Evernote’s Phil Libin: ‘Line between business and consumer tech is fading’ (video)

1 Nov 2013

Illustration by Think Visual

In five years there will be no such thing as a successful enterprise software company that’s not also a successful consumer tech player, according to Evernote CEO and founder Phil Libin.

Evernote is a note-taking app that works on mobile and desktop devices that enables users to preserve their thoughts, memories and ideas in written, audio and graphical form.

At the Dublin Web Summit this week, Libin told Siliconrepublic.com that more than 80m people around the world use the app, with 20pc of users in the US and a similar proportion of users in Europe.

“I think Evernote is maybe the least original idea in technology,” Libin quipped, referring to the original purpose of computers and smartphones to help people write things down to remember them.

“The vision was to build a second brain that made you smarter every time you used it and it’s not a complicated idea, but a difficult problem to solve but one I could see myself working the rest of my life on.”

Libin said the core Evernote user is someone who struggles with work/life balance. “The modern knowledge worker is someone whose entire happiness is based on how elegantly they can navigate through this flood of information coming at them every day in their personal and work life and we just try to make those people a little happier, more productive.”

Cloud platforms like Box and Dropbox are providing APIs for developers to bolt on useful, productive apps to their services and Libin does not see this as a competitive threat.

“I don’t think they are looking to copy us or anyone else. They are amazing companies with amazing founders and great ideas. There is always going to be some overlap in what we do and stuff that is complementary and competitive, but that’s just true of the world.

“Currently, our most important partners are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, and all these companies work with us on stuff but also compete with us on stuff.

“We refuse to see the world in zero sum terms – being a start-up is not like being a boxer, it’s more like playing music where you are there with other musicians and the interactions make everyone better. So yeah, I think the world is a better place because of companies like Box and Dropbox and Google and everyone else in it, and we’re honoured to be part of that group.”

Libin said there is a definite trend under way in terms of social technologies that companies like Microsoft (Yammer) and Salesforce.com (Chatter) are adding to their enterprise offerings.

“We actually just announced a big partnership with Salesforce.com to fully integrate Evernote. What we’re really seeing is that the line between consumer and business is completely fading and I think that five years from now there will be no such thing as a successful enterprise software company that’s not also a successful consumer software company.”

Augmented intelligence

“Modern knowledge workers are going to demand the same quality of experience everywhere in their lives and so it’s the same people who use Evernote in their personal lives and at work.”

Looking to the future Libin, said Evernote is focused on making products that make people smarter as they use them.

“The real way to think about it is we want Evernote to present information to you that you need to accomplish whatever you are working on before you have to even think to search for it. We think that even though we became famous for our searches, if you have to search for something it has already failed. If we had done our job you wouldn’t have had to search because we would have shown you the information before you even had the thought you needed to search for it.

“This anticipatory computing is a really big trend that we’re all in at Evernote and not just us, lots of companies are working on this and we are going to do some thing really imaginative things around augmenting your intelligence,” Libin said.

Illustration by Think Visual

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years