Phil Libin On Joining General Catalyst As Its Newest General Partner
Libin stepped down from his role at Evernote in July, after telling The Information that the company had been searching for a “professional CEO” for some time. He said then that he considered himself more of a “product person.”
Libin joined Evernote soon after the Redwood City, Ca., company’s founding in 2007. It has raised $290 million in venture capital since and was valued at $1 billion in 2012 when it raised a $70 million Series D round.
Evernote’s valuation has reportedly stagnated since. The company has also declined to disclose how many of its roughly 150 million registered members are active users, though it launched a campaign to convert more of them into paying customers in April. It was then that it rolled out a middle-tier pricing plan, Evernote Plus, that costs $2.99. (Its full-featured premium plan also ticked up nearly a dollar to $5.99 per month from $5.)
One senses that’s all behind Libin now. Though he speaks glowingly of Evernote and says that, until a couple of months ago, he never imagined that he would become a professional investor, he seems excited by what General Catalyst is providing him, which is largely the chance to help founders hatch and launch startups.
Indeed, it sounds a bit like Libin will be a permanent entrepreneur-in-residence — without the pressure of founding another company.
Certainly, he’s been doing the operator thing for some time. Before joining Evernote, Libin had founded two companies: an advertising and design startup called Engine 5 and CoreStreet, a maker of credential validation software for governments and commercial enterprises.
He says it was at CoreStreet in Boston that he first became acquainted with General Catalyst, which has offices in Cambridge, Ma., and in New York, and just planted a flag in the Bay Area in late 2010.
Libin says that in more recent years, he has twice invested in seed-stage companies that General Catalyst went on to back, including the payroll startup ZenPayroll. (The other startup is either kaput or operating in stealth, as neither Libin nor General Catalyst identified it.)
Libin hasn’t been as active an angel investor as many Silicon Valley CEOs. For example, he says that of the roughly six startups he has backed, one includes the customer data platform TellApart, cofounded by his brother. “I won’t pretend I had any special insights into [the company’s technology],” he laughs of the now six-year-old company.
Another of Libin’s bets: Binary Thumb, a two-year-old, Seattle-based company that has developed a spreadsheet application for the iPad and iPhone.
If there is a theme to his invesments, says Libin, what they share is the founders’ obsession with, and mastery of, whatever problems their companies are starting to solve. “I become infatuated with them,” says Libin of how he decides to back a founder.
“Hopefully,” he adds, “I’ll learn to be more disciplined now that it’s my job.”
General Catalyst did not invest in Evernote, but it has been making its mark on Silicon Valley since setting up shop here. Among its many high-profile, West Coast bets is Snapchat, Stripe, Airbnb, NatureBox, ZenPayroll, and the Honest Company.
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