A Xobni Executive Leaves The Red-Hot Startup. But Why?

Xobni, the Y Combinator email startup that turned down an acquisition offer from Microsoft earlier this year, has just lost its VP Engineering and first employee, Gabor Cselle. Cselle joined the company in March 2007, sporting a seemingly perfect resume that included work on the Gmail team and a Master’s thesis on “Organizing Email”.

The departure may not be abrupt (Cselle won’t be leaving until the end of August), but it is unexpected, and frankly, doesn’t make much sense. Since launching at TechCrunch40, Xobni has shown impressive growth and received widespread acclaim – Bill Gates demoed the service at the Office Development Conference earlier this year.

CEO Jeff Bonforte (who joined the company only five months ago) says that Cselle simply decided that he was no longer happy at Xobni, and wanted to try building his own startup. Bonforte says that Cselle likely wants his own shot at glory, and because of Xobni’s quick rise to success, members of the team may believe that launching a startup is far easier than it really is.

Cselle’s blog post on his depature seems to confirm this, at least in part:

“Ever since reading a biography of Bill Gates when I was 14 years old, I’ve wanted to be a founder of a company that makes a difference. I’ve wanted to build a workplace where people can be creative, productive, and happy, and a product that delights users and improves their lives. I feel like the time is now.”

Cselle may be itching to try his own luck, but Bonforte’s explanation still doesn’t sit well with us. Microsoft just threw $20 million at the company, which it turned down, likely in hopes of a better offer somewhere down the road. Why wouldn’t Cselle wait for his payday and then jump ship to start his own company?

We’ve heard that Cselle has been unhappy at the company for months, but we haven’t been able to reach him for any further details (we’ll update the post as soon as we do). In his blog post, he says that after leaving Xobni in August, he’s going to travel the world, raising money along the way for a new email startup.