At San Francisco’s last PandoMonthly Bill Gurley called out Phil Libin of Evernote for his fear of going public. Gurley’s exact words were, “I’d be careful if I were Phil, running around telling people I don’t like the notion of being out there.”
He then went on to use a sports analogy. “Imagine [No. 1 NFL draft pick] Andrew Luck coming out of Stanford saying, ‘You know, I just don’t think I’m going to sign up for the draft’.” Gurley pointed out that if someone did that, they would be laughed out of the stadium.
Well now, Phil Libin’s in the hot seat and got his moment in the spotlight to respond. “Oh my god, I can’t believe that Bill Gurley even knows who I am,” Libin says.
“Second of all, I understand what he’s saying, but what if that basketball player at Stanford was saying, “Hey maybe I don’t want to play basketball because basketball is stupid.”
He went on to explain that he never said he didn’t want to go public. In fact, he characterized it as a moral imperative, since Evernote wants the world to trust it in 100 years with their most important memories. “What I really object to is the IPO as the goal,” Libin says. “The IPO is not a goal. It’s not an exit. It’s not the end. It’s a step…A lot of companies run at that step and then trip over it.” Libin wants the day after the IPO at Evernote to be as much as possible like the day before the IPO.
Libin is not concerned about scrutiny, because he says the company is already pretty transparent. What he’s worried about is the fundamental incompatibility between tech companies and public companies. “There’s no such thing as a short term tech company. Tech companies have to be thinking years into the future,” Libin says. “Public markets are making decisions based on information that are sometimes not even a second into the future.”
Libin also squashed any hopes of an upcoming Evernote IPO. He admitted the company was not ready to go public, and wouldn’t be for two or three years. He foresees an IPO at the end of 2015 at the earliest, and more likely in 2016. He believes it is absolutely his job as CEO to get Evernote IPO-ready. Libin went on:
I hate the new — it’s either Nasdaq or Dow — they’re running ads. Which frankly, I don’t even understand why they’re running TV ads for the stock exchange. But they run these ads with like ballerinas and athletes getting ready and then CEOs putting on their tie. Then they all walk out and go public or something. Man that is hella stupid. That is just a dumb way of looking at it. Going public is not going to be my greatest accomplishment.