The banner view of NotesCloud lets you see many images at a glance.

Bruce Linn was sitting on a surfboard just outside his favorite surf break in Costa Rica when the idea came to him.

He wanted a way to collect and save everything he was interested in — notes, pictures, web pages, what have you — that also made it easy to dive into different topics and share those things with other people. In other words, he wanted something like Evernote, except with better tools for sharing and topic exploration; or something like Pinterest, except with better organization and presentation tools.

He told the idea to his friend Juan Carlos, a wedding photographer. The response was positive and immediate: “Bro, my wedding clients need that!”

So when Linn returned to his home in Mountain View, Calif., he went into his garage and set to work, together with his friend (now chief technical officer and co-founder) Palak Chokshi. About a year later, they debuted their startup, NotesCloud, at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Imagine a tool that is always at hand when you stumble upon or dream up something interesting,” Linn, the chief executive and cofounder of NotesCloud, told VentureBeat. “A tool that takes but a moment to collect, a moment to organize, and a moment to share all the these nuggets as compelling curations that can really tell the whole story.”

NotesCloud uses the metaphor of a multi-section notebook to organize snippets and notes. People can create their own hierarchies of notebooks, sections, and pages as they curate their topics. They can then organize, arrange, present, and explore these notebooks as they fill up with content. Unlike Pinterest or Evernote, NotesCloud’s structured storage metaphor encourages some organization, so it’s not just a “shoebox” full of random clippings.

It’s also easier on the eyes than Evernote, with a rectangular, content-centric approach to design that’s reminiscent of Pinterest and of some Tumblr themes, and also has some things in common with the Metro interface found in Windows 8.

To achieve that look, NoteCloud uses a dynamic layout engine that renders notebook pages in various views, including magazine style, basic grid, or cover note, depending on the content and the device used to view it. It’s accessible from tablets and smartphones as well as desktop browsers.

Notescloud web clipper toolThe tool includes browser-based clipping tools for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, so you can easily save anything that you’re looking at online with just two clicks (see screenshot to the right).

Linn acknowledges that the rapid growth of Pinterest has lapped his own startup’s efforts to get people focused on the “interest graph,” otherwise known as the a company’s ability to track and measure what people are interested in.

“When I first pitched NotesCloud ten months ago and said, ‘The interest graph is hot, look at Pinterest,’ people looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues,” Linn told VentureBeat. “Now, they hear our focus on the ‘interest graph’ and say, ‘But isn’t that what Pinterest does?'”

At DEMO, Accel Partners’ Ping Li was impressed by the service “NotesCloud has a very nice implementation of what making a very complex experience, very easy to use.” Cheif executive of Flite Will Price concured, “It’s beautiful, prettier than Evernote.”

In other words, NotesCloud is going to have a hard time competing with established players like Pinterest and Evernote. But if design matters — and the recent $1 billion acquisition of Instagram by Facebook shows that it often does — NotesCloud is off to a good start.

NotesCloud is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

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Screenshots courtesy NotesCloud.

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