Q&A with Chris Traganos of Evernote: “Berlin’s Where It’s At”

By David Knight |

With 50 millions users, San Francisco-based startup Evernote has been riding a wave of success of late. In recent weeks it has turned its attention to Germany, its second-largest market in EMEA, with a recent deal to provide Evernote Premium to Deutsche Telekom customers for free for 12 months.

But the startup is also focused on promoting outside innovation, and so the two companies – together with Silicon Allee and Developer Garden, DT’s API platform – teamed up for a hackathon in Berlin this past weekend with a trip to Silicon Valley on offer to the winners. The Evernote contingent was led by Chris Traganos, making his first ever visit to Europe, and we caught up with him right after the event came to an end.

Read our on-the-spot coverage of the hackathon tomorrow.

SILICON ALLEE: It’s your first time here in Berlin – in Europe even – what impression has the city made on you?

CHRIS TRAGANOS: In San Francisco we have definitely heard about the Berlin tech scene. I saw a video about TOA, and there is so much happening here. Immediately when we landed we started connecting with the startups and a lot of the developers and designers. There is so much going on here right now, and I think that [this trip has] really opened up my engineering and designer team to realise that this is where it’s at.

SA: What has this event meant for Evernote?

CT: We’re doing hackathons and developer meet ups around the globe, pretty frequently. There are around 20,000 developers and we are really trying to grow out the platform of third party apps that have save-to-Evernote features. Any app that we can recommend to our users to help them do more with Evernote, we’re excited about. And from this hackathon we have definitely seen some hacks that could be consumer grade apps that we could recommend to our users. So this is an amazing success for us as a platform.

SA: So you think some of the projects put together over the last few days have a big future?

CT: The likelihood of us seeing several of the apps at consumer level in the app store or as web services that we can promote to our users is very high. Several of the teams are considering submitting [their hacks] for the Evernote Devcup, which ties in to all our hackathons. This is our annual developer challenge where we challenge developers and designers all around the world to build the next generation of apps that work with Evernote. The winning team from here is coming to San Francisco to present their app at our conference, and we are looking for six other teams to fly out to our conference and really showcase how our international developers from around the world are using Evernote in ways we didn’t realise was possible.

SA: What impressed you about the winner, Context Booster?

CT: Our users use Evernote as their second brain. When you have a lot of things in your head and you’re trying to keep track of everything you can jot them down on a piece of paper and take a photo of it on Evernote – the text is scannable – and you can allow Evernote to keep track of all these different things. What Context Booster does is enable me to open up an Evernote note on my iPhone or Android and say, for example, ‘give me the background on Berlin, on hackathons and on the developer community in Germany’. If I tag it with Context Booster, it’s going to add from Wikipedia, from IMDB, from all these connected services, through natural language parsing, and it’s going to put that all into that note. So very quickly on the fly I’m letting the web do the work for me and storing it in my Evernote. We are so blown away that they thought of that. Using Evernote to make you smarter is something we are really focused on and this goes above and beyond what we thought.

SA: What has the vibe been like at this hackathon?

CT: As developer relations at Evernote, on our first trip to Europe, I am so glad we came to Berlin. To promote the Evernote Devcup we are going to have a meet up in Zurich and in London. I hope we can make some connections there but these types of hackathons are the best way to connect with the community and this turnout has been great – it’s been one of the largest hackathons we have ever seen.

And we usually do college hackathons where the students are coming to learn a new language. But these here were professional developers and they wanted to finally give themselves a weekend to hack that project they already had in mind. We have been showing our engineers in California the progress of the hacks on the event’s Hacker League website and they have been blown away by the projects they have seen. It has been a total and utter success for us.