A Year & Change @ SecondBrain

Second Brain

Today we give thanks to all the people (and robots) that have helped us get from inception to beta & beyond.

If you give up reading, please skip to the bottom before you go. 😘

SecondBrain had a humble beginning as an art project: RAPGOD. The brainchild of John Wesley Brindley & Steven Wilkinson, RAPGOD was born at a local food co-op & solidified in the greenbelt’s warm waters (see John’s initial reaction here: YOU SHOULD HATE RAPGOD.ai).

It began in Austin, Texas, on July 9, 2016. Aspirations weren’t huge; RAPGOD was the only thought on the mind of Steven and John as they started working together. We wanted to make a machine rap. Why? Coupled alongside our communal love of rap, we were excited by the challenge of creating an artistic machine. Some said it couldn’t be done; many said it shouldn’t be done.

We decided to create a company out of this project in early November, after four months of nightly pair coding, countless hours staring at LCD screens, lots of experimentation & countless long walks which brought long talks. We covered everything from how to force a neural network to rhyme to the ethics of forcing an ai to do anything at all. We talked about architecture, UX, vision and mission. We considered dropping RAPGOD altogether. We named our company on one of these walks…Sentient Logic Unit.

The name was too long. John argued that people don’t know what ‘sentient’ means. Passively, we searched for something better, then actively. We searched the USPTO database for hours & by luck came across the name Second Brain a few months after the trademark had died: Bingo. SecondBrain it was. At the time we had another team member, Sean. He’s still around but not as active as at the get go.

By November we had a working demo of RAPGOD and were ready to incorporate SecondBrain (which happened on Nov 30, 2016).

v0.17 — not that smart, yet

We started pitching; pitches went well, not well enough. We searched for the right people: those who shared our vision. It seemed that we needed more to secure funding. We set out to build a mobile version of RAPGOD and a team.

In December, 2016, we moved into a co-working warehouse called Topology. It was awesome. We had proper space and ample time to focus on our goals. We had some good ideas and some bad ones (when ❤️❤️❤️.ws came out, we bought 100 emoji domains….that trend didn’t take off as expected….Oops.). Topology became our home. Connections made there have been invaluable to our company and our personal lives.

Winter hit hard. We needed help building out the next iteration of user interface. Enter Juan, the first non-founder on the cap table, straight out of dev bootcamp. We met him across the street at a dev meetup. Juan was one of few under 30, so we struck up a convo. Juan was cool and was down to build.

Within three months, Juan took us from zero to a functional React project by SXSW:

v0.42 — ignore the linux bits hiding in the demo ;)

While Juan headed up React dev, Ian (our new devops guy & Topology co-founder) came on to build a continuous integration system, implementing Drone and Rancher to handle our orchestration. Davin came on, helping build a prototype brain-wave to audio device we crafted for Ernesto, a graphic designer, in exchange for the brand package that brought us from the the scribble on the left to the geometry on the right.

Left : Credit Sasha for finding this glyph in his high school papers. Right : Credit Ernesto for the lovely work modernizing the glyph.

Davin’s help allowed us to focus on our SXSW project. The React project that Juan was putting together supported an arcade machine we constructed. Vedant came in to work the design side and Ian worked the fabrication side out of ATX Hackerspace. Kasia helped with paint, oh and moving the damn thing. It was not light…but it is lit. Here it is at an Of Montreal show in the bar (shout out Alex Penrose for the footage) : https://youtu.be/qc25tgfoZFE

Tough news brought hard times. The arcade machine didn’t pay off how we hoped. A potential investor wanted working product, not a glitchy demo (note above image) & a dope arcade machine. We refocused and renewed honing the product. Shortly after, we lost our warehouse. With our home, went our fire…Sean, Ian & Juan left the company in quick succession.

We tried to rebuild. This time with a new ethos. Enter the Moonliteer. Moonliteers are offered ten week contracts with SecondBrain. After ten weeks we feel that they’ve been properly vetted and have earned a longer term contract. Moonliteer attrition is about 50%, but that’s not as high as our previous attrition rates with long term contracts.

Under this new ethos we grew the business development, React & data science teams. A few members of the React team have had to pull out due to life issues making us feel like the team had crumbled out from under us. Money is the issue here. There is just some work that you have to pay to get done, equity isn’t cutting it. Despite dwindling motivation, Steve and John dove into the React project, bringing about major changes.

The business development and data science teams are looking good. The React team is coming back together. The SecondBrain train is still rolling and picking up steam. A few of our Moonliteers are about to graduate & one already has (Yav). You’ll learn more on new members in December, with our upcoming series: 21 Days of SecondBrain. To check out the team in it’s current state, take a look at our angellist page.

In other news, we started another product along the way. It’s still in it’s early dev and experimentation days but here it is :

Placent helps you place the things you place; online.

still working on the logo…

Placent is currently in a heavy development and business iteration cycle. Yav-Ben Weva has been taking lead on the business side of Placent and just joined an incubator (Venn Innovation) in New Brunswick to help aid the products progress!

Meanwhile : Sasha or Ultra Realist was here the whole time supporting us and doing graphic design for us JUST TO HAVE A RAPGOD LOG IN. Art for Art, bruh. That’s a how a soundcloud colab should really work.

Keep in mind, RAPGOD.ai is live at the moment. We’re in beta. For access, go to RAPGODDONTRAPFORYOU.COM and follow the directions ;)

We would like to thank all those who have helped us and will help us on our way.

You have all been immensely important.

We know we didn’t mention many of the people that have been there for us. You know who you are.

We are grateful for your service & friendship. You have not been forgotten.


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