Evernote and Getting Too Big for Your Britches

This week we got the news that Evernote has laid off most of its US and Chile-based employees. The Italy-based parent company, Bending Spoons, is folding whatever it got from buying Evernote into its Italian operations.

What an ignominious end.

For many people, Evernote was that crossing point where they discovered the cloud could be a source of truth for their data. Evernote went off the rails when they tried to expand their product offerings and took the eye off the ball on what they were really good at. They went from a lightweight, nimble, and reliable cloud notes service to something big, bloated, and broken. (I also still think their data model that locked users in—I used to call it a Roach Motel—also played a role.) Even though I never particularly liked or used the service, I am a little sad about Evernote’s demise.

One story I see repeatedly in tech is a company that has a good idea and gets big in its space but then fumbles when it tries to leverage that success to something much bigger in an entirely different (and usually much larger) space. I get the idea of wanting exponential growth, but would the green elephant still be alive today if Evernote had just focused on what they were good at and ignored the idea of exponential growth?