Caterina Fake’s New Startup: Pinwheel, ‘A Flickr for Places (Ish),’ Lets You Leave Notes on a Map

Last June, Flickr and Hunch cofounder Caterina Fake announced that she had raised $2 million from investors like New York’s Founder Collective, True Ventures and SV Angel with an emphasis on consumers and social. If you’ll recall, in November of 2010, Ms. Fake left Hunch, a New York City-based startup she cofounded with Chris Dixon to build a “taste graph” of the Internet, rather abruptly. Speculation was that Hunch’s pivot—away from a consumer destination site towards a platform to power other sites (it was acquired by eBay last November)—was too far out of Ms. Fake’s wheelhouse. “The things I’m good at are building communities, participatory media, places where people contribute things of their own making,” she blogged at the time. Mr. Dixon chalked it up to a “founder-market fit;” other people had other ideas.

Regardless new startup Pinwheel, which launched out of private beta last night, seems to fit her comfort zone. The app lets users “find and leave notes all around the world.” The notes, which are pinned on a specific location on a map, can be both private or shared with an individual or group, as well as organized into sets.

For example, “Every place that you told me that you loved me, circa 2008″ (one of the potential sets Ms. Fake offers) you might want to keep private. Whereas “Find me a Nearby Toilet NOW,” (another example from Ms. Fake) might be a question you pose to a group. There is, of course, a social networking element, with the opportunity to follow both friends and sets:

“And in the future, you will get notifications on your phone from who and what you choose. Following sets is useful, because that friend of yours with the great taste in coffee shops may also have an unhealthy obsession with, say, 1970s glam metal band KISS, and frankly, in childhood you were traumatized by a photograph of Gene Simmons and don’t need to repeat that in your dotage.”

Next on the docket is an iOS version of Pinwheel. Although the startup is seeding community and content in advance, Ms. Fake says she expects the primary experience to be mobile, where monetization would come in the form of sponsored posts, say from a realtor looking to drop a note about its services.

She also anticipates potential deja-vu:

But, that’s like…Flickr for Places!

You said it, not me. Is it like Flickr for Places? Ish. Part of why making Pinwheel is so fun, is so exploding with possibility, is that a note, like a photo, can be a container for all kinds of things. It is the perfect social object. Stories, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestoes can all be put into a note. It is the perfectly constrained, perfectly open thing that you can make into what you want.

What she probably didn’t anticipate is the accusation that Pinwheel looks an awful lot like a little-known startup called Repudo. As TechPP points out:

That sounds nice for sure for many people, but for me it sounds like an echo. I remember hearing it somewhere else. Remember Repudo? Here is how Repudo works-

“Repudo is a platform to handle digital objects in the real world. With Repudo, you can drop all kinds of multimedia such as photos, text, video and audio messages at any location.”

Ouch! Digital objects turn into notes and that’s it. The concept still remains the same. Both Repudo and Pinwheel are location based with multimedia thrown in to the mix.

We think the bigger hiccup might be the mandatory location-based element. Where exactly would you drop that “Every place that you told me that you loved me, circa 2008″ list? And, unless its flooded with content, scrolling around on a wide open map could be an unfulfilling experience. That said, we’d love to see this baked into Google Maps.

In any case, it doesn’t look like she’ll be returning East anytime soon. For now, on its jobs base, Pinwheel says seven-person team is based out in Hayes Valley, San Francisco.

Caterina Fake’s New Startup: Pinwheel, ‘A Flickr for Places (Ish),’ Lets You Leave Notes on a Map