Evernote and Cisco?

by Dave Michels

The story and predicament of Evernote is fascinating. The company should have gone out of business long before – and almost has several times. It was way ahead of it’s time.

Evernote is one of my essential applications. I use it everyday on all of my devices – and I am a Premium (paid) user.

A short recap of its history is that it was an early “unicorn” (a startup with a +$1B valuation).  It was one of the first major business apps that used a freemium model. Recently the company announced an 18% layoff and that it’s shutting down three offices. These actions are coming from its new CEO Chris O’Neill who recently replaced long-time CEO Phil Libin. Many people are prematurely writing Evernote’s obituary. I view the change in leadership appropriate and I’m optimistic that new focus will get Evernote back on track soon.

Phil Libin did some great things at Evernote, but admitted himself that his heart was no longer into it. While many are pointing at the leadership, I think it’s important to note that the market Evernote created has changed.

Evernote had to educate the pubic what a notetaking app could do. When I first learned of Evernote, most of my notes were still on paper – I didn’t get it. Then came digital notes, and then came mobile devices, and then came mobile cameras. Evernote nailed multi-device synchronization very early. That may sound trivial now, but up to about a year ago Skype was still alerting me of new IMs on my PC even though I had already read them on my notebook. Digital note taking matured and competitors arrived. There are lots of note taking apps available today, including Microsoft OneNote, Apple Notes, and Google Keep.

The pioneers get the arrows – just like DropBox is now fending off 1Drive and GDrive or how Pandora is fending off Apple Music.

Even more recently note taking evolved into a collaborative activity. Evernote added shared note taking and also shared presenting. But Microsoft is tightly integrating its OneNote application into its products including Skype4B and the new Surface Hub. I’d like to have all my notes in one place, but I’ve got OneNote notes for these reasons as well as for drawing on my Surface Pro 3. Evernote has hand writing apps, but has not supported the stylus on Windows. I’ve never used Google Keep, but do have lots of shared notes in Google Docs because they are a great way to team note-take during a conference call.

Microsoft and Google have note taking covered – but it is a hole for Cisco. An alliance (or acquisition) with Evernote makes sense. As a ‘unicorn,’ Evernote may be too rich for acquisition. On the other hand their value is dropping. Acquisitions are not the only way to partner either. Cisco could take an equity stake or just simply partner as it recently did with Box and Apple. Bottom line is Evernote also needs a partner, especially one with enterprise cred.  There’s plenty of synergies. WebEx, Spark, and Evernote are all freemium, cloud services that happen that could be more powerful together than separate.