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Notes from an audience with Evernote CEO, Phil Libin

Posted by Max Tatton-Brown on 20th June 2012

This week, we were invited by Evernote’s UK man on the ground, Adam Glynn-Finnegan, to a special audience with CEO Phil Libin who happened to be in town for Le Web London – and it turned out to be a fantastic opportunity to hear from the top about the company’s plans for the future (a particularly long future, but we’ll get to that.)

Ever-notable

Evernote is an interesting business, having pioneered the infinite, always in sync cloud notebook concept back in June 2008. Over the years, it seemed to chug along nicely with some deeply devoted fans and fantastic membership numbers but never strayed too far from a simple core idea. Some would say this was a masterstroke it also feels like it gave the company an aura of inertia in ways.

While from the 100 million users, it has been said before that the subscribers subsidise the freeloaders, compelling reasons to make that leap have been pushed only very softly by the company. Just look at someone like Dropbox and its incentivised referral system for a sharp contrast.

Ever-apps

However, with recent launches like the Evernote Food and Evernote Hello apps, this author is certainly starting to feel like its a company with a new lease on life, based less around haphazard scribbled notes and more around functions that use the storage as a back end..

One example of this is related to a question posed at the event about the future of content on the platform. With companies like Instapaper and Readability growing in popularity in a mobile/ on demand world, the opportunity for saving valuable content to digest later seems enormous here – and it’s one tragically mutilated by the default Evernote options for reading your notes back.

Evernote’s answer is Clearly – released previously for Chrome in Dec 2011 but on its way to further platforms in the near future. Building on this, Phil suggested that the company was in a position to not only bring you that content at a convenient time and reformatted beautifully but complemented by smart algorithms bringing in additional context and information. Sounds like a step up to us.

Phil also mentioned the possibilities for doing smarter things with maps and photos – mooted to be turning up later this year.

For-Ever

Perhaps most interestingly, he introduced a work in progress project called Evernote Century – an initiative at the company that is investigating ways to ensure that data you invest in Evernote remains available to you for hundreds of years to come. Inspired by the world of the Long Now team, it’s a noble cause but also belies a smart understanding of a key cultural concern today among a public used to losing the (data) farm every time a laptop dies on them.

It’s also particularly interesting to see just how much the business is focussing on the first half of its name – things like Evernote Century, the elephant branding and his much repeated commitment to building a 100 year company allow it to lead with a differentiator that feels like more than just marketing fluff. Even if only by virtue of making it smart marketing fluff.

Evern-essence

One thing was clear from the meeting – Evernote has some serious fans out there, a community that creates value for it ever day and a growing market proposition. Considering the “data-backend” model, (without a massive announcement from Dropbox in the near future) only Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud represent a similar approach of driving cloud storage app first, and that’s good company to be in.

Forget 100 years for now, it’s just as interesting to consider where Evernote will be in five.

Other interesting facts from the meetup

  • Most development of new features starts on Chrome – then moving to other platforms
  • Automatic transcription is available on Android and there are third party apps that can provide it on other platforms
  • The original Evernote team had a core of developers who worked on the Apple Newton
  • Some iOS app approvals have taken 6 weeks +
  • There’s currently a 100,000 note limit (but this is changing)
  • 70,000 notes is the most any one person has stored so far
  • Phil has just under 10,000 notes