Last week we wrote about how CEO Phil Libin is financially structuring Evernote to build a company for the next 100 years. He’s arranging investments now in the hopes he’ll have an IPO in 2015 or later that goes slightly better than the tech IPOs we’ve seen in the last 12 months.
But while financial engineering, wise valuations, and bringing in shareholders with a long term view are all important, there’s a little matter of actually building a huge business. Libin is busy on that one as well. Enter Evernote’s announcement today from Le Web that it’s launching a new enterprise product. It was announced in August, but is finally launching today.
It might be tempting to view this as another bolt on — like Evernote’s many product acquisitions of late– or merely part of the enterprise fad that’s sweeping tech. But this may be the product to watch if Libin is going to pull off all of the things he talks about.
Evernote’s consumer product– of which I’m a huge fan– is said to have a healthy conversion rate from free to premium. But few companies have become truly huge publicly traded entities based on that model. And we’ve heard from some people in the industry that Evernote’s conversion numbers are greatly helped by some advantageous deals with Asian carriers that bundle the service on phones. Whether these people stay paying customers remains to be seen.
The enterprise approach is a dramatically different way to get paying customers: By having to sell to them in groups. We’ve also heard that Dropbox is also examining how to build a more robust enterprise product. Both seem to have a little bit of Box.com envy.
Product-wise it makes sense. Like Dropbox, over two-thirds of Evernote’s users are already using it as a work productivity tool. The product would allow large organizations to leverage one another’s “digital memories.” This puts it in the loose collaboration space that Atlassian, Salesforce via Chatter, Yammer, Asana and so many other modern enterprise companies touch from different directions.
The features seem well thought through, although sorting a company’s digital memories will need a pretty powerful UI.
One risk may be that Evernote runs into the same problems that salesforce automation software ran into early on: Salespeople didn’t want a company system to own their leads because that was the only leverage they had. So, too, might individuals not want companies to own their research, facts, contact lists or whatever it is they are storing. I’m not sure I’d want my publication to have all that if, you know, I didn’t own my publication.
The truth is Evernote helps me look smart. Look at this stat on Central Africa I just pulled off the top of my head! Or, Hey! This is a great esoteric wine! Maybe I don’t want to share the work version of that advantage with colleagues.
Fortunately the person who combatting that resistance better than anyone in the industry is a close friend, investor and mentor’s of Libin’s: Marc Benioff, co-founder and CEO of Salesforce.com.