Adam Smith awarded Tech Review 35 under 35

Today Adam Smith, the mastermind behind Xobni’s mission of “fixing email,” deserves a pat on the back; Adam has been named one of MIT Tech Review’s 35 Young Innovators Under 35. Adam joins the ranks of previous winners such as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Kevin Rose (Digg) as well as this year’s winners including Jack Dorsey (Twitter), JB Straubel (Tesla Motors), and Dries Buytaert (Drupal). Adam is only 23, so he has 12 more years before he hits the 35 y/o limit for this award. I’m betting they’ll make it an exception and give it to him twice before he is old enough to run for president.

Read Adam’s profile here:

Adam’s profile was written by our good friend Om Malik from

The Xobni team is very proud of Adam and excited by this outside recognition of the accomplishments we see internally every day.

8 Responses to “Adam Smith awarded Tech Review 35 under 35”

  1. 1 SimplyTired August 24, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    OK, so when you guys are done congratulating yourselves, would you mind making Xobni product actually usable? On Lenovo Thinkpad X60s, Windows Vista business edition Xobni brings Outlook to a screeching halt. In fact Xobni is worse that any Microsoft product, quality-wise, I have experienced and Xobni is not even a Microsoft product…! Geez, how did you manage to achieve that?

    It just doesn’t work long enough for a user to realize its benefits. I am willing to pay for this product because it has a lot of promise, but only when it works…!

    Let me repeat again. You. Do. Not. Have. A. Product. Period. If you don’t believe me, go on over to your community boards and check it out. It is one thing to be taken in by the marketing folks, but it is frustrating when we can’t even trust fellow engineers / programmers to decide whether the product is customer-ready or not…geez…


  2. 2 Matt Brezina August 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Our heads are down working on improving Xobni everyday. We have hundreds of thousands of happy users that are using Xobni daily. On some system configurations there are performance challenges which we are isolating and fixing one by one. Desktop software is hard. This is such an important task that we continue to invest in QA resources. Just today we had a new automated QA engineer, Daniel Leonard, join us. We continue to work on making Xobni better 12 hours/day.

    Matt Brezina
    Co-founder, Xobni

  3. 3 Simply Noting August 25, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    @SimplyTired Your comments are a little inflammatory, but I too think the interest and investment in this company has been misguided and something of a byproduct from a residual euphoria of the number of tech M&A transactions in 2005 and 2006. Though the overall problem to solving email is a large and obviously profitable one, I would have passed on this investment because of four key points:

    (1) The Microsoft Office deployment environment and Development APIs are too heterogeneous overall to make a swift, nimble, and effective product-oriented startup. Without an open source base for the Outlook or Office platform, QA’ing and fixing bugs is just a matter of guesswork on a framework whichwas never really designed for pluggable components (and must no doubt be threadbare because of the burdens of backward compatibility). Moreover, so many deployment variables exist, it may have been better off to go for a more fixed and transparent platform, like Thunderbird. Even though the Total Market Size of the Outlook install base might be larger than anything else out there, the Addressable Market Size might very well be larger with a Thunderbird because of the number of technophile users who would be willing to install and use a plugin.

    (2) Indexing is a long-standing but somewhat intractable problem in client based email. When emails are downloaded to a device like a laptop, they either must be searched with brute force string matching (i.e. return one result at a time) or indexed, at the immense cost of CPU and disk I/O. For this reason, indexing and information retrieval in general, from its beginnings in the 1970s in university library systems, has been performed on parallelized servers which clients can eventually query. The CPU and disk I/O costs are so high, there is little surprise that practically every other thread in the Xobni forums is about Xobni slowing down their computer. This is also presumably the reason why Microsoft has indexing disabled by default on outlook — laptops and PDA devices are not well suited to perform this task. Xobni is not going to get any faster just by simply automating QA and “fixing this bug” — these performance issues are systemic to the architecture that has been chosen.

    (3) The idea social networking is intriguing first of all because extant social networks use an email address as the primary means of identification of a principal. However, to say that this means email can form the basis of a social network is to make the mistake of confusing a necessary condition with a sufficient condition. Not all emails are socially relevant (there is after all spam, messages from your Amazon orders, automated messages from your facebook, etc.) Therefore some form of machine learning and/or regression has to be applied to sort out these contacts (perhaps through Named Entity Recognition), which inevitably will have a false positive and false negative rate. This of course is bound to be less reliable than a social network with requests and approvals and hence the comparison is again at least a little bit specious. Users, in my opinion, would never be happy with the kind of stochastic classification that would have to be in place to make this sort of social network function.

    (4) The numbers of installs are no doubt an internal figure and cannot be audited. This would make a pretty tough sell for an exit to M&A to anyone except maybe Microsoft making an HR style acquisition.

    These points together, taken together, make for a very difficult environment for a successful product (no less a company).

    Simply Noting

  4. 4 SimplyTired August 26, 2008 at 12:33 am


    I appreciate your reply. I look forward to a much improved experience of Xobni in the weeks/months to come.

    Simply Noting,

    Exactly what part of my comments were “a little inflammatory?” No, scratch that. An irked user feedback is inflammatory to the extent that the product usage was the cause of it. I am willing to pay for Xobni, in return for a better experience. Be that as it may, we all should welcome any feedback and if the feedback is not good, then fix the product. I think that’s what Matt’s reply indicated, so I am happy with that.


  5. 5 Simply Noting August 26, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Simply Tired:

    Sir, no offense really intended. I am just a skeptic of the product as it is now packaged. If you are looking for indexing and better search, there are very well more options available, like Lookout and ClearContext. Some of these are free (and already available on the Outlook system). But indeed they are doomed to fail: search in email must be server side.

    If you feel like this “Xobni” product is your solution to social networking, you must either be an unfortunate marketer whose company does not have access to a reasonable CRM (I pity you, but one day you will graduate high school) or an extremely old man who thinks this is his version of facebook. (Sorry, GigaOM)

    Simply Noting

  6. 6 Simply Noting August 26, 2008 at 9:02 am

    In case anyone is interested, I commented on Fred Wilson’s blogpost about commenting and comment distribution here:

    I happen to be a skeptic about the strategy xobni is now employing but that doesn’t mean i am skeptical about the problem they are solving. QA in a Microsoft environment bulks up end-to-end costs, just generally — which is simply the key insight I am pointing to. Until Microsoft has a reasoned motivation to do this for third part APIs, I’m sure these problems will exist. A competing company like SUNW is mocked on foolish websites like GiGAOM for doing so.

  7. 7 Maynor Mijangos September 18, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Congratulations, is a great software, I’m recommended your plug-in in my blog. in spanish language.

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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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