Evernote Hones Its Platform Ambitions, Teams Up With Docomo And Honda For A New Accelerator

Productivity app Evernote today is announcing that it is teaming up with Honda and the Japanese mobile carrier Docomo to launch the Evernote Accelerator, a month-long mentorship program based at Evernote’s HQ in Redwood City for developers and small startups from around the world that are making apps using Evernote’s APIs. The move is a step ahead for Evernote in its strategy to build out its business beyond its own-branded products and into a wider platform for others developing productivity services: the company today already sees 6 billion API calls per day, but most of those come from Evernote apps themselves.

Evernote, Honda Silicon Valley Lab and Docomo Innovation Ventures will be providing participants with workspace, living space, mentorship from Evernote engineers, marketing and a living stipend, but the program will stop short of investing directly.

“At the moment we don’t see the need to fund them. The best possible outcome is a successful Evernote product. We don’t need to take a financial stake for them to be a success,” said Rafe Needleman, the ex-tech journalist who moved to Evernote as a platform advocate last year and is helping run the accelerator. “We expect great Evernote products and that will make this a success for our users.” He does add, though, that part of the advantage of startups or independent developers coming into the Evernote ecosystem could also involve making introductions to others who might become backers.

But even if there may not be direct VC-style investment on the part of Evernote, there may be investment in another form: Evernote Food, one of the company’s standalone apps, was first developed during one of Evernote’s hackathons, Needleman points out. Evernote eventually bought the IP to create the service we know today.

Participants will be chosen from among the winners of the 2013 Evernote Devcup, a multi-regional event Evernote holds to encourage more people to use its APIs. The curriculum, it says, will begin in October 2013 with mentorship and development. Then there will be a Silicon Valley-style demo day in November.

While Needleman said Evernote was open about what possibilities there could be for potential apps to run on the Evernote platform, he also directed attention to the two co-sponsors of the accelerator. The API for Honda’s in-car system will also be in the mix, and the Docomo influence will mean that there will be a strong mobile element too. These will result in specific prizes in mobile and transport.

While accelerators have become quite ubiquitous in the world of startups, what’s unique about this one is how Evernote proposes to source candidates. The idea, says Needleman, is to tap people from as far afield as they can, with hackathons held in Tokyo, Singapore, Zurich, and Mexico City as some of the feeders; and then to use a taste of life in the tech mecca as another way to reel them in.

“We are trying to play to startups outside of Silicon Valley,” he said. “It’s really seen as an opportunity to see what’s it’s like to be a part of everything here.”