Archive for September, 2006

Get ready to be married; startup success demands close collaboration.

People say that the most important decision you will make when starting a company is choosing a cofounder. It bears repeating. The commitment you should have to your cofounder is not unlike the commitment you make when you get married.

Today, while we were sitting at Arlington Diner eating our 3pm breakfast, we came up with five questions you should ask yourself before getting married. These questions are also relevant when starting a company with someone.

  1. Are you great at things your cofounder isn’t?

It is important that cofounders exhibit complementary skills and common objectives. Identify your weaknesses and make sure those are your cofounder’s strengths. I want to spend most of our effort on perfecting the presentation layer of our first product, but Adam makes sure we invest in our backend code so it is easily expandable to future product lines. Adam is good at Adam stuff; I’m good at Matt stuff; together we are good at Xobni stuff.

  1. Can you commit to a 2 year cell phone contract with a “family plan?”

Sorry Mom, but Adam and I just signed up for a family plan. There is something very permanent about signing a 2 year contract with someone you are not related to. The funny thing is Adam and I didn’t even hesitate because Xobni has many years ahead of it.

Side Note: We signed up for Sprint with the EVDO data plan. It is awesome. We each got a Treo 700wx which runs Windows Mobile. There were two motivations behind getting these smart phones. First, it is much more relaxing being away from your desk for an hour when you know you have access to all of your email anywhere you go. Second, many of our users are adopting these devices; it is important for us to understand this trend.

  1. Can you share a bedroom?

If you can’t share a bedroom with your cofounder for a month, you probably aren’t right for each other.

Adam and I are currently sharing a room. Adam remarked the other day that it feels like summer camp. It reminds me of our first week back in the MIT dorms. This is not our permanent living situation and we appreciate that a degree of separation is healthy. However, we are temporarily living with our friends until we decide on a permanent location for our growing company. Sharing a bedroom is a temporary sacrifice for ultimately making the best decision for the company.

  1. Do you trust them with a joint bank account?

Adam and I aren’t taking individual salaries. We put enough money into a joint personal account to pay for things like rent, food, and Adam’s voracious appetite for Edy’s ice cream and Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. My personal indulgence is the recently discovered bliss of Bustello coffee. If you can’t trust your cofounder with your opulent salary of $1,200 per month, you are going to have trouble when the company bank account has more than three zeros.

  1. Will you make dinner AND clean up afterwards if your cofounder is drowning in serialization code?

I don’t plan on marrying someone that even knows what serialization code is, but the analogy is valid. You are both going to encounter difficult challenges and it helps to have someone to lean on when stressful times arise.

I can’t think of any point in my life that will be more conducive to this type of commitment than right now. Remember, you are not just getting married, you are raising a child. We called our baby Xobni. Next installment: Xobni learns to walk.

Xobni in the Boston Globe: Our Response

An article about Xobni was published in the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe this weekend with the title “Software may let boss spot your e-mail abuse.” While we appreciate the attention, we feel Xobni is misrepresented.

We have been talking to prospective customers since we started Xobni and not one has been interested in monitoring their employee’s personal email usage. We are constantly citing sources arguing that allowing employees to write personal email increases productivity.

Xobni Analytics is not about spying on employees. It’s about improving the business process. Which emails waste the most time? What customer is the engineering team most actively emailing, and what is being discussed? How quickly do we respond to emails from customers? How much time do people spend reading and writing email, and about what topics?

We have been talking with Lewis Mathby of PrivacyWatch.org regarding employee privacy issues. He likes Xobni. Why? Our software empowers individual employees and involves them in the privacy discussion. For example, we provide a mechanism for employees to identify personal email addresses and remove that activity from the business decision process.

There is a fine line to walk between saving the company from “Forwarding Fred” and respecting personal privacy. By working with users we can create the right solution.

As cliché as it sounds, happy employees are productive employees. We think the reverse is true too; productive employees are happy employees.

We like doing things in reverse here at Xobni.


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About Xobni

Xobni’s contact management products offer lightning fast email search and organization of your inbox, as well as an innovative and comprehensive address book for the mobile device.

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