Athens' $1.9M Seed Round, led by Caffeinated Capital
6 min read

Athens' $1.9M Seed Round, led by Caffeinated Capital

We raised $1.9M to invest in our vision of building a second brain and a second internet using knowledge graphs and bidirectional links.
Athens' $1.9M Seed Round, led by Caffeinated Capital

Athens is a knowledge graph for research and notetaking. Athens is open-source, private, extensible, and community-driven.

TL;DR: Try our product → join our community → work with our team

Present

Today, we're excited to announce a major milestone. We raised $1.9M to invest in our vision of building a second brain and a second internet using knowledge graphs and bidirectional links.

This is a big milestone for us, so I wanted to take some time today to share where we are now, where we were a year ago, and where we're going.

So today, our new investors include:

  • Caffeinated Capital — investor in Airtable, IFTTT, Clubhouse, Dapper Labs, dYdX, Docker, Triplebyte
  • Y Combinator — investor in Airbnb, DoorDash, Coinbase, Stripe, Dropbox, Reddit, GitLab, Mattermost
  • Kleiner Perkins — investor in Sun Microsystems, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Figma, Uber, Twitter, Slack, Spotify
  • base case capital — investor in Aquarium Learning, Census, FirstBase, BigEye
  • Pioneer Fund — investor in Lambda School, Sunsama, OneGraph
  • 468 Capital — investor in Buoyant, Drift, Cockroach Labs
  • Jude Gomila — founder and CEO of Golden, a canonical knowledge graph; angel investor in Airtable, Linear, Superhuman
  • Rakesh Agrawal — founder and CEO of SnapStream; angel investor in Cruise, Opendoor, Postmates; fellow Rice Owl (though Rakesh double majored and I dropped out)
  • John Britton — founder and CEO of raise.dev; angel investor in Forem/DEV, Homebase
  • Austin Rief — founder and CEO of Morning Brew, a newsletter and media company
  • Packy McCormick — writer of the Not Boring newsletter
  • Other Internet — An applied research organization in emerging technology
  • Daniel Attia — head of research at Prof G Media, Scott Galloway's media company
  • Kevin Xu — writer and entrepreneur-in-residence at OSS Capital, a fund purely focused on open-source
  • Alex Salkever — previously CMO of Linux Foundation, previously VP of Marketing at Mozilla
  • Desigan Chinniah — previously Director of Open Innovation at Mozilla, co-creator of Grant for the Web
  • Sina Habibian — Ecosystem Development at the Ethereum Foundation
  • Eric Lavin — EdTech entrepreneur and investor

We're honored to have these folks join us on our journey. They are builders, thinkers, and tinkerers. They've done this before, so their expertise will be invaluable. But most importantly, they have conviction in this technology and in us.

Past

If you had told me a year ago where we'd be today, I would've said you were crazy. A year ago, Athens didn't exist.

A year ago, I had just been rejected by Roam for not knowing Clojure. I had dropped out of college, turned down a full-time offer from Microsoft, and moved back in to my parents'  house in Ohio to work on startup ideas. None of my ideas had traction, so I applied to Roam.

I couldn't work on knowledge graphs because the main place that was building them at the time didn't want me.

But what if it were open-source? What if anyone in the world could contribute, regardless of who they were and how much experience they had? What if everyone could own and extend their second brains?

If these second brains were open-source, and if we could cultivate a community that valued learning and collaboration, perhaps we could even create a new kind of internet. A bi-directional internet of knowledge streams, as Ted Nelson envisioned at the dawn of the Web.

In one year, we went from zero to hundreds of sponsors and customers and thousands of users.

We went from zero to 2200 members in our Discord, and started hosting community calls every Sunday.

We are one of the fastest growing open-source startups, with 4200+ GitHub stars and 60+ GitHub and Figma contributors.

Those are all just different ways to say we are on our way to creating this vision of a second brain and a second internet.

And because we are open-source, we are so much more than a single product or company. We are a movement.

Future

We are striving towards our vision of building a second brain and a second internet, using knowledge graphs and bidirectional links. To that extent, we are doubling down on what we know best — product and community.

Product

  • We are improving our core desktop experience to be faster, more powerful, and simpler.
  • We are building a web app, a mobile app, and browser extension so you can use Athens whenever and wherever.
  • We are building out a plugin system and API to make Athens the most extensible and developer-friendly knowledge graph.
  • We are building out systems and processes to maximize our shipping velocity, minimize bugs, and clarify our roadmap.
  • We are developing a self-hosted on-premise solution for developers, enterprises, and public agencies. Our first version is already open-source and available for 1-click deploy or self-hosting.

Community

We could not have gotten here without our community of contributors and users. I want to give a special shoutout to Shanberg, who has done most of our good designs and tolerated my bad designs, to put it nicely.

Our users are heroes. Daniel Dauber's cheatsheet has been a critical resource for helping and onboarding new users. Limezy basically become a Product Manager with his post on use cases for Athens on mobile, desktop, and web. Blake said Athens changed his life, evangelizing us to the world.

We are where we are today because of the help along the way.

Open-source means a few things. It means we are privacy-focused. You can see our code and host your own data.

It means means we are extensible. There is nothing more powerful than changing and forking source code — blockchain and crypto folks understand this.

But above all, open-source means we are a community. YC drills it into us every day: talk to your users. Open-source communities are unfairly good at this, because our users are builders and our builders are users.

Some ways we are investing in community going forward:

  • We are building in public — Twitter, newsletters, podcasts — to learn from each other and keep ourselves accountable.
  • We are investing in education — screencasts, curriculum design, technical blog posts — to increase the global number of Clojure(Script) developers.
  • We will continue to do Community Calls for the community. Some of our advisors (who've worked at places like Mozilla, Linux, and Ethereum Foundations) have said they want to join our calls.
  • We are improving our architecture and documentation, and clarifying and investing in Gitcoin bounties to encourage new Clojure contributors.
  • We are cultivating a community to explore the full range of use cases for knowledge graphs and bidirectional links. Sharing workflows, templates, and ideas is critical given that we're just getting started with this new paradigm of thinking and using software.

Team

We've already started growing the product and community teams to achieve the goals outlined above.

Alex Iwaniuk will be joining us in June as our first engineering hire. Alex started at Athens by contributing much needed improvements to the parser. He's written Clojure for over 10 years (Clojure is only 15 years old), and has contributed to both Clojure and ClojureScript core.

John Morabito has joined as our first community hire. Johnny has been active in our community since nearly the beginning. He previously completed his Master's in HCI under Joel Chan. He will be managing and overseeing information channels and operations for the community, while learning design with Shanberg.

And me!

Come join this amazing team. We're still hiring:

  1. Clojure(Script) engineers
  2. a Head of Community and Content
  3. a Head of Education and Documentation

At the end of the day, we're here to augment our minds and society with technology, to build a second brain and a second internet using knowledge graphs and bidirectional links. Athens is evidence that a tool can enable different ways of thinking, seeing, and connecting with the world.

However, when I look back on this past year, I don't think about the technology at all. I just think about the people. Here's to the next year, the people and faces, old and new.

Try our product → join our community → work with our team