Looking back at Evernote’s fall from grace, it’s clear the problems were already apparent to the company when I sat down to interview then-CEO Phil Libin in August 2013. On the surface, Evernote was on a roll. It had just moved into a new headquarters. It was growing quickly and was valued at $1 billion. And it seemed to be loved by its users. I used it (and still do). But while I have friends who were obsessive about it, Evernote never quite became a critical part of my work routine. Still, the conversation was mostly upbeat, with Libin talking about his vision for building a company that would last 100 years. But toward the end of our interview, he dropped an interesting tidbit that, in retrospect, hinted at the source of what has been plaguing Evernote ever since. We were talking about how Evernote was often lumped in with other companies (Dropbox, Box) that let you share and store files online. He noted that Evernote had many, many, many more features than those other companies (though said competitors would probably beg to differ). He conceded that Evernote had so many features, in fact, that it could sometimes be difficult to explain to newcomers exactly what Evernote was: “What winds up happening at Evernote conferences is that people go and they say, ‘Oh, I love Evernote and I’ve been using it for years and now I realize I’ve only been using it for 5 percent of what it can do,’ ” Libin said. “And the problem is that it’s a different 5 percent for everyone. If everyone just found the same 5 percent, then we’d just cut the other 95 percent and save ourselves a lot of money. It’s a very broad usage base. And we need to be a lot better about tying it together. And I think we have. We’ve got a few things we’re launching over the next few months to help with that.” Evernote had spread itself too thin, and there was no core experience. Though Evernote did, in fact, continue to push out new features and products, they never managed to fix the underlying problem.
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