Paul Allen Jumps Back in Founder’s Seat with Software Startup Xiant

Billionaire Paul Allen hasn’t an easy month. Most notably, Allen, who famously invested upwards of $7 billion for a 52% stake in now-bankrupt Charter Communications, sold nearly all of his Class A common stock holdings in the company — 28.5 million shares — for a grand total of $996 last week, according to an SEC filing. (Analysts are still puzzling over why he bothered.)

No sense dwelling on that silly matter, though! That seems to be the message coming from Allen’s camp, which today released the news that Allen is both funding and has founded a Seattle email software startup called Xiant (which apparently began life as Allen’s personal email sorting system).

Xiant’s software, which is available for free download here, enters a crowded field of startups that promise to make life easier for Outlook users. Just one example of another young company with a meaningful head start is Xobni, which began life as a Y Combinator startup and whose email plug-in has gone on to attract $11 million from firms like Cisco, Khosla Ventures and First Round Capital.

Then again, different startups have different objectives. To wit, when Xobni was still sitting on just $4 million in venture backing, Microsoft reportedly offered to buy it for $20 million, according to a TechCrunch article from last year.  The team said yes, then it said no, and we all know that Microsoft only comes knocking once, even if those talks go on for months and months before the negotiation falls through (cough, cough, Yahoo).

Assuming Xiant is less averse to being gobbled up for a decent multiple, it’s easy to imagine the startup landing its own meeting with Microsoft when it’s further along. After all, Allen cofounded the software giant with his high school chum Bill Gates.