5 Business Lessons From the Failures and Current Struggles of Evernote Corporation

Evernote is a cross-platform app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving. It is developed by the Evernote Corporation, a private company headquartered in Redwood City, California. The app allows users to create a “note” which can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten “ink” note .It is available in a paid version or a more restricted free version. Use of the online service is free up to a certain monthly usage limit, with additional monthly use reserved for Plus subscribers, and unlimited monthly use for Premium customers.

Nowadays, the gospel of entrepreneurship seems well-preached and almost everyone, including employees of organizations, is beginning to consider it safer to have their own business startups. But while it is justifiable to make such decision, it is also very important to learn from already-existing businesses so as to have a safe-landing as well as secured future income.

Evernote started as a very promising company with $1 Billion valuation in 2011. That year, Evernote passed 30 million registered users, brought its total funding to $270 million, and seemed like a guaranteed candidate to hit the public market in the coming years. What went wrong?

Despite reaching 150 million registered users in year 2015, the company has been slow to develop the revenue side of its business and is struggling trying to reduce its cost. The company has also laid-off roughly 18% of its workforce in the past nine months, and said it will shut down three of its 10 global offices. Earlier this year, it replaced its long-time CEO Phil Libin with former Google executive, Chris O’Neill.

There are a number of lessons to learn from this case. So, before you take a leap into entrepreneurship, find the following lessons from Evernotes failure useful:

1. Set Priorities Right

Several former employees believe a lack of focus hampered Evernote’s growth. Instead of focusing on its core note-taking product and on converting users to the paid service, Evernote spent more time releasing a bunch of new products and features that only helped it grab news headlines.

Many startups fail because they were just results of the euphoria to start something. It is very important to specify the aspect of business you want to focus on in the beginning so as to avoid the shame of being ‘jack of all trade’ which might only lead to no success at all.

2. Brilliant Strategy

Evernote originally grew users quickly by following the “freemium” model, in which the product is offered for free in the hopes of eventually turning those users into paying customers. The problem is not that they failed to attract users but that they did fail to convert them to premium as most of the users have not converted to the paid service, taking a toll on Evernote’s overall business.

While it is commendable to offer a free service, like many bloggers do, it is more important to have strategised how profits would come in the long run since costs must be made up for. Hence, ensure that your free service can be converted into a paid one as this would make a brilliant strategy.

3. Friendly Customer Service

One Evernote app user lamented saying “I saw the value of what they did but they didn’t show me how to use it in simple terms”.

In business, customers need to be spoon-fed an easy use of your product or on simple ways to benefit from your services, depending on whether it is a product or service-based business.

4. Offer Good Products and Render Quality Services

Evernote has not made good products for a long time. It fails to even do one thing great, and instead tries to make up for it by doing a number of other things poorly. In 2014, the company attempted to roll out a messaging product, named, Work Chat. The product certainly seems to be a flop in the market. Many Evernote users want to remove it entirely from their note-taking software as WHATSAPP and BBM are already available.

The lesson to learn from this is clear: Forget about doing just adopting other people’s idea and focus on making products that people want and that will make money.

5. Be Passionate

After a period of what can only be described radio silence from Evernote, the company made a change of CEO in July 2015. Phil Libin, a member of the founding team who had repeatedly talked about building Evernote into a ‘100 year company’, departed and handed the role over to Google Glass executive Chris O’Neill.

Hence, passion is vital to whatever business you chose to embark upon. When you try out some experiments in the course of the business, failure might result. But with passion, your business keeps going.

In conclusion, you too can make it big both now and in the long run, if only you take to heart the above business lessons that could serve ‘a lamp to your feet’.


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