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What if your business card contained more data than just what was printed in ink? And, what if you could know who had viewed your business card and what actions they took? Did they visit your website? Did they read your blog?
ZebraCard is a new startup that aims to bring this level of insight to your business card. Using either a QR code or a barcode, ZebraCard embeds a marker on your business card that directs scanning programs to a digital business card hosted in the cloud. When that card is accessed, ZebraCard tracks the user’s interaction with the data.
MO: How did you come up with the concept for ZebraCards?
Nick: It began as a simple effort to add new functionality to an existing tech company that I own in the CRM space called AddressTwo. We wanted to provide users with business card scanning. As we ventured down the path we learned more and more about the capabilities and limitations of OCR (optical character recognition) that’s designed to “read” the text on business cards. All along the way, we kept thinking: there has to be a better way to trade contact data in the digital world. At the same time, we knew that the behavior of swapping little rectangular pieces of cardboard would be a hard one to supplant, so we needed to find a way to put digital data on that paper. That’s when the idea for ZebraCard was born.
MO: Can you talk about the development process behind ZebraCards and some of the challenges you’ve encountered along the way?
Nick: Developing the product itself was rather simple to begin with. It’s a relatively small and simple data model with a plain front-end to match. It has been the integrations that have been the most challenging. Many card scanning applications simply aren’t built with a workflow that would look for data anywhere other than from OCR results. We’ve had to look for ways to validate the OCR results after the fact, augmenting the data extracted from the printed card. Add to that the simple fact that these card scanning applications are all written in different languages, we’re having to write in everything from .NET SDK’s to PHP and soon some Objective C for the iPhone. It’s a broad range of technical skill required to integrate with all the major players.
MO: What are some of the advantages of barcoding or using QR codes on a business card?
Nick: Well, to start, you look cool. Let’s face it, QR codes are trending right now. There are some companies that are interested in putting forth the impression that they’re cutting-edge, creative, and up on the latest technology. A QR code on the business card helps add to that persona. But beyond that, it makes capturing the data off of your card easier for the recipient. If the recipient is tech-savvy, you saved them a lot of typing by offering this little digital marker. And, of course, in our case there is all the analytics that result from using a ZebraCard.
MO: What attracted you to the crowdfunding model of raising investment? What advice would you give someone considering using crowdfunding to get their project or idea off the ground?
Nick: Call me stingy, but I don’t like giving away equity. I’m not quick to serve a piece of my pie to others. I even wrote a book about how NOT to raise capital. But, there’s a benefit to raising capital beyond just the cash that many people forget—and folks like me miss out on—and that is the buzz that investors will help you create. Crowdfunding has helped us rally the same kind of support base and buzz, not to mention some money, in a model that doesn’t begin with selling equity. In a sense, we’re simply pre-selling our product.
MO: If I could grant you a business related wish, outside of funding, what would you ask for?
Nick: An audience with a major online printer like VistaPrint so we can talk partnership. If every business card customer were given the option to add a ZebraCard to their business card, that would be huge.
MO: What’s your vision for Zebra Card in 5 year’s time?
Nick: I won’t be bashful: I need to get out of the way. I don’t just mean an aggressive exit strategy just to get rich quick, I’m not that naïve. I want to divest myself simply because I believe there are other people who could do better as the CEO of ZebraCard than I can to grow it and to make barcoded business cards the new norm. That person is probably already in the business of printing business cards. The print industry is ripe for a technological enhancement like ZebraCard to adapt, evolve, and modernize its products for the digital age. I have the vision and the passion. I even have that technology. What I lack as founder is a pedigree in the print industry. If that person is reading this: here’s my ZebraCard: http://zcrd.me/F8oM8. Call me.