Notion wants to tackle the enterprise without losing its cool factor

At Notion’s Block by Block conference, company leaders will announce features to attract enterprise customers without compromising its bond with individual users.

Block by Block

The ultimate goal is to harness the power of Notion’s user base to break further into the enterprise, while letting that user base thrive.

Image: Notion

It’s rare for a productivity app to inspire passions and achieve virality the way Notion has. Notion’s rabid fanbase is perhaps the most fascinating part of the note-taking app. Since it exploded in popularity back in 2020, users have earned thousands of followers and even launched careers off of their work on the platform. Notion knows this.

“It's something you can't buy,” said Notion COO Akshay Kothari. “It's happened sort of organically over the last four or five years.”

Notion has always tried to keep the community as organic as possible, Kothari said. When the Notion Reddit page popped up, the company decided against becoming the admin. If the company takes total control, the Notion evangelist community loses its cool factor. Execs are cautious not to dictate to passionate Notion users. “It takes a life of its own,” Kothari said. “The more organic it is, the more it actually feels authentic.”

Still, Notion’s execs want to impose some order. The company had to work quickly to support a rapidly growing user base — back in 2020, Notion scrambled to officially establish the app in South Korea, where it had already taken hold via excited users. Now, Notion spans at least 30 countries. To bring the community closer together, Notion is releasing an easier way to get “Notion Certified” as well as a “Notion Champions” program for enthusiasts. It’s one of a few announcements introduced at the company’s second annual “Block by Block” conference on Wednesday.

CEO Ivan Zhao and other execs ran through the feature updates during the keynote, followed by a guest conversation with This American Life’s Ira Glass. In addition to Notion’s new community programs, the company is launching an easier way to sync databases across apps, more customizable databases, a new sidebar letting companies organize documents by teams and a general access API.

Image: Notion

The updates signify a central ambition for the company: to attract large enterprise customers without compromising its bond with individual users. “In many ways, focusing on the consumer and the individual has been very much the driver of the enterprise business,” Kothari said. Large companies often adopt Notion after zealous employees bring it to their attention. It’s an increasingly common phenomenon in the productivity world, with vendors targeting “shadow IT” buyers and candidates rejecting jobs based on workplace tools.

“There’s usually a champion inside these companies, who is really thinking about, what's the right modern tool stack for the company?” Kothari said.

The Notion Champions program is for the person in your company who’s obsessed with Notion. The idea came after Notion asked users if they were “the Notion person at your company.” Kothari said thousands of people reached out. The Champions program connects these people and helps mobilize them to spread the Notion gospel. “It's like, how did you roll this out at a larger company of yours?” Kothari said. “What can we learn in terms of the setup?” Notion is also launching an official Notion Certified program that anyone can apply to.

Notion is increasingly focused on scaling based on company size. Its new features are meant to help large companies organize their sprawling documents and teams. Sorting sidebars based on company teams is part of that, as well as playing more nicely with other workplace tool databases. An open API makes things easier for the enterprise, as developers can build whatever integrations they want.

Kothari is confident the future of Notion will be built by developers. The ultimate goal is to harness the power of Notion’s user base to break further into the enterprise, while letting that user base thrive. “In the long run, the more we nurture these communities, it helps Notion understand these larger customers better and helps us deploy Notion more company-wide,” Kothari said. “But it also comes from a deep feeling of trying to be helpful to these communities.”


Niantic is building an AR map of the world

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Image: Niantic

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Niantic also announced a new service called Campfire that adds a social discovery layer to AR, starting with Niantic’s own games. Both announcements show that Niantic wants to be much more than a game developer with just one or two hit apps (and a couple of flops). Instead, it aims to play a key role in the future of AR — and it’s relying on millions of Ingress and Pokémon Go players to help build that future.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

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