My Evernote Conference 2013

The Evernote Conference (EC 2013), which happened last week (Sept 26, 27) in San Francisco, was not my usual conference. Typically I go to events that are mostly or solely geared around software development, that I’ve heard good things of directly from friends or colleagues, and where I know I’ll come across a few people I know. EC 2013 had none of these. So why did I go? And how did it turn out? I’ll give you the skinny – I didn’t get quite all that I hoped, but got more than I expected. For more, read on.

I’m in the early days of starting my own business. I’m a big fan of Evernote both as a basic app and as an integration platform. It fulfills a number of needs for me – organization, planning, content archiving, ‘read later’ items, list sharing (with my wife), etc. It’s also the backing platform for my journaling app – Orinoco. In Evernote’s first 5 years of existence it’s been very successful in its own right but the third-party application and integration ecosystem has in my mind been surprisingly sparse. I see this as an opportunity.

I went to EC 2013 with 3 main goals:

  • Get a good idea of concrete numbers of active Evernote users and Evernote Business customers
  • Get a better understanding of Evernote as a company – are they a group of people that I believe can continue to produce a platform successful enough that I want to build on it?
  • Networking with Evernote employees, other 3rd party developers, and potential customers for any business focussed work I may pursue

EC 2013 was Evernote’s 3rd annual public conference. The first 2 were primarily developer focussed but this year they opened up the theme to be much more user oriented. There were plenty of developer sessions though, and Evernote’s app competition – Dev Cup – was a big part of the event.

The morning keynotes each day were mostly geared around product launches. The first day’s was consumer focussed (including somewhat strange launches for Evernote-partnered bag manufacturing as part of the new Evernote Market), the second’s business focussed (centering on the new Salesforce.com integration.)

The evening keynotes were both fascinating on one hand (Chris Anderson talking about his drone company 3D Robotics) and disappointing on the other (David Allen giving an overview of the thinking behind Getting Things Done, without adding anything significant that couldn’t be understood from his 10+ year old book.)

There were some decent breakout sessions. Evernote’s own Seth Hitchings gave a good ‘State of the Platform’ talk, giving some useful data of where things stand with the Evernote Platform (the central storage / search / synchronization infrastructure that all Evernote and 3rd party apps integrate with), plus also some useful announcements of things that are coming (support for reminders from the API; allowing users to give 3rd party apps access to only part of their Evernote account, etc.) Julien Boëdec (partner integrations manager at Evernote) gave a great, concise, workshop session on Evernote Business integration which included some descriptions of some actual 3rd party integrations with Evernote Business.

My favorite part though was, as is common with me and conferences, the time between the sessions chatting to all different types of people. I met a good number of Evernote’s own employees (I’m pretty certain that most, if not all, of the company were there) including a couple of product managers, developers, their head of business sales, developer relations folk, etc. My takeaway from all of those conversations was that Evernote is built on a bunch of enthusiastic, smart, decent people. As an example I spent an enjoyable and enlightening hour or so with one of their developers chatting about various API concerns.

So what about my original goals?

  • Evernote have 75 million registered users. Unsurprisingly, but disappointingly, I couldn’t get a concrete number for active users but I did hear something from someone that said it was in the 15 million range. I didn’t get any detail if that was monthly, annually, or what. I’d really like to know how many people access Evernote at least once per month. 7900 companies have bought Evernote Business, but they weren’t going into much more detail than that (I’d like to know how many have at least 20 users, at least 100 users, etc.)
  • As I said above all the people I met from Evernote came across as smart and enthusiastic. They are also capable – the new iOS 7 client was a complete re-write, going from conception to delivery, on a pretty new iOS platform, in 3 months. I dread to think the hours they were pulling to make that happen (their iOS dev team is not big) but that’s still damn impressive.
  • I’m not as gregarious as I could be but I still met plenty of folks there across the 3 categories I was concerned with.

That adds up to a decent result. Not perfect, but good.

What I also got though, and that I didn’t expect, was a really good feeling I’m on the right track. Of course everyone at the conference was an Evernote enthusiast but this is product, and platform, that has massive appeal across a broad swath of companies, individuals and technical savviness. I showed off Orinoco to a bunch of people and the feedback was universally positive. Either everyone is super nice when they’re on the west coast or this is something that shows promise.

I still don’t know the precise focus of where I want to end up (that’s what iterating is for, right?) but what the Evernote Conference showed me was that building off their platform ain’t a bad place to start.

(cross posted at http://mikeroberts.postach.io/my-evernote-conference-2013)

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