Sep 19, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

From Ina: I'm off today for Yom Kippur, but still in your inbox thanks to the quiet awesomeness of my editor Scott Rosenberg.

1 big thing: Evernote and the folly of forever apps

1950s British Railways poster. Image: 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 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.

2. Amazon's ad business is soaring
Expand chart
Reproduced from eMarketer; Axios Visuals

Amazon’s ad business will bring in $4.61 billion this year, according to a new eMarketer study. That's up a whopping 60% from the projection of $2.89 billion in March — and puts Amazon ahead of Microsoft in its share of the U.S. digital ad market, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: While it's still a distant third behind Google and Facebook, Amazon's share is growing so fast that some analysts argue it could one day catch up with those leaders.

The bigger picture: The news comes just weeks after Amazon surpassed $1 trillion in market value. Some analysts predict Amazon's ad business is growing so fast that it will overtake its lucrative cloud business, Amazon Web Services, in just 2 years.

Strong growth in product search and insight into consumer purchase behavior are what eMarketer’s senior director of forecasting Monica Peart cites as fueling Amazon's recent ad growth.

Go deeper: Read Sara's full story.

3. Angry Birds comes to Magic Leap

Photo: Rovio/Resolution Games

Rovio is bringing its flagship disgruntled avians to Magic Leap in an augmented reality game called Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot.

The details: The game, a joint effort of Angry Birds creator Rovio and VR/AR specialist firm Resolution Games, places structures and the accompanying pigs onto a real-world surface, such as a table.

  • Unlike traditional Angry Birds titles, you can move around the structure and shoot from any angle you wish.
  • The game is set to be made available next month, but pricing and business model details aren't yet set.

Why it matters: For Magic Leap, the move brings a familiar and well-known title to its platform, offering something that those new to the device can pick up and immediately enjoy. It's mostly an experiment for Rovio, but could help the company move further into VR and AR.

The experience: I got a chance to try out Angry Birds FPS during what was also my first time trying Magic Leap. Unlike other headsets, I couldn't just cram my glasses in.

  • Going sans spectacles made both the real world and digital overlay quite blurry. (Prescription options for Magic Leap are said to be in the works.)
  • Even still, I found the game easy to figure out and navigate, and wasn't quite ready to take off the headset when it was time. You can see a trailer here.

What they're saying: Resolution Games CEO Tommy Palm tells Axios that using the Magic Leap is like a glimpse into the future, albeit a bulky, imperfect one.

"I am a very strong believer in this technology. I think it will replace 2D screens eventually, completely. It’s amazing to have the first version of it here even though I wouldn't walk around with it in public just yet."

Fun fact: The game has been in development since January, since the companies have only had their hands on Magic Leap's developer unit for a couple of months.

4. Being Elon Musk

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Elon Musk is a billionaire who's started two of the most famous companies on Earth. He's also single-handedly created a blowback storm that has led to endless bad publicity and circling stock market sharks, writes Axios' Ben Geman in our Generate newsletter (sign up here).

The big picture: Musk faces legal problems on several fronts and is bleeding key talent at Tesla, with newer players eyeing the electric vehicle market and established automakers like Audi expanding their offerings.

The state of Elon:

  • He's under investigation: Tuesday brought the news, first reported by Bloomberg, that the Justice Department is probing Musk's Aug. 7 announcement of (now aborted) plans to take the company private. The Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting a separate inquiry following Musk's infamous Aug. 7 tweet that inaccurately claimed to have "funding secured" for the deal.
  • He's facing litigation: British cave diver Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue the trapped Thai soccer team, sued Musk this week for tweets calling him a pedophile. Those allegations come on top of other instances of erratic behavior by Musk, who admits he's exhausted from a punishing work schedule.
  • Executives are leaving: Chief accounting officer Dave Morton recently resigned after just a month on the job, the latest in a string of departures.
  • More potential rivals are circling: Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund on Monday announced that it's pumping over $1 billion into the startup Lucid Motors, which plans to start producing a luxury EV in 2020.

The other side: You don't have to be a fanboy to think that Tesla remains in a fundamentally good spot despite the mishaps.

  • Tesla has sold more pure electric vehicles than any other company in the world, has plenty of name recognition and — unlike upstarts like Nio and Lucid Motors — has a track record of producing lots of cars.
  • While the stock price has been on a roller coaster for months — dropping sharply after the DOJ news and trading down roughly 20% overall since early August — it has hardly collapsed.
5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Trivia game company HQ Trivia has made a change atop its org chart. Co-founder Colin Kroll is now CEO, with former head Rus Yusupov now serving as chief creative officer role. The news was first reported by Digiday.
  • Mixed reality company Jaunt said that VP of global business development and strategy Mitzi Reaugh will take over as CEO, effective Oct. 1. Current CEO George Kliavkoff is moving on to a major live-entertainment company, Jaunt said, with details yet to be announced.

ICYMI

  • Facebook faces a new lawsuit charging that it allows job advertisers to discriminate against women. A ProPublica study found that recruiting ads for Uber and more than a dozen other companies deliberately targeted men only. (NYT, ProPublica)
  • Salesforce's Quip, which already had a word processor and spreadsheet, has added a presentation app, making it a more full-fledged alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Apps. (GeekWire)
  • The open-source project AMP, Google's mobile article format, is moving to a governance model that's less dominated by Google. (The Verge)
  • On the mind of every retail CEO: the Amazon threat. (Axios)
6. After you Login

Your Fortnite addiction could be hazardous to your marriage. In the U.K., more than 200 divorces are being blamed at least in part on the popular game.

Ina Fried