Plaxo – Profile
HQ: Mountain View, CA
Management: The company got early buzz because Sean Parker, who co-founded Napster, was CEO, but he was jettisoned by the board. In January 2005, the company hired Verisign SVP Ben Golub to be its CEO. Tim Koogle, Michael Moritz and Ram Shriram are all on the board.
Investors: Company has raised over $20M from Sequoia Capital, Globespan, Cisco Systems, Yahoo!, Netscape, and Amazon, including most recently a $7M round in May 2004.
Business Model: Integrated into Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, Plaxo’s software allows people to change their contact information (new email, phone number, etc.) and have those changes automatically updated in the address books of their contacts. The company has given away its Web-based software to millions of users and now looks to upsell them to its premium offering which goes for $20 a year.
Competitors: Good Contacts, AdresSender, Spoke. Similar outfits – Contact.com and PeopleStreet.com – both tried and failed in 2001.
Dirt: The company has done a good job of establishing a brand and gaining subscribers, but that’s a far cry from real revenues. The company’s obvious monetization route – selling data to marketers – is rife with privacy flaws. It could easily be a nice, niche player like eVite but that would surely be a big disappointment to investors. Board member Koogle is also a board member at Friendster, which faces similar issues. Another marketing/branding problem: Plaxo confuses people. What is this company, why am I receiving an e-mail from it, and why on earth would I submit my contact information?