Archive for November, 2007

Xobni in the Wall Street Journal

Becky Buckman at the WSJ wrote an article for today’s paper titled “Email’s Friendly Fire” I was fortunate to get to speak with Becky on several occasions as well as provide her with an interview for today’s story.

Xobni was mentioned in the article which appears on the front page of the Marketplace section. The article discusses the increasing amount of email received in the corporate workplace and products to overcome the resulting email overload. Xobni was featured as one of these products.

“These people are in pain,” says Matt Brezina, the 26-year-old co-founder of Xobni, which has received $4.2 million in funding from venture capitalists. Xobni’s product places a set of features on top of a customer’s email inbox, such as “profiles” of online contacts complete with photos, and quick links to set up appointments. The nine-person company says it has about 1,000 people globally testing the product — including salespeople, recruiters and marketing managers who use email frequently — and expects to release it broadly early next year.

We designed Xobni Insight to give our users context surrounding email conversations and relationships so that they can make better decisions faster. With lightening fast search, threaded conversations, and quick attachment discovery Xobni makes the task of working through 200 daily emails a lot less painful.

Xobni profile photos, performance improvements, and beta update

Xobni is thrilled to announce that a few highly anticipated features have been included in the latest release as well as more performance improvements. These features and product improvements will appear in any currently installed Xobni Insight programs after automatic updates have taken place and Outlook has been restarted.

Perhaps the most fun feature is the ability to easily add any desired picture to Xobni person profiles.

1. Simply right click on the profile to begin the changes.


Xobni right click picture

2. A built in crop and resize tool allows the user to highlight any portion of an image and use the selection as the new profile picture.


Crop Pictures

3. Super easy! The picture shows up each time you look at a the person’s Xobni profile.


Adam Profile Picture

Contact names and phone numbers can now also be changed by right clicking anywhere in the profile. Xobni will recognize that the new name you have created corresponds with the actual contact name and email address. A drop down box is provided to conveniently add a unique phone number for cell phones, FAXes, home numbers, and work numbers.

edit phone numbers in Xobni

On the more technical side, Xobni has also added these features:

• Xobni now opens HTML attachment files directly.
• Users can contact Xobni for help from within the application. Just go to the Xobni menu in the Outlook panel and click ‘contact support’ to compose an email. Xobni even adds the system’s specifications so the user doesn’t have to type it in!
• Xobni is more compatible with a wider range of Outlook plug-ins.
• Also watch for faster start up speeds and more efficient email synchronization.

More features will continue to roll out over time so make sure to keep checking our blog.

As usual we want to make sure we are providing as much “email happiness” as possible, so please, let us know what you think of our new features! I’ll be waiting at the other end.

Beta Update: For those of you waiting on the Xobni beta list for your chance to download Xobni, we haven’t forgotten about you! We are working hard to make our software ready for prime time. We currently have enough users for this initial testing phase, but we are excited to include more users in the beta as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

Inbox 2.0 isn't coming, it is here.

The web is waking up to email; I’m glad we had a 1 ½ year head start. In the winter of 2006 Adam was at MIT searching for a thesis topic. Adam’s research interests involve large scale systems, data mining, and machine learning. He was speaking with another graduate student, discussing sources of interesting data, and the conversation broke down to the following, which is one of my often repeated Xobni pitch lines: “How many kilobytes of data have you ever created on the web? Google has done a lot to organize that data. How many kilobytes of data have you ever sent or received through email?” It ends up that email contains significantly more information, yet much less has been done expose it. Enter Xobni.

I was hooked on the idea of mining email data after a couple weeks of phone calls from Adam. I dropped out of grad school and moved to Cambridge within 2 weeks of first hearing the idea for what we then called “Inbox Advisor” and everyone now knows as Xobni.

We realized after building Xobni analytics and playing with email data for 6 months that the most interesting data in email revolved around relationships. When we realized this, we began building Xobni Insight.

To us, Inbox 2.0 means having organized context about a relationship made available from your historical email as well as the web. This is the product description for Xobni Insight. You instantly know the last time you emailed a person, and what you said. You see a picture of them. You see what friends you have in common. You see the pictures they recently sent you. Xobni Insight already offers a lot of this, and plans to offer much more soon.

Adam Xobni Profile

What I realized today, after reading much of the discussion on the web surrounding Inbox 2.0, is that in many ways what we mean is VCard 2.0. However, unlike VCards, Xobni profiles will be pull not push – you see the data when you want it, not when someone chooses to send it. Xobni profiles require much less work, which means people will use them much more. We don’t make you enter phone numbers; we automatically extract them from email signatures. We don’t make you list business associates; we automatically discover them based on your emailing patterns. We are currently working on pulling more information from your email inbox and from the web to further define your Xobni profile. Inbox 2.0 isn’t coming, it is here. This is really exciting stuff.

The Xobni Office, and Thoughts on Startup Office Space

This is a crosspost from Gabor’s blog – you can find the original post here.

In mid-May this year, we moved from Adam’s apartment into Xobni’s now offices at Sutter and Kearney in downtown San Francisco. Xobni was 4 people. Starting Monday, we’ll be 9.

