Thursday, September 6, 2012

FGS: Chris van der Kuyl, CEO, brightsolid

Chris van der KuylChris van der Kuyl, chief executive officer of brightsolid gave the keynote presentation at this year’s annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. His presentation was titled, “The Family History Community: A Global Powerhouse for Collaboration.” The history of brightsolid and its web properties is rich in collaboration (but mostly acquisition).

One part of van der Kuyl’s presentation really impressed me. “The real power of technology is when it is unleashed to everyone,” he said. Then he told us a little bit about Jack Andraka, a fifteen year old sensation. Andraka is a high school Freshman in Maryland. He invented a way to test for viruses and antigens using a specially prepared strip of paper. His pancreatic cancer test costs $3. That is 27,000 times less expensive than existing tests.

brightsolid was founded in 1995 as Scotland Online and changed its name to brightsolid in 2008. It is wholly owned by DC Thomson, which is a family owned publisher of newspapers and magazines. Brightsolid has two units: brightsolid online publishing and brighsolid online technology. Its online publishing unit has a dizzying array of websites:

  • Friends Reunited – A British social networking website. Acquired in 2010.
  • Genes Reunited – Launched as a sister site to Friends Reunited. Acquired in 2010 with Friends Reunited.
  • findmypast.co.uk – Founded in 2003 as 1837online.com. Published complete England & Wales BMD. Acquired in 2007.
  • findmypast.com.au – Australian Find My Past. Acquired it from World Vital Records in 2010. Originally WorldVitalRecords.com.au.
  • findmypast.ie – Launched in May 2011 as a joint venture with Eneclann.
  • 1911Census.co.uk – Launched in 2009 in partnership with The National Archives. Funded the project and operates it as a revenue-sharing partnership.
  • 1901censusonline.com – England & Wales censuses from 1841 to 1901. Founded by Qinetiq. Bought by Friends Reunited in 2005. Acquired it in 2010 with Friends Reunited.
  • ancestorsonboard.com – Launched in 2006 by findmypast.co.uk. They acquired it the following year.
  • ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk – Launched in 2002 as a partnership with the National Records of Scotland, the Court of the Lord Lyon, and brightsolid.
  • British Newspaper Archive – Launched in November 2011 as a partnership with the British Library. When Dennis Brimhall visited brighsolid’s office, they tried typing in the name of one of his ancestors and up he came as the first hit. (How many of us wish that would happen for us?)
  • censusrecords.com – I don’t recall when they launched this. It was this year or last. It is a small, pay-as-you-go site specializing in the U.S. census.
  • findmypast.com – Launched in July 2012 for an American audience. They are offering a Pioneer Membership for $4.95 a month. The offer runs through September 9th. They acquired the 1940 census as part of the 1940 U.S. census community project. “It has been an absolute privilege to be a partner on this project,” he said. They are negotiating several key partnerships to make them more competitive with the major U.S. players.

Countering Ancestry.co.uk sponsored “Who Do You Think You Are,” brightsolid is sponsoring “FInd My Past the TV Show.” The show connects ordinary people to a significant event in the past.

imageVan der Kuyl’s background is video games and brightsolid is working on one to draw in younger genealogists. “Family House” allows players to populate a house with related people. I think it allows you to furnish the house and set the appearance of the people.

(I don’t know if it is related, but brightsolid has posted a video of a different concept, “Your Family Story,” on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbxc6f_Yy_k.)

Van der Kuyl reviewed brightsolid’s values. (Also available as a YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6d51uN9M50.) “Our mission is to surpass your expectation,” he said.

“It’s about value creation, not just profit making.”

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