In defense of Evernote, the last great Unicorn

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I have been an using Evernote for the longest time. It has not only helped me digitize and archive my life, it has also helped me simplify many of things which would’ve ended up on a napkin years ago. It helped me revisit ideas and materials years later and helped me rethink of better solutions that I can bring about today.
Evernote which started off as a note taking desktop application moved into the mobile app business. With there huge success they started rolling out many other applications and services that centered around archiving basically anything digital that you come across. They once used to have a plethora of products that used their massive archiving backend but now they streamlined it to FIVE main products;
  • Skitch, which helped you to annotate images
  • Web Clipper, it brought in Pocket like web archiving functionality.
  • Scannable, you could virtually scan any document it would capture your document and archive it with no manual cropping needed.
  • Penultimate was an acquisition that led to archiving hand drawn or written notes into Evernote. These are just to name a few. They have gone through multiple iterations to nail the right user interface and boy! they have the best app designs in the market today.
They have also partnered with multiple hardware vendors like Adonit, Moleskin & ScanSnap and worked on building hardware solutions that enable us to incorporate Evernote into our lives in a seamless way. 
So the $1 billion question is;
Is note taking dead? The answer is No.
Is Evernote the current King of the hill, Yes
Can it remain to be the King of the hill? No
Will there be a new king, No

Here’s why…

With the success of Evernote, every tech giant and start-up wants a piece of the pie. Google started building Keep, Microsoft started building OneNote, Pocket focused on archiving and many many more. Some of the aspects Evernote pioneered while some Evernote played catchup like the latest feature to date, WorkChat. This feature was introduced after the huge success of Slack, Whatapp and Facebook Messenger. Even I tried to take a crack at it with Sermonotes.
What I am saying is, there won’t be just one King instead there will be many Kings.

Why am I writing this?

This article is in response to an article i came across in the Business Insider called “Evernote, the first dead unicorn” written by Josh Dickson. In that article he discusses about how unicorn startups are no longer rare and are bound to be doomed, on how Phil Libin, Founder of Evernote is no longer passionate about leading the business and how Evernote tried everything and became the King of none.
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I read the article and saw how one dimensional his take was. He was hell bent on focusing on only one thing and that was Evernote was doomed and he would go to length to arrange half information to point in that direction. Here are a few such except was;

Evernote knows it. Late last year, the company attempted to roll out a messaging product, Work Chat. I reached out to a number of friends to ask if they had heard about it or used it at their company, with the answer being a resounding, “No and why is Evernote making a chat application?”

 

The product certainly seems to be a flop in the market. Many Evernote users want to remove it entirely from their note-taking software.

Me: OneNote has gone below the 100 mark multiple times while evernotes rankings looks like blips.
Looking at the Y-axis you can see its like comparing apple to watermelons
Showing reviews of evernpte versus snapchat…way to go!, basically reaffirming my watermelon statement above.
Is it really wrong to enter a new product late? Facebook entered the Messenger late, Google entered the note taking game late and Apple entered the TV console game late. How does one entering a new line of business amount to bad business? If I am using the logic of why enter the messenger business, then Apple wouldn’t have moved to the mobile computing business either.
He continues;
Evernote is in the midst of a sizable, prolonged decline in relevance in numerous areas.
On the product side, customers are slowly  beginning not to care about the product, while downloads slip and competitors offer better products, many of them, like OneNote, free.
Me: Classic example of a generalised blanket statement. I do not know where is it stated that customers began to ignore the product.
He goes on;
Glassdoors reviews of Evernote paint a picture of a company suffering internally from the things customers are seeing externally.
 
Me: What! Since Josh went to great length to look at Glassdoor he should might as well start looking at OneNote creators Microsoft’s ratings.

Josh decides to give advice

The lesson for management teams at other unicorns is clear from Evernote: Forget worrying about whether you’re going to be around in 100 years, and refocus on making products that people want that will make money.

Me: Yep! using that advise and hoping no one would innovate Microsoft and Blackberry still would be been a dominant force in mobile computing today. Its all about catching up and staying ahead of the game.

Conclusion

Phil Libin lost his passion and many founders do but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of something. Evernote build great products and is always first to show their presence, like how they were the first to launch their app for Apple Watch. That’s how cutting they are.
To me the whole article by Josh Dickson was very distasteful and felt as though he was with paid to write against Evernote or he wanted to use his write as content marketing for Syrah. I truly hope he he stops connecting the dots with a line while in fact it’s been a part of the curve all along. He needs to see the light very soon because he did try to milk the web stat cow with a Part 2 which no sign of repentence.
“No point trying to convince people who are hellbent on being misunderstood” – Dr. A. R. Bernard

One thought on “In defense of Evernote, the last great Unicorn

  1. Thanks for writing the response, it’s certainly good to have a discussion and there’s many fair points here. Frankly there was very little disagreement around the original article, so I’m happy to see the other side presented.

    First of all, it’s great that you use the product and love it. Many people love it. It’s hard to raise over 1/4 of a billion dollars and not build something many people use. It doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for other people. Whether you use it or not and find it useful isn’t all that interesting.

    Yes, it was presenting the bear case on Evernote. I’m not a reporter, and I don’t have to thoroughly present both sides to the argument. Again, it’s hard to spend 1/4 of a billion dollars and not have something going right.

    The AA charts are not apples-to-apples comparisons. It’s not comparing numbers by numbers weekly ratings of Evernote vs OneNote. Very clearly, ON is going in an upward direction, EN is going the other way, and my post is focusing on long term trends which makes that info relevant. Microsoft was totally disinterested in ON for the Mac and iOS until the past couple years, it’s not surprising EN did better. The point of showing the Snapchat chart again isn’t a direct comparison between the products, and it almost didn’t make it in the post for that reason. I could have subbed in 10 other apps that made the same point. You don’t really address the downtrends in the data though. If EN is doing great, why does the data look like this?

    They entered chat late *with a shitty product.* Apple entered the phone biz late with the best product ever. Google was late to search with a fundamentally different idea on how search should work, and it was better. It’s not a critique of being late, it’s a critique of being late with a bad product.

    “Customers begin to ignore the product” refers to, in part, continued declines in review frequency. Downloads are supported by automatic DLs; I’ve had EN on my phone for years and haven’t opened it so it’s imperfect data. Again, you never really addressed why you don’t find that data deeply problematic.

    How would we seriously go about comparing EN and MSFT Glassdoor reviews? Entirely different companies. I know what a good Glassdoor review set looks like (go look up Slack, Fbook, Uber, etc). EN’s reviews are, for a tech company, a disaster. Again, show me the data where other companies that are doing great have these concerns. Don’t critique my data set without showing an alternative that supports your opinion.

    Finally, as I said back to you on Twitter, we didn’t do it for CM. Honestly we didn’t want the traffic yet, our servers barely made it through. We didn’t even mention Syrah in the post, nor did we write follow up posts to capitalize on traffic (we probably should have). I posted the article once to < 200 followers on Twitter, and it received 0 fav's, RTs, comments, etc. Ex Evernote employees fount it, agreed with it, and shared it. It took over two weeks to go from publish date to the top of Hacker News. If we wrote this for content marketing, we are the worst content marketers ever. Look at our SEO scores, they're garbage – we haven't even looked at doing CM yet (we will, though). Not only was I not paid to write it, we don't even run any ads. So the post cost me money, it didn't make us any.

    I would love to see a post with defenses of the actual data points. You can criticize my techniques or whether I was fair, and that's fine. But there's little meat in your reply that explains why their numbers are where they are.

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