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Evernote CEO Taste-Tests Airplane Food to Explore the Simplicity of Sushi

June 19, 2013

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At Evernote, which did away with vacation limits in 2011, “the first thing we noticed when we did it was that some people started taking less vacation,” said Chief Executive Officer Phil Libin. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Here's the plane truth: Phil Libin loves food. The chief executive officer of note-taking app maker Evernote is so enamored with cuisine that he happily accepted an invitation to be part of a taste-testing group for Japan Airlines.

The combination of being a foodie and a frequent flyer is what landed the Evernote CEO the recent gig. And while airplane cuisine is typically a target of jokes, Libin's willingness to consume it shows just how serious he is about food.

In fact, he draws design inspiration from it.

"There's a focus on the minor details," said Libin, referring specifically to sushi, which he uses as a logo for one of the note-taking company's apps. "We try to have a similar attention. It's the thing that the vast majority of people would never notice that makes a product really enjoyable."

In Steve Jobs's fashion, Libin describes sushi as "rigorous simplicity."

Of course, simplicity can be difficult when it comes to the culinary arts at high altitudes. Just ask the world's largest airline, United Continental, which Bloomberg Businessweek wrote about last year. The airline had plenty of taste-test panels of its own and discovered that even serving decent coffee in-flight requires careful attention that might give Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz a migraine.

For one, taste buds change in the air. "I pointed that out," Libin noted. JAL served him and the other panelists meals that passengers in each section of the plane -- economy, economy plus, business and first class -- might eat, and asked them for feedback.

Libin is one of the few people in the world who can say he enjoyed his experience with airplane food. But he still has one unfulfilled dream, inspired by a Bill Murray film, that he hopes to accomplish in Japan one day.

"I'm still hoping to be on a whiskey ad in Tokyo," Libin said. "Ever since I saw 'Lost in Translation,' that's totally my goal."

Related: Inkblot: Evernote CEO Phil Libin

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