I last ordered business cards in 2009. I think I ordered a thousand of them. And I haven’t run out of them yet — because most times when I need them, I don’t have them on me. They’re either at the office, or in my car, or in my backpack; but never with me where/when I need them.
Handing someone a piece of paper in 2018 to exchange contact information just seems archaic and mind-numbingly dumb to me. We communicate electronically. Contact information also needs to be in electronic form. And it’s a shame that this problem hasn’t been solved better.
The humble (and sometimes not so humble) paper business card has been in existence since the 15th century. Hundreds of years later, we walk around with supercomputers in our pockets, we talk to cylinders in our living rooms that answer questions for us, and we’re close to having cars that can drive us from place to place. Why is it that, in 2018, the most common way for exchanging contacts is still giving each other a piece of a dead tree?
This question is not a new one for me. It has bothered me for decades. I remember being so excited by contact beaming on the Palm V back in the day! I co-founded CardMunch in 2009 to solve one side of this problem — taking the sea of business cards on the side of my desk and accurately and reliably converting them into digital contacts. CardMunch was acquired by LinkedIn in 2011; within months of launching its product. LinkedIn, however, failed to recognize the potential for what this could do for them, and in a typical big company fashion proceeded to ruin and eventually kill the product. Yes, I’m still peeved.
Another problem with business cards is that sometimes people have to carry multiple of them. And no, I don’t mean carrying 10 of the same card, but carrying 10 of two different cards. Some of us have multiple roles and wear multiple hats. I have a role at K9 Ventures, but I also am a co-founder of HiHello, and I am also a kid-parent, and I am also a dog-parent. The information you choose to share with someone is often dependent on the context in which you are meeting that person.
Business cards can often expose too much information in these situations. For me, if I meet someone at a networking event, I’m probably okay giving out my work email and twitter, but not inclined to give my phone number. If I meet someone at the dog park, I’m probably giving them my phone number and a non-work email. With a paper business card there is no easy way for me to curate what information I want to share with different people.
But, to this day, the paper business card has persisted and survived. I’m inclined to declare that business cards are the cockroaches of information exchange — relics of ancient history and a nuisance in the modern age. I don’t like cockroaches. And, I really want the experience of exchanging contact information to be far more seamless than trading phones and manually typing in our number or email address.
This is why I’m excited to announce that I’ve co-founded a new company, HiHello, to solve this problem. The HiHello app is available today on both iOS and Android. You can scan the code below or click on the button to try the app today!
Here is what the HiHello app will enable you to do:
- Multiple cards for different contexts
You can create multiple cards with different information on them, suitable for sharing in the different contexts in which you meet people.
- Secure sharing via scannable codes
You can share your card using a secure code. On iOS (v11 or higher) the recipient doesn’t need anything more than just their native iOS camera app. On Android the recipient will need a QR code scanner, which is part of the Google Assistant and Google Lens (native camera please Google! Hint hint!)
- Share securely via email or phone
You can share your card using a email, or text message, without exposing the email or phone number tied to your phone.
- Quick access to your cards
We’ve made it really easy to access the right card quickly. Our iOS and Android widgets will let you pick which card you want to share right from the lock screen on your phone.
- Easy editing and updating
And with HiHello your cards will never get out of date or end up with scratched out phone numbers, because you can always go in and edit your information as needed.
With HiHello you’ll never be without your business cards any more as they’re right there with you on your phone. You share in a digital format so that your contact information doesn’t end up in the form of litter on the sidewalk as often happens with business cards.
The app is so simple that you don’t need to even watch a video, so we didn’t make one (yet!). Really, just go ahead and download the app, and try it for yourself. In our testing, we were able to invite a new user to download, onboard, and share their contact information all while getting burritos in the line at Chipotle!
I’m excited to be working with a great team for HiHello, starting with Hari Ravi (@HiHariRavi) as my co-founder. Hari is a alumnus from CalTech and Columbia and has previously worked at a startup that was using computer vision and machine learning to help read mammograms. Hari and I were introduced via Serge Belongie at Cornell Tech in NY. Thank you Serge!
Also on our team is Leith Abdulla (@eleith) as our CTO. Leith and I overlapped at Stanford for a few years and I’ve always wanted to work with him since. So I’m delighted to finally have the opportunity to do so. Leith was formerly the Director of Engineering at Coursera where he helped to scale their team from 4 to 100.
Nelson To (@yesnto) joins us as our head of Android. Nelson and I have also known each other for a while as I’ve tried to recruit him into other K9 portfolio companies from time to time. Nelson was the Head of Android at Juxta Labs, and prior to that at Sidecar.
Donsuk Lee interned with us for the summer. Don did his undergrad at Caltech and completed his Masters at Stanford, where he worked with Dr. Fei Fei Li and Dr. Michael Bernstein. He will soon be joining the PhD program in Computer Science at the University of Southern California.
We’re a small team, but we have big ambitions. We believe that who you know, is often more important than what you know. But in a world where who you know is so important, there is a lack of good tools to help us manage and optimize our professional relationships. Our goal is to fix that.
We’re just getting started with HiHello and firmly believe in incremental improvement and iteration. Our current app is just the first milestone on a long roadmap towards this goal.
We encourage you to download and try our app that is available in the app stores today. We welcome your feedback, both positive and negative, and hope you’ll stay tuned for what we are building.
On behalf of the entire HiHello team.