Evernote’s CEO made a sweeping promise Friday: We’ll never use your personal information for data mining and analysis.
That’s all well and good, but data mining is a fairly standard means to generate revenue for Silicon Valley’s tech companies. And Evernote, an astronomically well-funded company with $166 million under its belt, has board members and investors to answer to that expect to see solid return on investment.
Aside from the fact that data mining and targeted advertising is one of the major ways that tech companies make money, this is a particularly surprising guarantee given that the company anticipates massive growth, and is ramping up plans to move into the enterprise.
I caught up with CEO Phil Libin at the annual Trunk Conference to find out more about the company’s guarantee to keep its fingers out of the honey pot. He told me the first criteria is to create a system where users would never have to surrender any private information.
When asked about whether he faces pressure from investors, Libin claimed that they’ve been deliberately selective. “We refuse to do anything in the short term that would give us money but destroy value,” he told me. “Good investors understand that.”
In the interview, Libin hinted at the company’s potential to IPO in the coming years. At this point, he claimed that a buyout is highly unlikely, considering that they have turned down a number of offers.
But Libin would not rule out a potential acquisition.
If M&A is in the company’s future, it would leave user’s data in a vulnerable spot. Evernote is sitting on a goldmine of unstructured data: our day-to-day musings, and most private thoughts.
Libin reassured me that Evernote has already grown so large that it’s unlikely a potential acquirer would fork over much more than an investor (“Why would Google think that we are worth 10 times more than Sequoia does?”).
This isn’t the first time the company has made the promise not to interfere with user data. Evernote makes the guarantee in its terms of service and in company blog posts. “If someone buys us, or if there is some evil CEO without a goatee, we would have to notify users and they can decide if they want to stay or leave,” said Libin.
Ultimately, Evernote is asking you to trust them. “Trust isn’t something you can write in a contract,” Libin explained.