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Summary:

Vinod Khosla, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems and formerly of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has made a fortune out of betting on companies that tackle really big problems. Some of his bets – Juniper Networks, for instance – have paid off handsomely. Others […]

Vinod Khosla, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems and formerly of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has made a fortune out of betting on companies that tackle really big problems. Some of his bets – Juniper Networks, for instance – have paid off handsomely. Others have been marginally successful, at least from a financial standpoint.

He continues the tradition with his new venture fund, Khosla Ventures, investing in clean tech and alternative energy start-ups. He is taking a similar approach to his InfoTech investments as well. Khosla, like most of us, believes that email is a big problem and fixing it is a big opportunity. That perhaps explains his bet on Adam Smith and Matt Brezina, co-founders of Xobni, a San Francisco-based company that has come out of the YCombinator program.

According to Alarm: Clock, the company has raised $1.5 million of a $4.26 million Series A round, led by Khosla Ventures. Other investors in the company are Rony Conway and FirstRound Capital. The company proposes to build add-ons to the popular Microsoft Outlook email software, and add a level of analytics to the ever-growing email inboxes.

Our email inboxes continue to spiral out of control, beginning to resemble New York City when the garbage workers are on strike. Google Desktop Search, Microsoft’s own Lookout, and X-1 can help us find some of the emails buried in our inboxes, but it’s a long and tedious process on a lucky day.

Xobni, wants to solve all these problems, and indeed has lofty goals, as outlined on their website. One would indeed believe the two young co-founders if there was a product that we could test out. We ran into Brezina at the Start-Up School this weekend, and asked him for further details and presumably we will get those when the beta is made available.

For now, there is no definitive time line when the beta is going to be released, and as a result we are going to reserve our final judgment, erring on the side of skepticism about company’s claims. And that is despite being aware that it is unwise to bet against Khosla’s instincts.

  1. nothing can cure outlook/smtp/pops ills, it is all in the same package of limited use. There will be something that quashes it all.

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  2. Xobni has an unpronounceable name. Shouldn’t that be part of the requirement for funding a company? It’s completely unmemorable.

    What’s the business model? Why is it unwise to bet against Khosla? He’s been a rockstar, but he’s now investing in Y-Combinator companies. Just like any VC, it’s wise to bet against 80% of what they do.

    Is Y-Combinator destined to turn out start-ups that are sold on eBay a la Kiko? This whole model of “sell to Google” is going to get shot down really fast.

    The only use I can see for this is an enterprise wide solution which gives some metrics on email usage. I would think there are 50 other players who can do that and do it better.

    Furthermore, their site is down already. That’s pretty sad. Thanks for telling me what I can do with my email Xobni – I need you for that. I really do.

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  3. Isn’t Gabor working at Google Zurich now? Does that mean Xobni is basically a one-man shop for the moment, or have they just not kept their website up to date?

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  4. Thanks for the post Om. We have big plans for all the unused data in our inboxes.

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  5. Thanks for the post Om. We have big plans for all the unused data in our inboxes. Keep an eye out for the beta.

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  6. Aaron: I’ve left Google to join Xobni, as described here.

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  7. Om,

    At ClearContext we’ve spent the last few years focusing on email overload within the corporate environment. It’ll be interesting to see which areas Xobni focus their analytics on. The scope of the problem is quite wide, ranging from individual user productivity to wider corporate email intelligence. Our focus has been on providing automated tools to prioritize incoming email, organize related information together, and automate the process of taking action on email. This ranges from actions as simple as deferring email to make it disappear until a later date or unsubscribing from an annoying email thread to things as complex as analyzing which incoming email is most important to you and linking all related emails, tasks, and meetings in a project together. Our customers, the majority of whom are Fortune 100 users, average hours per week in time saved dealing with email, so the problem is clearly a huge one. We encourage you to take a look at http://www.clearcontext.com .

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  8. [...] by Om Malik Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 9:40 PM PT | No comments As if revolutionizing the e-mail experience wasn’t enough, the Xobni boys are cooking up Facebook apps. They have cooked up a Facebook [...]

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  9. [...] Om Malik, Sunday, April 20, 2008 at 10:08 PM PT Comments (0) Word around the valley is that Xobni, a San Francisco-based start-up that has made software add on for Microsoft Outlook, is getting a thorough look-over by Microsoft. This isn’t the first time the company has been the object of Microsoft’s affection. Apparently, the company has been offered about $20 million previously but it chose to raise VC money and do it alone. [...]

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