Can Xobni cure Outlook’s ills?

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.