Evernote partners StarHub, gives free premium accounts to post-paid customers


starhub-evernote-590Green is the theme in Singapore, as popular note-keeping app Evernote announced today a partnership with StarHub Mobile to offer one-year premium memberships to the telco’s new and recontracting post-paid customers.

In addition to all of Evernote’s premium features, customers can access Video Notes, which lets them shoot and upload videos using the main app. Existing Evernote premium users who sign up with StarHub can use the offer, available from today, to extend their subscription by an extra year.

The feature is exclusive to users who sign up through Evernote’s partner telcos. So far, it has tie-ups with NTT Docomo in Japan, Taiwan Mobile, and Orange in France.

Video notes is not offered to everyone because the feature requires robust mobile infrastructure that is not found everywhere, says Ken Gullicksen, COO of Evernote. Therefore, bringing it to all users would degrade customer experience.

Each video note is restricted to 100MB, just enough for users to create short snippets that include audio. Users can select the quality of the footage from within the Evernote mobile app.

On why the Silicon Valley company picked StarHub over Singapore telcos like SingTel, which has wider regional reach, Ken says that distribution is not a priority for the company as the core app is easily available on multiple platforms.

Instead, Evernote wants partners that can communicate the usefulness of its services to potential users. The company aims to increase engagement by educating consumers on how they can incorporate Evernote into their lives.

“For our successful telco partnerships, which is most of them, we see engagement double compared to users who sign up on their own,” says Ken.

Nonetheless, the deal still gives Evernote access to StarHub’s 1.2M existing postpaid customers. That is just under a quarter of Singapore’s population.

Evernote’s future is Asia

While StarHub is only making the offer available in Singapore, that could conceivably change due to the Conexus Mobile Alliance, which the telco is a part of along with peers in nine other Asian countries.

Evernote sees Singapore as a “showcase” market. While minuscule by international standards, the city state is an outlier with the largest per capita usage of any market at 400,000 registered users. In contrast, Taiwan has about 800,000 users with a population of 23 million. Generally, between 20 to 30 percent of registered users are active monthly.

Singapore is also a petri-dish due to its proximity to a mobile-first region that includes voluminous, emerging markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Philippines. Situated at the heart of Southeast Asia, residents from neighboring countries come to Singapore to work, making it a good jumping-off point for Evernote into the region.

Asia has been huge for Evernote in the past couple of years. It has set up small offices in Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea for marketing, business development, and public relations. It launched in China with dedicated servers in the country, and integrated with popular Asian chat apps WeChat and KakaoTalk.

Right now, 70 percent of its 66 million registered users come from outside the United States. Last August, it had 38 million users, an increase of four million from July, when the company also revealed that it had 1.4 million paying users.

In May 2012, the company had “just” 25 million registered users and one million paying customers. As a result of pouring money into international expansion, Evernote has been in the red despite breaking even a couple of years ago.

Besides the main app, Evernote Food has proven to be especially popular in the region. Penultimate is also in demand since certain Asian languages are not conducive for typing.

Evernote bills itself as a platform rather than a singular app, which makes developer outreach a key plank of its marketing. It has held DevCup meetups in places like Singapore, Bangkok, and Melbourne to promote its free-to-use API.

For this year’s DevCup, Evernote’s global developer competition, half of the finalists hail from the region, specifically Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan, points out Troy Malone, general manager of Asia Pacific at Evernote. That was not the case in 2012. Teams from Singapore made the cut as well.

Evernote has even sponsored premium accounts to a National University of Singapore robotics team which approached the company in California. They’re using the app for knowledge sharing and coordination.

The company is not concerned that apps like Korean-made Awesome Note will cannibalize Evernote, as advertising eyeballs is not a key part of its revenue model. Its key concern is growing the ecosystem, be it through competitions, its own accelerator program, or acquisition of services that will add value to Evernote customers.

Momentous deal for StarHub

The Evernote partnership is a coup for StarHub, given that rival SingTel has been most active and well-known in its efforts to build an ecosystem of web and mobile services.

The telco, Singapore’s largest, has been investing in and acquiring startups since 2010. In fact, when the press conference was announced, the common expectation was that Evernote’s Singapore partner would be SingTel, given the app’s fit in the enterprise sector and SingTel’s SaaS marketplace.

But Evernote made clear that it has not gotten into any distribution relationships for its enterprise product.

For StarHub, and especially its five-month old i3 (i-cubed) initiative, the event is one of many coming-out parties to come. It recently launched Game On, a mobile app subscription service where subscribers can access to 100 Android apps for a monthly fee.

It has ventured into streaming content, offering its cable TV subscribers access to video content via web and mobile, and launched a music service in partnership with Taiwan’s KKBox to compete with Spotify.

And while it was a part of the White Spaces project unveiled in June this year, the project was billed as a whole-of-StarHub endeavor where it was part of a large consortium.

In the coming months, the tech ecosystem can expect to hear more from i3, which stands for innovation, investment, and incubation. Heading i3 is Stephen Lee, a former Motorola, Soundbuzz and Ogilvy One senior executive.

Given that the region’s innovation space is nascent, being late to the party is not always a bad thing — it presents an opportunity to learn from other corporations that have been engaging with the ecosystem.

StarHub’s partnership with Evernote could be a blueprint of sorts for its future collaborations with other Over-the-Top services.

Expect similar tie-ups with a focus on providing customized versions of popular apps.

Video promoting the tie-up:

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