A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week:
What: blist Inc., Seattle
Who: Kevin Merritt, 41, president and CEO
Mission: Build the world’s easiest database for use by a mainstream audience.
Simplify: Merritt, who uses “blist” as a verb, said databases have never been easy enough to use for the average person. The closest example has been FileMaker, but that program was created for a desktop world. Blist is designed for the Internet, allowing users to share database information online from any browser.
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Middle ground: Users create online databases and invite others to peruse, say, their wine list or DVD collection — much in the same way people are invited to visit a MySpace page. Predictably enough, this has prompted a new term: “social database.”
Hooked on data: Merritt thinks blist will help people understand and organize information at their fingertips. “We are collecting data at an astronomical rate,” he said. “People will start using blist and understand the connections between all the different bits of information. They will be able to get information through a structured query, which is a lot more precise than a Google search.”
Financials: The private company is self-funded for now, and may enter into an initial round of venture funding this year.
Familiar template: We’ve heard this before: blist is free to the consumer, and will probably charge for premium services at a later date. This may include extra storage, export capabilities, offline data services and branding. In the meantime, the idea is to build a customer base around companies that need data services, where Microsoft Access may be overkill.
Data bassist: Merritt started his last company, MessageRite, in 2002 and sold it to Microsoft three years later. He said he has no such exit strategy planned for blist; he intends to stick with it for the long haul. “This market segment has tremendous potential,” he said. “I want to be here to help it grow.”
— Charles Bermant