“unicorn” companies — startups that reach a $1 billion valuation before their IPO. IPOs: Initial Public Offerings
Evernote, the first dead unicorn
But unicorns are no longer so rare, and failure is part of a healthy economy’s means of turning over into new ideas and new leadership. With tech in the midst of a wide-ranging boom, there are other, more financially-stable and innovative companies hungry to hire away talent into positions better suited to the employees and the economy as a whole.
Aside from anecdotal stories like the Zirtual mess, unicorns don’t simply vanish over the weekend like Bear Sterns. Unicorns die a slow death as their core products lose relevance, new product initiatives fail, user growth slips away, costs mount, and key employees and talent drain from the system.
After a multi-year period of what can only be described radio silence from Evernote, the company made a change at CEO in late July of this year. Phil Libin, a member of the founding team who had repeatedly talked about building Evernote into a ‘100 year company,’ was departing and handing the role over to Google Glass executive Chris O’Neill.
Aside from Evernote’s success in China, the Evernote of 2012 sounds little like that of 2015. The short-term market conditions that Evernote of 2012 worried about failed to materialize
Evernote competes with Dropbox, Box, iCloud, and Google Drive in cloud storage, Instapaper and Spool in web clipping, and Photoshop and Gimp in image editing as Evernote acquired image annotator Skitch last year. The wealth of established competitors indicate a challenge for Evernote, but also a clear need for its products. Libin tells me he doesn’t see competitors as Evernote’s biggest threat, though.
Most business customers are using other products already that more than adequately address the need of a note taking application. Many customers have long converted to Google Apps, which bundles document sharing (and spreadsheets, and ‘power point’) into a larger, more valuable suite of products centered around Gmail. Microsoft’s OneNote is available for free, and its collaboration tools are available already for organizations running Microsoft’s Office 365.
The most interesting shift away from an Evernote-like model is Slack, which has seen its own meteoric growth into the unicorn club. Slack’s power is not just as a messaging platform; it’s a real, live, categorized and searchable history of business happenings sorted by channel.