I took a trip to Seattle last night to attend the Venture All Stars event and catch up on the startup scene in the area. Robert Scoble was there too so watch for video interviews on Scobleshow in the future. The most intriguing thing I saw were some new developments from Seattle startup Blue Dot. We first profiled this social bookmarking and networking service when it launched at Gnomedex. Blue Dot scores high on accessibility and smart features – their newest move being one more example.
Perhaps the most interesting news about Blue Dot though is the addition of new investor Mark Zbikowski to the company’s Board of Advisors. Zbikowski is one of only a handful of people (including Gates and Balmer) to have worked at Microsoft for 25 years and he’s the designer of the DOS executable file format (.EXE). Zbikowski’s initials MZ are in the header of every .EXE file. He’s just one of many heavy hitters backing Blue Dot, other investors include former Starbucks Senior VP Don Valencia and former Microsoft Senior VP Richard Fade. It’s interesting to note that Blue Dot, a company with so many elite backers, has a non-hierarchical structure among its employees.
Blue Dot has also launched what it calls its “partner program” to allow off site publishers to place “Dot this” links after each story on their sites. That’s not unusual, but the way the company is implementing the program is important because it ought to be obvious. I think Blue Dot has implemented the most frictionless and accessible way to get new users participating in a bookmarking community that I’ve seen yet.
The key is that Blue Dot is useful to readers immediately without registering for an account. Readers who click on the Blue Dot link to save an article on a partner site see a small pop up box from which they are able to send that article by email to anyone. The article is saved in an account automatically created for them without registering for Blue Dot. A cookie on the browser associates the user with that account and an email is sent to introduce Blue Dot’s full feature set and direct them back to the Blue Dot site to read friends’ comments about the emailed item.
The pop up box keeps readers on the partner site and has a more extensive explanation of the service that appears when the top bar of the box is hovered over.
The end result is that Blue Dot is the easiest social bookmarking service to start using immediately without filling out an account registration. It mystifies me that the links for other social bookmarking services on publisher sites are useless until you’ve created an account. The code to put a Dot This button on your site is here.
This is just one of many things that aren’t necessarily uncommon but that Blue Dot is doing particularly well. They also allow users to change the colors of the Blue Dot page, import their archives from Del.icio.us and automatically Dot all the posts in their own blogs off site.
A number of new features and partnerships are in the works that if successful will integrate Blue Dot in some high profile sites around the web. This is definitely a company to watch. Microsoft spawned social networking site Wallop is better funded, but I find Blue Dot more compelling because its services seem more useful even if they are less Flashy.