Infomediaries collect consumer data and broker it to marketers in return for special deals and other offers to the consumer. Examples of such businesses include Anonymizer.com, which allows consumers to shield their online identities, and buying agent E-Loan, which provides quotes from a variety of insurance companies.
Mr. Blackshaw, former brand manager-interactive marketing at P&G, left in late September to start the venture, code-named "Project Bark." The president-CEO of the new business said he isn't prepared to release details until he secures a major first round of venture-capital funding.
7 BLOCKS AWAY
Set up seven blocks from P&G headquarters in a loft above a microbrewery in Cincinnati's once-seedy, now trendy Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Mr. Blackshaw's business is already backed by a local venture fund with additional capital expected from New York investment houses.
"The service I'm creating is all about consumer empowerment, but something that works as well for companies as it works for consumers," Mr. Blackshaw said. "It's an infomediary play, serving as an agent between consumers and businesses. We believe that it's a white space that's yet to be tapped."
Mr. Blackshaw believes others may be developing ventures similar to his, but added: "I don't think anyone has really done it in a way that works on both sides. There are a lot of consumer terrorist sites out there (aimed at venting consumer outrage against companies), but we're kind of blending my experience when I was working on consumer-advocacy issues with new perspective I gained from Procter."
Before getting a Harvard MBA and joining P&G, Mr. Blackshaw was a legislative consultant and press secretary in California, helping pass consumer-advocacy legislation.
Though only a brand manager by rank, Mr. Blackshaw was prominent in P&G's interactive efforts internally, helping found its interactive marketing team in 1996, then chairing and co-organizing -- along with VP-Global Marketing Denis Beausejour -- the 1998 Future of Advertising Stakeholders summit. He also was P&G's representative to the FAST Forward Committee.
"Clearly Procter is a great place to get close to the consumer and pick up some critical skills," Mr. Blackshaw said. "It's almost part of basic training for anyone who's really passionate about the Internet to do a start-up . . . Ever since the FAST Summit, I've been fixated on this notion that the consumer is really in control of the medium, and I've found a business concept that's consistent with that principle."
Joining Mr. Blackshaw as VP-marketing for the new venture is Mike Nazzarro, another Harvard MBA and former P&G brand manager who recently helped engineer the return of Mr. Whipple in ads for Charmin bath tissue.
The venture is chronicling its early stages with a Web site (startup-tv.com) that, among other things, shows video clips of Mr. Blackshaw leaving P&G