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated as well.