Sep 19, 2018

Evernote and the folly of forever apps

Phil Libin, co-founder and former CEO of Evernote. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images

Evernote, the popular note-storage app that announced layoffs on Tuesday, was supposed to be a "100-year company." Its promise, often made by former longtime CEO Phil Libin, was to provide a permanent repository for your research and your memories.

The big picture: The company turned 10 last summer and revamped its logo to celebrate. But now its users are wondering whether it will make it through another year.

Here are all the ways Evernote long signaled its intention to be a "forever company":

  • Business depended on users paying for software, not advertisers.
  • It let users export notes in different formats so they'd be comfortable stashing valuable long-term info.
  • Company leaders talked a lot about the long term.
  • The logo was an elephant and it has "ever" in its name.

Evernote launched in 2008 and took off with the iPhone as one of the first great tools to leverage cloud storage. It developed some nifty text- and image-recognition tools and seemed on its way to becoming a major platform for personal data.

  • But more recently it struggled to live up to a billion-dollar valuation and made some costly mistakes, like selling branded paper goods and pivoting to a "groupware" model supporting business teams.

Evernote never went public, which could be one reason it's hurting now.

  • But if it had pulled off an IPO, it would have been even more at the mercy of market volatility and impatient stockholders.
  • Tuesday's layoff of 54 employees is the second round initiated by current CEO Chris O'Neill, who had laid off 47 people shortly after taking over in 2015.

Layoffs aren't always the sign of a "death spiral." They can make firms more efficient.

  • Evernote is still "growing and has a healthy business," O'Neill wrote Tuesday.
  • In an email to staff — obtained by TechCrunch — he said the firm has $30 million in cash and "will exit 2018 generating more cash than we spend."

But one thing layoffs remind customers is that companies are mortal, too. That's got to hurt if your business depends on users trusting you'll be around to take care of their memories.

My thought bubble: I've got 7,998 notes stored in Evernote, collected over a decade. Tuesday night, I exported a plain-text backup. Just in case.

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 51 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins
  3. Reports: Facebook offers up to $5 for voice recordings
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps