Evernote’s executive chairman Phil Libin has landed another job: venture capitalist. He will be joining General Catalyst Partners on Monday as a partner, and will provide mentorship to founders, encouraging them to focus exclusively on their product.
News of Libin’s involvement with General Catalyst came out early Tuesday and has since been confirmed. He will remain part of Evernote, but as a full-time investor, Libin also wants to help build early-stage companies. Jokingly, he told VentureBeat that he wants to emulate LinkedIn cofounder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman.
He hasn’t figured out what specific areas he’s going to focus on, however, Libin did tell us that he’s passionate about the front-end experience. It’s not an issue of whether your service is for the consumer or enterprise space, but rather about the application layer: “How do you do substantive work?” He said that he could make investments around the productivity space but may find himself in other areas as well. “I don’t know what I’m going to be good at,” Libin admitted.
Having stepped down as chief executive in July after having spent the past couple of decades in leadership roles, Libin has been thinking about what he wants to do next. “When I had a few months to think about my next stage, I realized I wanted to start a bunch more companies,” he said in a phone interview. “I definitely want to be at the start of things.”
His original plan was to take up to a year off to figure out his game plan, and he initially didn’t take the idea of being a venture capitalist too seriously, even though he had been angel investing for a while. Then General Catalyst came into the picture, and Libin said the firm “gave him the best of both worlds,” meaning that he could help incubate startups, but without taking on a primary leadership role. He had co-invested with General Catalyst in past deals, so they weren’t exactly strangers.
“He’s a kindred spirit,” said General Catalyst managing director Hemant Taneja.
“It’s about finding great products and not focusing on different parts of the company. In the world of mobile-first applications and the cloud, Phil’s an expert in it. If you think about application-based businesses, Phil has written about it and scaled one of the biggest companies in the era…I love the fact that he’s going to be executive chairman of Evernote. You’re living and breathing what [startups] are going through. It’s a peer relationship. [General Catalyst’s] workstyle is not about going into companies as board members and judging them. We view ourselves as extensions to them.”
By bringing Libin onboard, the firm now seems focused on establishing residency in Silicon Valley. Though it’s primarily based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City, New York, this is the second major venture partner added from the area, including former VMware chief technology officer Steve Herrod, who joined in 2013.
Amid all of the talk about Evernote being a unicorn (even a dead one), Libin shrugs off speculation, saying that his team has focused on the product and ignored everything else. “We never asked for the unicorn meme…the one thing I learned at Evernote is patience. We know we have the right impact on the world and stayed heads down and didn’t focus on rumors, market timings, etc.”
As an investor, Libin said that he’s looking forward to taking the first steps of the startup journey with entrepreneurs. He’ll be looking for those eager to make an impact on the world.
Although he’s still in search of his first deal, one thing seems sure; Libin has found his passion again and believes the next chapter is going to be not just awesome, but “epic”.