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Napster Co-Founder Tackles E-Mail Mess

Sean Parker's Plaxo offers a free system that automatically updates Microsoft Outlook users' address books.

November 12, 2002|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

Two years after leaving Napster Inc., company co-founder Sean Parker is reemerging as the head of a Silicon Valley consumer software firm that he hopes will provoke a lot less excitement.

Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up Plaxo Inc. today will begin distributing a free system that sends e-mail messages to a user's correspondents, asking for updated contact information. Once received, the system automatically changes the user's Microsoft Outlook contact list to reflect the new data.

The system will become more useful as more people join because it allows users to dispatch updates on their whereabouts to everyone else who uses Plaxo without sending any e-mail.

Parker, 22, said he came up with the idea out of frustration after assembling a huge number of contacts very quickly, then having much of the information go bad.

"I realized my address book was such a mess, the only way to fix it would be to raise money, recruit a team and build a company to do it," he said.

Plaxo's board consists of ex-Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Tim Koogle and Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, which invested $2 million in the venture.

The firm's advisors include Napster's better-known principal founder, Shawn Fanning, who left the music-swapping firm recently during its bankruptcy proceedings.

Plaxo's competitors include 2-year-old Inc. of Ottawa, which offers a pay service, and from Glenwood Springs, Colo.-based Udell Enterprises Inc., which has both free and pay offerings. Some analysts who have been using Plaxo say it represents an improvement over the competition.

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