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Rather than serving up platitudes about innovation, the man charged with saving former unicorn Evernote says his priority this year is addressing the long list of user complaints.

CEO Ian Small took the captain’s chair in October, replacing Chris O’Neill, who had taken over in 2015 with promises to fix the troubled company. Despite some progress, Evernote continued to struggle last year, cutting 15 percent of its staff and losing many top executives.

Enter Small, who, after about 60 days at the company, has offered up a rather stark assessment of its service:

And honesty requires us to state — straight out — that we can do better with the product you have today than we are currently doing. In fact, we can do better than we have been doing for some years.

So what doesn’t work? Lot’s of stuff, much of it very basic, Small says:


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Frankly, it’s a bit disingenuous for me to try to get our most dedicated users all fired up about inventing the future of Evernote when exactly those same people are the ones who know best that sync doesn’t always work right. Or that Evernote on Windows is a bit tired, and is missing features that are found on the Mac version. Or that each version of Evernote seems to work slightly differently, and exhibits its own unique collection of bugs and undesirable behaviors. Or that Evernote on mobile devices sometimes feels like a pared-down version of a powerful desktop app, instead of a mobile-first view into a powerful cloud-enabled productivity environment.

Small says these problems have lingered for years and were well-known, but he didn’t want to get into why they weren’t fixed sooner.

Instead, he promises the main focus of 2019 will be dealing with these and numerous other issues. Efforts will include creating a “more coherent, more consistent Evernote experience for every version of the product we ship;” restructuring the way the company designs and delivers software updates; and overhauling the core infrastructure that powers the app.

“This is not an easy task,” he writes. “It’s one which the company has, for some number of years, not been ready to undertake.”

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of his predecessor, or former CEO Phil Libin, who stepped aside in 2015 after building the company to unicorn status. And making sure your core product actually works is a pretty low bar for a company that raised $250 million in five funding rounds and seemed on tap for a blockbuster IPO in 2015.

Perhaps most critical to this effort will be whether Evernote’s employees rally to this message or are just too dispirited after multiple rounds of job cuts and customer complaints to invest their time and energy in the solution.

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