The company started generating buzz last month after unveiling its product at DEMO (our coverage). The product’s big selling point is ease-of-use: it has the versatility and power of a relational database, but it doesn’t require knowledge of programming languages like SQL, and it can be used like a normal spreadsheet.
Gary Morgenthaler (left), a partner with Menlo Park, Calif.-based Morgenthaler Ventures, has plenty of experience with databases — in what he calls his “former life”, he founded database companies Ingres Corporation and Illustra Information Technologies before joining Morgenthaler full-time in 1996.
Since then, he says plenty of database companies have approached the firm for funds, but Morgenthaler has turned them all down. Those companies all wanted to squeeze into the existing database market, which is a big challenge. Blist, on the other hand, wants to expand the market to normal consumers, small business owners and others who find existing databases too difficult.
For example, Frazier partner Scott Darling (left) says his aunt — in her 80s — manually compiles and sends out a family mailing list several times a year. She’ll be able to create and manage the list much more easily on Blist, Darling says, so he’s hoping to get her hooked.
Darling — whose firm, like Blist, is based in Seattle — also notes that the existing database market is worth $15 billion. He estimates that Blist can snag “the bottom 20 percent,” namely people who are struggling with current products and would gladly embrace something more user-friendly.
And there will be plenty of opportunities to make money, Darling and Morgenthaler are quick to add. For one thing, Morgenthaler says the specialization of each database, called a “blist”, will make it easy to place highly targeted ads — it’s a no-brainer for wineries to advertise on a blist of different wines. Meanwhile, the fact that anyone can create or view a blist for free means that their usage can spread virally, and communities can grow around popular blists.
“(A blist) can become a meeting point, a gathering point for people with common interests,” Morgenthaler says.
Blist will also be charging for certain premium services, such as keeping your blist private.