I’ve been writing about tech startups and new products for 25 years, but next week I start my first job deep inside one of them. I’m joining Evernote as Platform Advocate. For me, this move has been a long time coming.
I started writing about startups exclusively in the first dotcom bubble, in 1998. Over the following three years, I interviewed over 1,000 CEOs in what felt like one-hour therapy sessions. I wrote up most of these interviews as “Catch of the Day” columns for Red Herring. I’d write one, then move on.
It was intellectually rewarding, and I felt it was valuable. But I’ve been wanting to do more for these companies and their teams since I started covering them. I wanted to dive in deep, and see what it was like to work inside a startup that was nurturing a great idea.
For me, the company, and the idea, is Evernote.
There are three reasons I wanted to contribute to this company in particular, from the inside. The first is obvious, at least to people who have been playing the Rafe Needleman Evernote drinking game (take a drink every time he mentions Evernote in a podcast). I do love this product. I’ve been doing all my writing in it for a few years and it’s been keeping me sane and organized. I believe, brother.
But that’s not really why I’m here at the company. It’s the other two reasons.
I strongly believe that Evernote has a tiger by the tail. We are all drowning in an increasing flood of personal data. Emails, social data, contacts, financial information, fitness data, health records, travel plans, family coordination, and so on. It’s overwhelming. Evernote at its core is a platform for storing, organizing, and finding that data. But Evernote as a product can’t, and shouldn’t, be the only way users get to that data. The problem is bigger than one company. The best insights and solutions for users will probably come from elsewhere.
Evernote the platform is a much younger project than Evernote the product. The company has a team of people working on developer relations, a developing API, and an entire conference set up around the platform. But there is a world of untapped potential here, still, to build the platform for storing and accessing personal information. The need for this is going to increase over time as more of our personal data flows to us from online and mobile services, and other connected products. Evernote is going to have to grow quickly to meet the need. I want to help.
The third reason I’m here goes back to what I said at the top: I want to help startups in a way that goes beyond just throwing them public kudos and criticism. I’ve seen more than a thousand companies start and end, and a few succeed, and watching these journeys from the outside has given me a broad sense of what works and what doesn’t. It’s time for me to turn that back towards the startups to actually provide them help when they can use it more efficiently — which is, generally, before they start to pitch to the press.
My job here is to evangelize not just the Evernote platform to the world of developers, but also to agitate within the platform team here on how to make the platform better and more useful, so the developers can do more and better stuff. As far as I can tell, the Evernote developer community already has good relationships with the Evernote platform people, so I’m not here to “fix” anything. But there is, still, a world of untapped potential on both sides, and as Evernote grows, I want to make sure everyone’s getting what they need from each other, and then some.
So what I’m doing at Evernote is launching a new thing, which we call the Developer Voice program. Our mission is to engage with Evernote partners and developers to build the next generation of useful, innovative and successful Evernote integrations. We will launch a mentorship program, and we’ll do events and online content. Whatever the knowledge that developers need, we’re going to help them get: advice on user experience design, marketing, development, fundraising, internationalization, and so on. We’ll give them our expertise and we’ll connect developers with experts from the broader community.
That’s why I’m here. How precisely I’ll be living up to this dream we’ll figure out here at Evernote over the next few weeks. And I promise to reserve some time to do more general writing, on, as before, the people, ideas, and products that I think will be making a difference.
Sound good? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.