Rocking the Evernote party

David Barrett —  August 31, 2012 — 3 Comments

I watch a lot of stuffy drama with my wife.  The Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, etc.  A classic recurring scene involves tuxedo-clad upper-class elite mingle with champagne in hand — often the whole story seems to take place in interludes between these parties.  They always look so glamorous and exciting: it’s a world in a constant state of partial inebriation.  It seems so strange and foreign.  But recently I realized: it’s not foreign at all.  Exchange the tuxedos for ironic T-shirts, replace the champagne with vodka, and that’s a classic Silicon Valley afterparty.

They’re called “after-parties” because they’re always after something — typically a conference.  There are so many of them, it’s just so hard to keep track.  A thousand conferences with a million people from all over the world, listening to people drone on about some bullshit on stage, passing out business cards like unwanted free candy.  All that is killing time for the real event: the party after the event.

The problem, however, is there are only so many venues to host a party — and only so many variations on how to give out free booze.  The result is all the parties just sorta blur together.  So when an afterparty comes along that truly stands out — it’s an achievement.  And Evernote’s party certainly stood out.

Evernote is such a great company.  They’re inspirational in many ways — a laser focus on delivering an amazing product, transparent communication around their most prized internal data, and a surprising patience to achieve their current 38M-user success.  But now I can also add: throwing a fantastic conference and an even better afterparty.

I was there primarily because we’re an Evernote partner (and Evernote is one of our favorite customers), so my job was to evangelize the Evernote Trunk (watch me in action here) and model our sexy Expensify fleece jackets.  I’ll admit, I came with low expectations — I’ve already been to that same conference center probably a dozen times before.  I launched Expensify there at TechCrunch 50 in 2008, then demoed again at TC50 in 2009, and then Finovate a couple imes, and then a bunch of other random things.  I figured I’d seen it all.

But Evernote had the place set up nice.  I think this is because Evernote isn’t trying to turn a profit on the conference — they’re just trying to excite users, and they spared no expense.  Great partners, comfy seating, and surprisingly good food.  I mean, take a look at the Evernote logo, and then take a look at the sushi in the middle of the bento box below.  Look familiar?

But the party — dude!  Free street food trucks!  A live rockabilly band!  Vintage arcade games!  (Which is funny, because when I first started playing those games, they had a different name — “new” arcade games…)  I introduced Matt to the joys of Joust, Missile Command, Pole Position 2, Tron, etc.  I mean,  he hadn’t even *heard* of Centipede.  The kids these days…  After a few hours deeper and deeper into the bottomless liquor, then food at some random place in SOMA, and then more liquor, I called it a night as they continued on.

While taxi’ing home it occurred to me that this is what those BBC dramas illustrated, just modernized. Like Bronte’s London, Silicon Valley is built on a culture of partying. Why live anywhere else?

David Barrett

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Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

3 responses to Rocking the Evernote party

  1. 

    Hey Dave – we are a fan of your product and also of Evernote. That said, it is parties like this that make me wonder about the Valley. Do expensive (as this one sounds) “after parties”, fancy custom-embossed notebooks etc etc generate more revenue? Or more users? Would it be more financially efficient to do lead generation and conversion of free users to their paid version via other techniques? How many people did they reach (as a fraction of their user base of 38M)?

    Don’t get me wrong: it totally makes sense for expensify to have a booth / stand there since you would get additional users. And likely the attendees would be good prospects for you. My point is about Evernote and these types events.

    I am sure that it’s a lot of fun to throw cool parties. And this one did sound like a good one. But I believe every company has to ask: what measurable objective did this action achieve and is there a more efficient way of achieving that? The typical response is “you can’t measure user excitement in terms of dollars” or “marketing isn’t only about revenue, it’s about building the brand”. While that may be (somewhat true), I suspect these are ways to justify and there are far more efficient ways to get to those end goals.

    What a buzz kill, huh?

    Nimish Mehta
    (CEO/Founder of bootstrapped company that been profitable three years in a row and growing 50% YOY).

  2. 

    Congrats guys (and Matt, the fleece looks rad!)

  3. 

    I think you’re 100% correct with your skepticism. I’m merely talking about the fact that these parties are so common — I honestly have no idea if they’re positive ROI for the people hosting them. In Evernote’s case, I think a difference is it’s about engaging with their developers: it’s not about first order revenue, but energizing their ecosystem of developers. (And to clarify, the Moleskin notebooks are a new product that will be sold in stores. I think they’re brilliant as it gives Evernote a physical presence in brick-and-mortar stores — screw app stores, go to book stores!)

    In our case, we rarely throw public parties for all the reasons you raise. When we do, it’s usually just to give us an excuse to have a bigger party than we can fill up ourselves. Accordingly, we only measure the value of the party by whether or not we had a good time and chalk it up as an employee morale expense.

    But yes, I agree it’s crazy how much money people spend on these gala events. I don’t know for certain that it’s a waste. But the free booze tastes good nonetheless.

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