How to Be A 100-Year Startup: Video from Evernote CEO Phil Libin

1/25/12Follow @wroush

When most startups reach a certain age—seven years, maybe nine; certainly, by the time they get acquired or go public—they stop being startups. They get slow and cautious. They lose the will to wow customers with unconventional ideas.

Evernote hasn’t reached that age yet. And CEO Phil Libin hopes it never does.

In a video released yesterday by Evernote, Libin says he wants the booming online-notekeeping company to be alive 100 years from now—but as a nimble, fast-moving competitor, not a museum relic.

Evernote made the video to help Xconomy spread the word about our February 7 event in Mountain View, “The 100-Year Company: An Evening with Evernote, Morgenthaler, and Sequoia.” If you’re a Silicon Valley startup founder, engineer, product manager, or investor, this is a must-attend event where you’ll hear Libin, along with key Evernote investors Roelof Botha from Sequoia Capital and Gary Little from Morgenthaler Ventures, share the company’s secrets for staying young while getting big. Here’s Libin in his own words:

There are two passages in the video with particular potency for startuppers. If you’re going to throw yourself wholeheartedly into building a company around your idea, Libin asks, why settle for the standard Silicon Valley exit scenario of getting acquired by a bigger company?

“Making any kind of company is so much work, and you put so much time into it and so much energy, any kind of a startup, it becomes your main passion, it becomes your quest, your mission, for years, for you and your co-workers and for your founders. So I think if you do anything other than try to build for the long term, you’re frankly selling yourself short,” Libin says. “It’s going to be just as much work to make a company that you’re going to sell in three years as to make a company that’s going to last for 100 years.”

But Libin isn’t promoting longevity for its own sake. “Of course our big challenge isn’t just to make a company that’s around for 100 years,” he says in the video. “It’s to make a company that’s a 100-year startup.”

If you want to go long in this way, it helps to build a team of investors who believe in the 100-year philosophy—and it really helps to show the kind of explosive growth that justifies the big bets being put on the table. At the moment, Evernote is doing both. We’ll delve deeper into the company’s success strategies with Libin, Gary Little, and Roelof Botha at Microsoft Silicon Valley the evening of February 7. Register for the event now—while you’re still young.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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