San Diego’s BlackBall Finds the Files from Unstructured Data

5/13/09

“How many of us have lost a file sometimes?” BlackBall CEO Bob Brown’s first question to his audience is a killer. Hasn’t everyone lost or missed a file in their computer? We’re all storing more and more files in unremembered places all over our computers, where they become ”unstructured data” instead of organized in some supposed folders. And the bigger the computer, the network or the company, the bigger this problem becomes.

San Diego’s BlackBall was founded in 2002 to bring order to chaos, so when you absolutely need to find something more-or-less critical, you can quickly retrieve it wherever it may be stored in your computer. BlackBall’s SearchIn client gives you a real-time list of documents, pictures, or audio files in your computer in a moment.

In comparison, Google’s search engine may need to index your computer first; a frustrating exercise. Microsoft’s search of its own Windows operating system may take a lot of time and still show you only some files. “We really don’t compete with them, because the problems we are solving are really more complex than their product offers,” says CEO Brown. He says BlackBall actually has no competitors. SearchIn may appear very familiar’—but there is no similarly working search engine technology coupled with the file management system of desktops or laptops.

Bob Brown

Bob Brown

In the six years since it was founded, BlackBall has received no venture capital money, and Brown says the company turned down a funding offer last summer. He says he’s not necessarily looking for funding now, even though Brown was among the CEOs who made presentations yesterday to venture investors at this year’s Red Herring North America conference in downtown San Diego. ”It depends, but we are not actively looking for it,” Brown told me. “I don’t think this is the right market to give the kind of value our company has. Taking venture money wouldn’t buy us much right now.”

The software company has 12 employees—seven of them are engineers. That’s down from 20 employees last year. The company got its initial funding from founders, angel money, and Alan Shugart, founder of Seagate and pioneer of the disk drive, who served as a chairman of BlackBall from 2004 until he died in 2006.

Brown has spent much of his career working in storage management. He started in 1987 at Emerald Systems and has been COO of Contigo Software and a vice president at Seagate. Last year Toshiba’s eBridge Re-Search, which is powered by BlackBall’s Foundation technology, won AeAs Software Product of the Year title.

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