Evernote chases after Asia's user goldmine

Content repository service provider looking to establish firm presence in region by setting up Singapore office and introducing new functions to draw Asian fans, exec reveals.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Evernote is looking to expand its reach into Asia and foster user loyalty by setting up a regional office in Singapore and providing localized services for users in the region, said a company executive.

Troy Malone, Evernote's general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, told ZDNet Asia in an interview on Tuesday that its user base in this part of the world has been growing exponentially, particularly after the service was localized to the languages used in key markets. These include simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and most recently, Bahasa Indonesia, he pointed out.

There was a surge in uptake seen in Korea, for instance, after the content repository service was made accessible to them in their local language, he added. The executive was in town to speak at the annual Global Entrepolis @ Singapore (GES) conference.

Malone, who only assumed the newly-created position three months ago, also shared that Singapore has the highest density of Evernote users per capita worldwide. This, together with its geographical and infrastructural advantages, made the city-state the choice location for the Mountain View-based company, which was started in 2008, to establish an office to reach out to the rest of the region, he explained.

However, the executive declined to disclose more details about when the office is opening, what its functions will be and the roles they are looking to fill.

Targeting specific verticals, user functions
In terms of broadening Evernote's presence to a wider audience in Asia, Malone said he would be looking at the education sector for a start. Currently, many professors and university students are making use of the company's service to take down and store notes in an easy-to-retrieve manner as well as to organize their research materials, which he said is an opportunity the company is keen to explore.

"While we are not going to be an enterprise business by any means, we do see people in companies and organizations using our service to come together and share ideas and research," the executive revealed.

He added that Evernote aims to be a technology that can be easily accessible to "anyone with a smartphone".

Quizzed on reaching users from developing economies that might not have smartphones or wireless infrastructure that supports mobile Internet services, Malone said that people in these countries are most likely to have their first Web experience from mobile devices rather than desktops or laptops in more mature markets.

As such, the company is currently studying user patterns and behavior to glean insight on how these people use mobile Internet services and how the data can shape its product, he said. For instance, many people in these developing markets do not have an e-mail address, so rather than sign up for Evernote services via e-mail, they can do so with their mobile numbers, he suggested.

In it for the long term
On a global level, Evernote is currently transitioning from being a "single-function" app into a multi-function one, Malone pointed out. This can be seen through its acquisition of Skitch--a Mac drawing app that gives users a new way to capture, annotate and share images--in August this year.

He said investments will continue to be made to enhance the platform's functionalities in conjunction with internal research and development (R&D) initiatives.

The company is also on a mission to court more developers to build on its platform, as it looks to grow its base of 7,000 developers who have requested for Evernote's API (application programming interface), the executive stated.

As for monetization plans, Malone said the company is "very happy" with its current "freemium" method of monetizing its product. This involves giving users a free service to sign up to and, where necessary, purchase certain services or functionalities from the company, he explained.

He added that there is a strong, loyal group of customers that have stuck by the company and, thereby, making the memories they have stored even more valuable. According to internal research, 30 to 35 percent of the 40,000 users signing up daily will keep using the service after signing up for it. They do not "drop off" but instead become long-term active users, he noted.

In terms of converting from the free service to a paid subscription, Malone pointed out that 0.5 percent of consumers will request for paid services within one month of signing on. By the end of the first year, 5 percent of users will fork out money for an upgrade while 23 percent will do so by the three-year mark.

Citing CEO Phil Libin, he said as more content is stored within its repository, the more valuable such information become. To that end, its aim is to be a "100-year company" to give subscribers the assurance that the data they have store in the cloud will be available on demand and nothing untoward will become of it, Malone stressed.

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