Last year, after raising a $50 million dollar round, Evernote CEO Phil Libin said he wanted his company to be around for 100 years. Today, he announced a new $70 million round, giving the six-year-old company a long runway for its 100-year flight. It’s hard to imagine other contemporary software companies sticking around until 2106. Does Evernote have that kind of longevity?
“We don’t think a billion dollars is all that cool, either,” he said, riffing on the fictionalized Sean Parker quote from The Social Network. “You know what’s really cool? Making a hundred-year company.” Today, Evernote announced a new round valuing the company at… yep, $1 billion. Cool.
But the number “1 billion” is starting to sound like Monopoly money in this tech cycle. Let’s deal with the bolder claim. Take it as read that a 100-year company is worth at least $1 billion. $1 billion will be inflated away by then, anyway. The much more interesting question is, Can Evernote last 100 years?
So much of the headline-grabbing software in this tech cycle is built around contemporary conventions. These apps are designed for today’s hardware and social norms. Instagram is a touchscreen smartphone thing, and that’s a form factor of the 2010s.
Likewise, social technology like Facebook is designed for this era. And as we see in the constant freak-outs over privacy, these apps have to push social norms forward relentlessly in order to profit. There’s a tension between the users of these applications and the companies that make them. How long can that possibly last?
An Elephant Never Forgets
Evernote is fundamentally the opposite kind of technology. Certainly, its current suite of applications are contemporary. They’re desktop, tablet, smartphone and Web apps, and they do things like scan paper receipts and clip Web pages. But they all have the same root purpose: to capture today’s data, in today’s formats, and preserve it in your virtual desk drawers.
Can’t you imagine digital documents from today that you’d want to access in 50 years? Maybe you trust yourself to do all the necessary storage, backup and conversion. But paying Evernote to manage it, update it and keep it compatible with future versions seems safer and easier.
Libin told Josh Constine before this deal that Evernote has 1 million paying customers, and that the conversion rate goes up the longer people use it. Once you start putting things in the Evernote desk, it becomes more valuable over time. If that’s how its customers feel, its investors should feel the same way. Evernote’s icon says it all. “An elephant never forgets.”