The End of Springpad … My Thoughts and Advice for Everyone 2

In April of 2012, I published the 1st Edition of the Official Springpad eBook. Working with the Springpad Team has to have been one of my top 10 favorite professional moments. Keep in mind, I have never physically met anyone except for Jeff Janer (which by the way was a fluke; I noticed him out of the corner of my eye at Boston Logan airport!) face-to-face! Every interaction I had was online, and yet, everyone from marketing to development, strategic planning to the executive team, all made me feel like I was part of the Springpad Team. I have shared so many laughs with Katin, Devin, Allison, Kayla, and Brittni! RIP Springpad With each version of Springpad, came another version of my Springpad eBook. Plus, what’s more, they encouraged me all along to become more and more involved with them. In fact, you may recall I shot a video in my attic where I demonstrated how to use QR codes and Springpad to better organize your buckets of stuff. I also brought you to my kitchen where I planned meals for the week with the help of Springpad. I have been on a couple different Springpad Google Hangounts (such as this one. I found ways to integrate Springpad with Swedish notebook makers, Whitelines, and forged the relationship between the executives of both companies. That one promotion (you can see the video here and the post here), helped Springpad, Whitelines sales, and my own site with sales. And, to my disappointment, I won’t ever be able to shoot a Springpad video from my crawlspace as requested by Josh Durham, a fellow writer (far better than me) and Charlottean!

So now, let’s be really candid about the end of Springpad: it sucks.

Let’s talk about this from three different angles: the emotional, business, and data perspectives.

The emotional toll on all of us …

When an app developer builds a product that finally makes some sense, there’s this emotional attachment we form because we’re invested a lot of time organizing our live’s buckets of stuff into this centralized ubiquitous repository in the cloud that we could access anywhere. I have met so many people over the last 3 years that have literally dumped their lives into Springpad; everything from cataloging their attic like me, to their tasks, goals, projects, and all types of reference related materials. My own wife stored all of her recipes there because she just doesn’t like Evernote (I know, I know). Putting these good memories aside for the moment, let’s talk about some unfortunate business realities.

In the end, it is just a business …

Now, if you strip away that emotional investment, let’s think about this from a business perspective. We can speculate about Springpad’s business model vs. Evernote’s philosophy on how to make money (see here and here) all night long. The reality is so many start-up companies start up with the hopes they will just to be bought down the road. Whether we accept that as a reality, is another story.

Sure, there are companies, such as Evernote or even Facebook, that get to be so big that they’re self sustaining and not a single bidder could ever make them want to sell of the company or its people. But if we dig into Springpad’s business for a moment, their business model wasn’t one in which had any long term sustainability. They relied upon third-party partnerships to help them grow through their intelligent predictive indexing. In other words, you spring a movie, and it suggested Rotten Tomatoes reviews or buy or rent from Netflix, Amazon, etc. However, that model can only last so far. It did not even have any ad-based revenue streams. Gregory Huang of nailed it in his post where he talks about five lessons learned from Springpad closing down.

If, however, there was, a freemium model that allowed for users to pay for premium features like Evernote or expanded out into the business world like both Evernote and Todoist, then we might be singing a whole different song than we are today. And so, many of its extremely talented 17 member team out of Boston, Massachusetts are headed over to Google and no doubt, they will be extremely successful there.

But that still leaves a gaping emotional hole for so many of us, myself included (and my wife!) who relied upon the service, to get things done, to spring recipes, favorite articles, and even use it as a way to build a larger circle of followers, such as me. The even bigger hole we have to fill is where we put our data.

Where your data goes to rest …

I’ve talked to all of you before about why you shouldn’t trust an app developer and what you need to look for in trusting any app with your data. So many of us find ourselves like my friend who continually rationalizes his productivity app spend. Is it any wonder at all that Christopher Mayo is so adamant about future proofing his notes by titling them in a very specific manner? (As a footnote, that one post continues to be one of the top 10 visited posts on this site!)

Springpad was definitely smart about partnering with the Elephant to create an export tool. It’s a brilliant tool, actually. It saves all of your metadata minus the tags and recreates all of your notebooks and notes. It took no time at all and it was beautiful. I also exported my data to Microsoft OneNote, but before they created the equally awesome OneNote export tool, I found a free source online and I had done it myself to see what it would look like. Since my wife isn’t a fan of Evernote at all, she’s quite happy with the layout of OneNote and how it organized all of her recipes by the type of dish she wants to make. Though I have not tried it yet, there is also an export to a new app called Intellinote. While it does look enticing, I am not certain I have the appetite at this point to try anything new. If you didn’t want to export to any tool and just wanted the HTML/JSON format, you could also click here.

So, what are the key takeaways I get out of Springpad closing?

  1. I am going to sound like a broken record and I will repeatedly go back to my warnings I have mentioned already on this site and again in this post: do your research about how an app is funded before you invest your time and precious data. Do not go just for app eye candy.
  2. Research what their export strategy is before you dive in head first.
  3. If there is a premium model and you like the app after 30 days, invest. Your $5 each month or $30 for the year is an investment in the company’s success. If you don’t, you’ll likely see another app closure.

Most of all, I will miss the Springpad Team. Everyone there is an amazing group of people and I will miss the partnership and the friendships I formed over the years. If you have any questions about Springpad, exporting your data, or where to go from here, I’m here to help …

About Daniel Gold

Daniel Gold is a productivity coach, keynote speaker, author, and podcaster. He is most well known for his eBooks, Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, Simplify your Life with Springpad, and Make it Happen: How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your eBook. Daniel is also the co-host of the GTD® Virtual Study Group podcast.

  • Hi Daniel,

    I discovered Springpad one and a half years ago, some months after becoming a gtdist. I quickly found out that Evernote -and not Springpad- was my app. Anyway I am a productivity consultant and feel oblied to try and learn about almost any self organizing software I discover in order to advice my clients.

    I feel pretty close to your warnings because they sound just like my own ones: nowadays you can design a pretty landpage in a bunch of days. With photos, videos and testimonies. But if you need GTD (or whatever), you do not have time to taste different softwares and do not want to discover after some months that behind the courtains there were no company or lasting project. That day you will probably remember your productivity teacher in a positive… or not so positive way.

    Pay attention to Daniel advices: pick your productivity technology carefully and follow a professional advice.

  • Really interesting reading. I like the idea about future proofing your notes. Also appreciate your thoughts on funding models. As we get ready to charge for our app we are considering lots of models, but the freemium model is probably the most attractive to us.. So really like your advice – Invest and support those dev companies! RIP Springpad!