A few years ago, Rafael Jimenez realized something was missing from the Internet. It wasn’t information. There’s plenty of that. It was missing a system to inspire creativity. “Out of frustration,” Jimenez created Seenapse, a search engine he hopes will help others, and himself, “spark ideas.”
Seenapse lets people share and discover “mental associations.” For example, someone on Seenapse associated Once Upon a Time in the West with the film’s director, Sergio Leone. Makes sense. But another seenapse associates The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser directed by Werner Herzog with Yogi Berra. I stumbled upon that association by searching for “fork.” Turns out that the link between the two is philosophy.
The Web acts a lot like a library. We’ve organized it with search engines, hashtags, and hyperlinks. That makes it great for things like research, but, according to Jimenez, not so good for creativity. “I needed a service or tool that would help me during the ideation process, and nothing out there did what I needed,” he says. Jimenez doesn’t remember where or when the idea came to him, but it was probably on vacation. “My best ideas have always come while taking a break,” he says. Jimenez put his idea for Seenapse in a drawer where it stayed put for a few years.
Prior to starting Seenapse, Jimenez co-founded two digital agencies, both of which were acquired. He also spent two years at Yahoo!, first as Country Manager and then as Co-GM for Hispanic America. During that time, he found himself in a lot of brainstorming sessions. “I became very interested in how ideas come about, and how unproductive these sessions tended to be,” he says. “The biggest insight was noticing that mental associations are the raw material of ideas, and that diversity was key to coming up with really breakthrough stuff.”
Eventually, the idea for Seenapse made its way out of the drawer. Three friends listened and started to work on Seenapse with Jimenez as a side project. “It wasn’t until we had a bare-bones programmed version that I became convinced there was something here.” In January 2014, he and Seenapse’s other three cofounders started working on the site full-time.
Seenapse bills itself as “a new type of search engine, made just for creatives.” That may be true, but it’s not there yet. That’s where you and I come in. With roughly 5,000 people using the service in more than 100 countries, the Mexico City based startup is still in its early days, growing one seenapse at a time. The company has raised $275,000 from two investors to get its inspiration engine off the ground. The plan is to start raising another round towards the end of the year. “We’re very close to release a new version, which is easier to understand and to use. We will be investing in creating more awareness for Seenapse when we launch [the new] version.” The service is free, but a premium version targeted at professionals is set to roll out in August 2016.
“Obviously, there are many different ways to accomplish the objective of making the internet more creative-friendly, but this is the one we believe in, and that we think we can contribute with.”