notes from Chaotic Good: The Right Alignment for Your Company,
with +Phil Libin
, Evernote CEO (as interviewed by+Robert Scoble
DISCLAIMER: Loved this session, took way too many notes. Introduction with Scobleizer:
- Scoble mentions the book: http://scobleizer.com/2012/07/17/the-coming-automatic-freaky-contextual-world-and-why-were-writing-a-book-about-it/
- The age of context.
- Evernote will be used in Google Glass
- Data points, becomes information (data + analysis), becomes wisdom (data + information + context).
- "Wisdom: an elegant way to live your life productively."
- "Sensors and ambient context is going to do for our cognitive abilities what fire did for our sensory abilities."Chaotic Good: The Right Alignment for Your Company
"Everything I ever need to know about business, I learned from playing Dungeons and Dragons as a kid."
* The Importance of Having an Epic Quest: something worthy of your time, and your team's / friends' time.
- The more you pick a quest, the easier it is to ask others to come along with you (team, investors, etc.).
- As soon as you're not on a quest anymore, just making $ or having a business, it will all fall apart.
- These are the central cores Phil applies at Evernote.
* While the Obama campaign may be 5-10 years too old to have played D&D, the next administration will probably have played it ... This generation has gone on to start companies, and really succeed.
- Phil's excited about it; thinks it will be a good period in our country's history.
* GOAL: Build an 100-year startup. How can we build a hundred-year startup?
* Selling 2 companies felt good, but it wasn't satisfying. "Let's build a company we want to keep."
- "Not only will it be around in 100 years, but it will still be a startup in 100 years."How?
* Follow the main system of D&D: alignment
- Everything each character does, has a purpose / goal / vision.
- Alignment concept is central for business success.
- Includes: founders, employees, customers, investors, users, partners, community.
- Every decision made, asks, "Does this help align interests or create a conflict of interest?"
* What to keep in alignment?
- Business Model: It must be simple and direct.
-- If the biz model / product is more complex than the idea, focus is going in the wrong place.
-- Evernote Example:
1. More people sign up.
2. More people stay (negative churn—people come back often because of the value of notes, and when they come back are often happy with the updates made).
3. More people pay.
"It's more important that you stay than that you pay."
- Example: Apple. "Every time I go to the Apple store, I want to buy something."
"A simple and direct business model eliminates customer and partner conflict."
- Evernote has no indirect revenue (ex. advertisers).
- Therefore, they don't have to serve two masters. It's direct.
"Disruption is a side-effect of successful entrepreneurship, it is not the goal."
* "I call bullshit on the whole idea of disruption ... I don't buy it, I don't believe it, it's a side-effect, not a goal. It's not the right way to think about it."
- EX: Ford, Facebook, etc. are about creating far, far more value than existed beforehand. Not destroying what's already there.
- EX: iPod disrupted the mp3 industry; the value created was in no way proportional to the value "destroyed." Then others tried to compete (zoon, rio, etc.) and were trying to take value away from the success, not create more value on top of it.
"Refuse to play the zero sum game."
* For entrepreneurs we should refuse to play the zero-sum game. It's a very powerful metaphor that's deeply embedded in our culture. It's applied to politics, business, sports, etc.
- Thought: the only way for me to win is for you to lose. This is a fundamentally wrong way of thinking; you don't have to play it.
- Not saying you have to be a nice guy, but the goal is betterness. I succeed, you succeed, millions of us succeed together.
- This is how Evernote thinks about competition.
- EX: The main alternative to Evernote is leading a miserable, unorganized life. Phil's always had a "nemesis," and not once did it make a difference. It's not the case with Evernote. Focusing on the competition never makes a difference / matters.
* Economist Cover ... "Survival of the Biggest: The Internet's Warning Giants"
- Cover w/ Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon (Microsoft)
- What's wrong: the history of these companies, and state of the industry, is far more about building on what these companies have done / collaboration.
- There's huge competition, but there's huge build between this interconnected world.
* A Culture of Design: A Design of Culture
- For Evernote, it's an idea like this ^ that permeates every idea and corporate culture. "Measured over the life of the company, the culture is the product."
* The culture you have is the most important thing; designing the culture is ultimately the way you align threads and interests.
* 26 different versions of Evernote.
* A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." - R. W. Emerson
"When you stive for consistency, you achieve it though mediocrity."
- Everything's is mediocre / crappy.
- Shoot for excellence rather than consistency (every app, every platform).
- EX: Of course our android / apple platforms are inconsistent—because that's what works best for each platform / user who has already chosen their method to use our service."
-- Yes, it's more expensive, but what you get is alignment with the user. Best possible UX.
-- It's what the user wants, it's what the phone makers want, it's what the carriers want.
-- It puts all users in line (indirect); cut our marketing costs and put it toward product.
-- "Make something great vs. pay people to talk about something that's better than it actually is."
* GOAL: Make Evernote so good on every device that it feels obviously correct. Consistency is an emerging property, not a goal.
"Great products aren't neutral, they have a strong point of view."
* Must align investor expectations upfront.
- When saying "we don't want an exit," we're separating liquidity and exit.
- Need to raise multiple opportunities / rounds of investments so those who want to sell can.
- Goal: on the day we go public we want most shares of those who will sell to have sold 6 months ago...
"For Evernote, an eventual IPO is a moral obligation."
- If we're going to ask the world to trust us with our most personal work / world notes, we need to reciprocate.
- IPO will happen, but not yet.
- Why? Because "there is no exit strategy for you life's work."
-- If you're doing something less than your life's work, you're selling yourself short.