The Romanian story behind Evernote Clearly

I have fallen into a habit of reading online with the help of Evernote Clearly, a browser extension that creates a layer on top of a web page, showing text in large font and neutral colors. No matter how small or large my monitor is, Clearly creates a peaceful environment, in which I can read without the distractions of flashing images, related links and even advertisement.

As TechCrunch TV reported recently, Clearly comes from Romania. Before it was acquired by Evernote last summer, Clearly was known as Readable, developed by Gabriel Coarna, a Bucharest-based Romanian without formal IT training.

Coarna created Clearly for himself to help improve his online reading experience. Between reading, his day job as a software developer he had held for the last 12 years and Clearly, he had no time left for startup events and my Romanian network could not immediately point me to him. Special thanks go to Alexandra Dumitru and Raluca Georgescu, who made enquiries to help me find him.

I spoke to Coarna last week, interested in his story and what lies ahead for Clearly. In Romania, famous for its software development industry, Coarna has been coding since the age of 14. He started developing Readable in April 2009 as a pet project, and it came out at about the same time as Readability did. Coarna says that the both applications have been conceived completely independently and work differently from each other. The product ended up going viral and this is how the Evernote people discovered him. As a result of the acquisition Coarna joined Evernote and continues his work on Clearly from his home office in Bucharest.

Whilst neither Coarna nor Evernote will disclose details of the deal, it comes across as talent acquisition. This is not unusual for a US company to acquire an Eastern European team. Just last month the Romanian Summify was sold, and its team joined Twitter. Unfortunately for Romanians and many others who have gotten used to Summify’s social summaries, the tool is about to be discontinued, but this week I received my first-ever newsletter from Twitter suggesting that I take a look at the most shared tweets of the day.

Unlike Summify, Clearly is all but discontinued. In fact, Coarna talked about a unique opportunity to rely on Evernote’s pool of developers and the vision both he and Evernote executives shared for the tool. I have gotten used to Clearly to the extent that I would like it to format my word docs, my emails and even Tweetdeck columns in familiar fonts and color schemes.

There’s clearly life left in this product idea.