AVG Takes 20% Stake In Zbang, Makers Of The Ultimate Social Inbox

(This is a review of one of the 7 startups presenting today at Techonomy 2010 in Tel Aviv. To read about the others, browse all posts tagged ‘techonomy’.)

Such a silly name for such an amazing product. Those were my thoughts after interviewing the founder and CEO of Zbang, an Israeli startup that is building the communication platform I’ve been genuinely longing for. Think of it as a universal social media inbox, like Threadsy, Inbox2 or MailSuite but an inch closer to perfection.

Zbang is a desktop application that enables users to aggregate updates from their email inboxes and social networking accounts into a single, well-designed interface that reminds a lot of Microsoft Outlook. More than simply aggregating messages, Zbang is also capable of managing and sharing a variety of files through a number of cloud sharing services, and lets you collaborate and communicate with people the way you desire, provided you connect to apps like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn … you get the drill.

I’ve seen a live demo of the product twice now, and it is exactly what I need. Unfortunately, the company isn’t quite ready for launch yet, and isn’t even accepting private beta users anymore. A full launch is expected for next July, although we should note Zbang will not be available for all platforms upon launch, and it will also not have a full-fledged mobile offering yet. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to their debut, and I’m definitely going to use this one.

Zbang was founded by Eidan Apelbaum, who has previously worked as Director of Product Management and Strategy at Yahoo! He has been responsible, among others, to the Front Page of Yahoo! and managed the Business Intelligence group that oversaw strategic development of Yahoo’s client-facing applications (Mail, Messenger, My Yahoo!, Groups etc.).

The company realizes full well that its biggest challenges will be distribution and gaining user trust in terms of security and privacy. Hence, it makes a lot of sense for the company to set up a strategic partnership with AVG, which is exactly what they did. The security software maker has purchased a 20% stake in the company for an undisclosed amount (although we hear they got a good chunk of the startup for relatively little cash).

As part of the investment partnership, AVG will collaborate with Zbang on current and future product development and provide the more than 110 million AVG customers worldwide with the cross-application platform. The collaboration of the two companies will also mean that the Zbang.it console will be wrapped in a security layer, with AVG technology providing protection against malware, phishing, identity theft, as well as added functionality from other technologies developed or acquired by AVG.

Million dollar question if this is a product that is only impressive for social media power users like myself, or if it will also be able to appeal to mainstream consumers.