More on PRM: BatchBlue

I was a little late on this one (they launched at DEMO 2007), but Mashable just wrote up another interesting entrant in the Personal Relationship Management (PRM) category: BatchBlue. The article was timely – Andy and I were just talking about the need to manage our professional contacts more effectively last Friday – and the company has staked out a ‘missing link’ in the social media landscape: creating and managing groups of personal contacts. Unfortunately, we now have over half a dozen different Web 2.0 companies aiming at PRM, each from a slightly different angle, and almost none of which have open APIs. In addition to BatchBlue, these include:

  • LinkedIn – Business contact manager and digital resume database
  • Xobni – Outlook plugin offering analytics for email contacts
  • Xoopit – Gmail analytics + visual browser for file attachments
  • Skydeck – Communications analytics for cellphone accounts
  • SocialMinder – Email communications reminder and research service
  • Gist – Personal news service for “important” people and companies, with “importance” determined by email analytics

This collection of companies now does – in aggregate – almost everything I want my ideal PRM solution to do:

  • Sit on top of my personal communications streams (email and phone)…
  • Parse, analyze and index for:
    • individual contacts
    • relationships (both declared, like LinkedIn contacts, and inferred, via email header analysis, communications frequency, etc.)
    • companies of interest (via email domain + text / link analysis)
    • file attachments (including text analysis of contents)
    • themes and ideas (via Natural Language Processing / semantic analysis)
  • Pull in relevant data from other applications, e.g.:
    • Calendar appointments with contacts
    • News headlines about people and companies
    • Job changes (via LinkedIn), blog posts and other social media activity by contacts
  • Expose interesting patterns
    • Relationship management analysis (e.g., who have I fallen out of touch with, how am I doing as a communicator)
    • Communications content analysis (what are the most important ideas, people, places and companies in my communications streams, how are these changing over time)
  • Allow advanced search
    • Let me search my communications archive – attachments included – by multiple variables, including: person, date, concept/keyword, etc.
  • Suggest actions, e.g.,
    • Build mailing lists of like contacts (BatchBlue)
    • Suggest people to contact (SocialMinder)
    • Suggest new connections (LinkedIn)
    • Suggest topics for new conversations (Gist)

Among the various startups in this space (at their reported $1B valuation LinkedIn no longer qualifies) , BatchBlue is impressive not only for the quality of their offering, but also because they are the only one to have a clear and transparent pricing model. Unlike most Web 2.0 companies (37 signals is a notable exception) they’ve zeroed in on a very specific pain point for a very specific audience, solved it with smart software, and aren’t afraid to charge for the value delivered. I have no idea how that model is working for them, but having the courage to ask puts them a cut above the rest.