RSSI Makes $9M Wager on Attensa

RSS Investors made their first bet on a company this week, adding $5 million to RSS entrepreneur Attensa.

The Portland, Oregon-based, venture-backed software company Attensa, Inc. recently announced that it has completed a Series B equity funding led by RSS Investors, which along with existing investors, SmartForest Ventures, bring its total investment to date to $12 million.

This round of financing raised $9 million, with the Portland company, SmartForest, adding $4 million to RSS Investors $5 million. This is RSSIs first investment.

"John Palfrey, Richard Fishman and I had been thinking for a while about the need to bring more funding to the Web 2.0 movement, bring venture money to these entrepreneurs," RSSI founding member Jim Moore told Ziff Davis Internet.

"Our purpose is to promote the Web 2.0, RSS-enabled revolution."

Other members of the RSSI fund are Steve Smith and Tom Crowley, representing Ritchie Capital Management. They said the appeal of investing with Attensa was that it has an enterprise focus.

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"While Attensa is interested in attention software, the thing that has been attractive to us is that theyre building highly scalable, highly reliable technology—an RSS infrastructure," said Moore.

"There is an enterprise server that pulls all this information together and keeps track of what people are using. Theyre a plumbing company."

Attensa, Inc. is formerly known as You Software Inc., and is led by Craig Barnes, who founded and sold Portland, Ore.-based Extensis Inc., a software development company.

With the motto, "its all about less is more," Attensa seeks to cut through what it sees as information overload from the Web, helping users prioritize by leaving less information, but more relevant information.

Attensas first project, Attensa for Outlook, is in public beta right now, a free download that works inside Microsoft Outlook to bring RSS news and information from users Web sites of choice directly into Outlook folders.

With the download, users also get Attensa toolbars for Firefox or Internet Explorer, and the Attensa Engine, a desktop application that works in the background to process, store and organize feeds so that there is no waiting for feeds to load when Attensa for Outlook is launched.

However, Attensa is not the first company to retrofit RSS feeds onto Outlook, with earlier products including IntraVnews, RSS Popper and the popular NewsGator Online.

Rather than feeling competition from these other companies, CEO Craig Barnes says that, "We expect to make our engine available to them in the future."

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"What distinguishes our product from other RSS readers such as Yahoo, Google, on down, is that they dont have any intelligence involved. Were automatically prioritizing things for you, utilizing attention technology to observe your behavior with RSS items and recommend others," said Barnes.

Attensa has many plans for this newest round of funding.

"We still have a lot of work to do…and see the majority of our investment going into headcount in the next several years."

Attensa for Outlook, currently at version .99, will go to 1.0 next week at $19.99 per year with a mobile version for $39.99. An RSS enterprise server product will be released in the first quarter of next year, and Attensa will soon launch a free online RSS reader utilizing AJAX, with a similar user interface to its Outlook aggregator.

"One of the key differences in our RSS reader product is that it is a whole lot faster. Weve also integrated support of delicious tags and podcasting toolbars to make it really easy to get your feeds into aggregators."

It seems a smart plan that Attensa is broadening its RSS offerings in the coming year, as Office 12, due out in 2006, will include RSS support.

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