Evernote, the wildly popular notetaking app, is taking India very seriously. The company has recently tied up with mobile phone manufacturers such as Spice, Micromax and Panasonic and is on the lookout for a few more partners. Ken Gullicksen and Troy Malone, the company’s CSO and General Manager, respectively, for Asia Pacific, recently visited India and YourStory caught up with them for a quick meeting. India with its growing Internet population is emerging as a strong market for many of the big Silicon Valley-based ventures. Both Ken and Troy are upbeat about the potential India holds for Evernote. In spite of their long flight from California a night before, they were enthusiastic to share their roadmap with us.
Ken is a former venture capitalist, who by virtue of his fund’s investment was on Evernote’s board before he was lured by the team to head corporate development and strategy five years ago. Troy, a former entrepreneur, who was one of the early users on Evernote and then became one of its first developers, before coming on board to run its regional operations.
We found them in a chatty mood despite the early hour and a long flight that they had just alighted, holding forth on Evernote’s own strategy as well as trends in Silicon Valley. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
On India and Evernote:
“India has come up pretty fast in the past couple of years. If you look on a growth basis, that is how quickly we’re adding users, India is actually the third fastest. I think it’s a combination of factors; the general economic environment is definitely improving a lot. But also Internet penetration and growth of the smart phones market is taking off like a rocket ship now.
“We’ve tied up with Micromax, Spice, Panasonic as well. We have some good partners and we’re looking to get some more partners. Many more Indian companies are interested in doing things with us, you’ll see many more such things happening in the future.” “India is definitely a very unique market place, I think it’s very exciting. It’s growing quickly in many respects and that kinda helps our business and the growth we’re experiencing. So it’s really a great time in India.”
On Evernote Product Team:
If you have a team working on one thing, it has to be ONE conversation where everyone is working together very tightly on the same thing…. Each of the developer teams works off the API themselves. So for instance the Android and iOS teams or the Windows and Mac teams, don’t need to have the same features at the same time because they are working independently towards the same API. So one product will get a little ahead of the other one for a little while and the other one will catch up.
For example we have business card scanning in iOS but not on Android, and Android will have the handwriting recognition feature that is not on iOS. The two teams run at different speeds, so not only do you get the efficiency, but also the teams have a lot of passion. The Android teams and the iOS teams love to compete with each other. And the Mac and the Windows teams also compete with each other to produce the best version of Evernote. And that’s really motivational for the engineers.
On Silicon Valley then and now:
If you came to Valley about 10 years ago, basically the venture community was kind of in control of the funding, and every thing came via the Funding community. Everything was centered around the professional investment community. But this thing also has flipped now, and seed funding and even early Series A, up to a few million dollars is driven by things like angle list. And there are many many other individual mechanisms.
What those are driven by: it’s basically a combination of talent and motivation. It’s entrepreneurs who are successful who want to help other entrepreneurs, they want to invest. The investment firms are currently there to scale companies that start. Entrepreneurs have more control over the company than 10 years ago.
And the other thing is the financial capability to start. Nowadays you can launch a product with a very small amount of money. 10 to 15 years ago it took millions of dollars to do the same and get your first customer; now you have to spend only few thousands of dollars to do the same. The equation has changed dramatically over the years. Because of this, there are a lot of people starting up and a lot of success stories are building up. In Silicon Valley, people are ready to help; you will get a massive amount of help. The startup ecosystem in the Valley is very open; entrepreneurs want to see other entrepreneurs succeed.
Why Ken moved to Evernote: It’s a very rare opportunity to play a key role in a company like Evernote. You can always invest, there are always companies to invest in every year and maybe I’ll do that again sometime. But the chance to play a key role like this comes only once in every ten years if you’re lucky. So when you have a chance you have to seize it.
What lured Troy to Evernote: “I was running a startup company in San Diego, it was an online project management of teams. I was an Evernote user very early on. I read one morning that Evernote has released its public API. I already had an idea of what our integration would look like and when my technical team came in, I told the team, guys let’s get this done in one week. And we did that. And it turned out that we were the first company to actually develop on the API. So I was lucky in that regard and we did that integration, we built our collective businesses, I knew the management team at Evernote. We just connected as partners over the next couple of years.”
Soon, one thing led to another and Troy joined Evernote to run its Asia operations in 2011.
It will be interesting to see how the Indian users adopt Evernote; we definitely have lots of notes to pen down.