Gist Opens to the Public, Wants to Own the Nexus of E-mail, Search, and Social Networks

Every time I look at Gist, it’s a little different. Given it’s a scrappy startup trying to navigate the worlds of e-mail, social networking, business software, and Web search—each a huge market opportunity, each hugely competitive—this is probably a good thing.

The Seattle company, backed by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital and Colorado-based Foundry Group, is announcing today that its software, which has been in private beta trials for the past year, is now available to the general public. Gist bills itself as an online service that helps people manage their personal and professional relationships more efficiently.

The basic idea is to provide a Web dashboard that finds your contacts from your e-mail inbox and social networks (Outlook, Gmail, Twitter,, and keeps you up to date about these contacts—even ranking their importance—through online information from blogs, articles, tweets, and updates on Facebook and LinkedIn. So, before your next business meeting, instead of having to Google around or search on Twitter to get up to speed on notable developments, Gist will surface any recent activity involving your contact, says Gist founder and CEO T.A. McCann.

It’s an ambitious product. Since the company’s $6.75 million Series A funding round from Vulcan and Foundry Group was announced in May, Gist has buckled down and focused on listening to customers (about 10,000 and counting) and improving its software and interface. It also moved into new office space near Qwest Field.

Among the new wrinkles in the software: Gist can filter information based on which people you’re meeting with this week, or which people you’ve exchanged new e-mail with; the software can also hook into customer relationship management through your contacts; you can invite other people to try Gist, so there’s a viral component to the product distribution.

“There are probably a whole bunch of users who can get a lot out of Gist,” McCann says. “We think Gist is something people will want to talk about and share with other professionals.”

For now, the software is free, and will remain so for the rest of the year. But come early next … Next Page »

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