What I’ll be Doing at Evernote

Posted by Rafe Needleman on 31 Jul 2012

Posted by Rafe Needleman on 31 Jul 2012

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


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23 Comments RSS

  • Mike R

    I really enjoyed your work at CNET. Hope to see more wonderful stuff from you at, as I call it, The Green Elephant

  • J.R. Pitts

    Congrats Rafe, I’ve listened to you for quite awhile. I didn’t always agree with you, but I liked the fact that you, like me, had been around awhile.

    The biggest thanks I would have to give you is that you are the one that got me started on Evernote, a program/platform that I now evangelize to all my friends. EN is a major part of both my professional and personal life, and I can’t describe how easy it has made so many parts of my daily life, but you, of all people, can understand.

    Again, congatulations.

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick

    Rafe, this is super cool. As a journalist who jumps back and forth between journalism and working at companies myself, I am pretty sure you are not going to suffer any moral damnation for this. I really hope you can help build a vibrant developer ecosystem over there; I love Evernote too and think that a thriving list of awesome apps using it is a big opportunity that remains relatively untapped. Go get ’em!

  • Ian Livesey


    Can I plant the seed of making EN two products in one? Business and Personal (as many of us use already) but with a line down then middle. I fire up the app it asks “Work” / “Business” and hides the notebook of the other option you don’ t choose.

    Everything in one place still but different hat on.

  • Jeremy Toeman

    Congrats Rafe AND Evernote – a great product get a great dude. Rock on!

  • Jbell

    Ditto on the congrats, Rafe! Have enjoyed reading and listening to you for years. While I’ll miss you in those roles, I can’t think of a better addition to the Evernote team to act as an evangelist and advocate between Evernote and its developer community. Couldn’t agree more that Evernote is a fantastic application for tackling the unstructured data we’re all drowning in, but there are so many more opportunities out there to expand it’s usefulness and value. Good luck!

  • ant

    Congrats from Spain!!

    And good luck. :DDD

  • Erik Kokkonen

    Congratulations Rafe!

  • Lee Schlesinger

    Sounds like a great gig – congratulations and good luck.

  • Rafe Needleman

    Thanks, everyone! Can’t tell you how excited I am to get started at this gig (I start Monday 8/6). I love the product and the team is super-cool, too. Am really looking forward to getting to know the developer community and doing what I can for it.

    Marshall, thanks for the note about the journalism/product side division. I’m not worried. I had a mission working for CBS and media companies before it, and I have a mission at Evernote. I’ll be transparent about the mission I’m serving when I do my job, and also when I write or podcast, which I will continue to do.

  • Howard Sobel

    Congratulations Rafe! Evernote is a great product and I use it every day. Like you, sometimes I don’t know what I would do without it. I’m sure you will be a great asset to the Evernote team. After all these years I’m sure it will be great ride to be able to see things from the other side of the product lens.

  • Rich Dailey

    Boy is this great or what?!

  • Jerome Pineau

    Do you feel that “pitching to the press” is still relevant in the current WOM environment we live in?

  • Daniel

    Does this mean I can stop taking a drink everytime you mention Evernote now?

  • Sandy Pilares

    I listen to the Evernote podcast that is done intermittently now, at best. it could use some of your expertise….
    I will greatly miss you at CNET and would LOVE if you could use your podcasting skills to help the EVERNOTE team with THEIR podcast!
    Good luck RAFE!! I have played the drinking game and am very much aware of how much you like EVERNOTE. The could not have hired a more perfect person than you for this role!!
    Your friend and fan…

  • Jim

    When all is said and done a lot more will be said then done.

    But Evernote does more then said.

  • Sim

    with all respect, before you guys evangelize and agitate and whatever, would you just do what the premium members wish?
    – skitch for windows
    – highlighting!!!
    – unfixed evernote clearly chinese font in non-english firefox

    I think happy premium members can spread the word too….

  • Adam Horne

    I’ve really enjoyed Rafe’s commentary on CNET for years – he’ll be a clever, analytical addition to the team and I wish him all the best. A good move towards building a 100 year company.

  • Diane T.

    Sounds like a fabulous opportunity for you both. I use EN to organize the spectrum of info flowing in all day, every day. My favorite aspect is compatibility with different formats: voice notes, web clipping, attaching existing documents, etc, Working in outside sales, I’m on the move much of the day and love the accessibility of my collection! Here’s to your EverSuccess! I’ll be listening.

  • Travis Van

    That’s rad, Rafe. The platform play sounds open ended and exciting. I’m sure you’ll kick ass.

  • Mayo

    Rafe, u succeeded on CNET. There’s no doubt EN will go places with you. A big congratulations to u & EN team and wishing u mission accomplishment.

  • Buzz Bruggeman


    Congrats! It will be a great adventure for you. Great product, great team, can’t wait to see what you do!


  • Robert Oschler

    Congratulations Rafe! You could not find a better company to work with and your new position proves to the world that Evernote is upping their already exemplary developer support to brand new heights with Developer Voice.

    I can see the first column now, How to AutoTune your Developer Voice projects. 🙂

    — roschler