The idea had stemmed from a personal distaste for carrying around business cards. I have never been a big believer in them. But I was a frequent at the networking events circuit. Conversation would end with ‘Can I have your business card’ which would result in an awkward smile ‘Umm, sorry I don’t have any’. Business card scanners for your phone existed. But no apps that just eliminated the need to carry a business card.
After decades of software, why had this piece of cardboard with text endured? What magic can it possibly hold? Instead of being digitized themselves there were websites now that let you upload, design and order cards. How can the humble card be replaced by something ‘contemporary?’.
No idea is original. In the past a company had attempted to solve the problem via Twitter, other’s had stuck to OCR. As far as we could tell, the NFC concept was still untested. Bump had a clever algorithm but NFC was our saviour.
After much brainstorming, research, pitching for money, applying for grants and building a couple of prototypes we realized:
Business cards just worked. You pulled them out of your pocket and handed them to another person. The design, text, paper, print and quality of them also carried a certain social status.
We tried to tackle a different problem with the same tech; collecting leads at conferences. Post conference, there’s a pile of business cards that need to be scanned. Our solution was to build NFC enabled badges encoded with the attendees contact info, paired with NFC readers at the booth. The contact info could be uploaded to any CRM minus the scanning.
Most conference organizers felt the benefit of NFC name tags didn't justify the cost nor were they terribly excited about it.
We were not ready to give up yet. The three of us seemed to work well together so we brainstormed other ideas. Our general direction was something local to KW so I registered the domain http://www.kwstartups.com/. Dumbfounded that no one had registered it in Kitchener/Waterloo.
The domain in hand, the question became what to do or not to do with it. Squat on it until someone wants to buy it? Unlikely. The next light to shine upon us was a search engine. Not the Google sort but a directory of local startups. Perhaps even some analysis on their growth, revenues, stage, team — think Crunchbase or Mattermark but hyper-localized.
Communitech and Accelerator Center have their member/client directory but at the time we felt it was fragmented and incomplete.
For the two weeks that followed, we built a search engine powered by Google Spreadsheets.
We shopped around our prototype. Nothing happened.
KW didn't need a search engine. Essentially being a small community every knew everyone else. Developing a data aggregator to score companies was complicated and getting actual revenue/funding numbers from the companies themselves proved to be a dead end. We shelved it.
The domain morphed into a blog. I had already been toying with the idea of a blog covering startups in KW from a different angle then what was already out there. I knew the community so I started emailing and chatting with people which eventually turned into formal interviews that I transcribed, edited and published. Hoping writing about local companies would generate some interest.
My impatience got in the way. I wanted to try something different.
I met Sandi — the founder of Quibb over coffee in Kitchener. We chatted about Quibb and other topics. She was helpful, interesting and humble. I was fascinated.
I was fascinated by communities. From bulletin boards to forums and IRC to Reddit/HackerNews and the niche permutations, internet communities have been around for a long time. Curious and armed with a domain name — I set out to create a Question & Answer site for … Startups in KW. The hope was to create open conversations to share learning, failings and be more inclusive.
There are Facebook groups, but these Facebook groups exist within Facebook. An open site would accessible and index(able) by search spiders.
That is where it stands today — a question pops up but otherwise it’s sterile like a hospital ER. Months after it first went live, I actually had the time to make a new logo.
The question remains on where to take it from here.
The blog is still live and if you are interested in being featured there, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.
This post was written in Draft. I wish Medium would support Markdown.