Xobni, the email startup Yahoo just acquired, was once glowingly described as
“the next generation of social networking” by Bill Gates, and reportedly came close to being acquired by Microsoft. Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards) launched in 2008 with a plug-in for Microsoft’s Outlook app, which builds profiles of a person’s contacts, gathering phone numbers, email conversations and attachments, and social networking data, and makes it all searchable by keyword.
Xobni has since expanded its focus to Apple’s iCloud, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.
On Wednesday, Yahoo announced its acquisition of Xobni but didn’t say how much it paid. Kara Swisher from AllThingsD reported that Yahoo paid between $30 and $40 million for Xobni, while Ryan Lawler from Techcrunch quoted a source claiming the deal was worth $60 million.
Xobni has raised around $40 million to date from First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures and Khosla Ventures.
Xobni CEO Jeff Bonforte was VP of social search at Yahoo before being hired as CEO of Xobni in February 2008.
What’s ironic is that Microsoft came close to acquiring Xobni in 2008, but Xobni ultimately got acquired by Yahoo, which Microsoft itself tried unsuccessfully to acquire the same year.
In September 2008, Xobni signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Microsoft for around $20 million, at a time when the startup has raised $5 million, Techcrunch’s Erick Schonfeld reported.
According to Schonfeld, Xobni backed out because of concerns “about its eventual fate inside the Microsoft machine,” which included being relegated to “nothing more than a feature of Outlook.”
Here’s a 2008 video of Gates talking about Xobni: