Workplace

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.”

Policy

Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Policy

The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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