Matt looked at dozens of offices. We looked at cheap places, expensive places, places in the Mission, Soma, downtown, and elsewhere. We had nicknames for our options – “Osgood”, “Howard”, “the dog place”, and “the hot girl place” (a building populated by PR and advertising agencies). We went with “the Craigslist place”, which was in fact one of the first we looked at. I think we chose well.

You’re in a small startup and need to find office space for the team. What should you look for? I’m for inexpensive office space that works. No private offices, no prime office space, no pretentious architects or sixty story buildings.

Note that I won’t be talking about how to find a broker, a lawyer, or negotiate with the landlord. Joel can tell you all you need to know about that.

Location, Location, Location

The first rule in real estate also applies to startup offices. You need to be in a great location. At Xobni, we have found that being in San Francisco is invaluable for hiring. Many promising candidates want to be in the city, not an office park in Silicon Valley. Some already live in the city and commute every day via car, Google shuttle, or CalTrain at the expense of 2 to 3 hours per day.

You want to be close to public transportation. The financial district and parts of SOMA are ideal because they’re close to Bart, Muni, and the bus system. Parking is expensive but available. (We use the Sutter/Stockton garage.)

You also want to be close to the city center. We were two blocks away from the TechCrunch40 conference where we launched. Same for Web 2.0.

Here’s the view from our window.

Eating and Drinking

We typically order in food for lunch and go out for dinner even though we have a fully stocked fridge and snack cabinet. You want to be in a place where this is possible without excessive travel; the hours after dinner are the most productive hours for writing code.

Our lunch options are quite extensive: burgers, salads, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Hawaiian barbecue, crepes, burritos, pasta – you name it. Three of the four surrounding blocks seem to be dedicated to the purpose of feeding office workers. Dinner options are limited by the fact that everything in the financial district closes at 5 pm; you’ll find us at one of a handful of restaurants, Chipotle, the Westfield mall, or the Metreon.

We’re also very happy to have a 24-hour 7-11 downstairs, and a Walgreens around the corner to cover our convenience shopping needs. When I need to step out for a bit, I usually grab a Naked juice downstairs and take a walk around the block. Being in the city is hard to beat.

Prime Office Space? Nope

When we were shopping for office space, we looked at a lot of fancy commercial real estate. But as a startup, you won’t need fancy Class A space. Marble floors, and monumental glass-and-steel architecture won’t make your startup more successful. Paul Graham says: “Professional means doing good work, not elevators and glass walls.”

At Xobni, we went for office space with character. Our building was built in 1904, with all the charm of that era. It did come with one luxury, though: prewired Cat 5 Ethernet. The Scribd guys downstairs had to duct tape cable to the floor.

Layout

People have very strong opinions about what office space layouts should look like. Joel, for example, is a strong proponent of private offices. I think private offices are well-intentioned but go overboard.

You probably know that open layouts should be avoided. While everyone in the same room fosters communication, you’ll find that you can’t focus on complicated tasks because everyone interrupts everyone else all the time.

My experience with cubicles is slightly better. Google’s building 41, where I spent all of my Mountain View time, is one big cubicle farm. While there are fewer interruptions, the noise level is still unbearable; cubicles don’t filter sound well enough. I also found that Google’s compression ratios are unwise. Productivity suffers when you squeeze together with 3 people in the space for 1 person.

We have rooms for 3-4 people each. This is about the size of an engineering subteam will have. Being around people who are all working on the same thing encourages communication about the right things, but keeps interruptions down. I put my 49ers cap and headphones on when I don’t want to be interrupted.

In addition to the offices, we have a central conference room for formal meetings. We also have a quiet nap room with a comfy couch. Taking naps at the workplace sounds unprofessional, but it does make everyone more productive. Adam, for some reason, seems to have missed the memo about the nap room.

There’s also a “living room” with nice leather couches. We hold daily meetings with the entire team here. The huge plasma screen shows current bugs and work items, and stats about installs, beta signups, and plus support tickets.

Decoration and Furniture

We didn’t get Class A space, but we did spend lots of time decorating our digs. We put opaque glass panes in a wall next to the living room to bring in more light. We painted our walls in Xobni colors, and put up blik wall decals. We recently gave everyone a $100 decoration budget for their personal workspaces. We have yet to see the results, but I’m sure at least one of the Xobnis will get something completely inappropriate.

You only have one back and if you spend a lot of time in a chair, it better be a nice one. That’s why we spend money on Aerons, which we buy used from Craigslist. Everything else is Ikea. Everyone gets two desks (Mikael, $69.99) and drawers (Andy, $29.99). Two mikaels per person is a bit too large for our rooms, and we might need to move to a different desk setup when space starts running out.

Developers get three monitors, so some have remarked that our office looks like a Dell commercial. We need to call them up and renegotiate our deal on those LCDs.

I’m very happy with our office. We have room for about 9 more people, which should last for a while. The only item on my wishlist for the next office is a shower.

Thanks to Adam Smith for looking over an earlier draft of this.


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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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