Despite the high-tech tools we use to conduct business, in-person networking still feels instinctive, albeit old school. You won't find startup founders swapping contact info by bumping smartphones. Instead, they solidify their exchanges with business cards — a lo-fi tradition that hasn't changed much since its origins in European aristocracy.
TouchBase Technologies, an MIT startup that made a splash at last year's DreamIt Venturesaccelerator, has proposed a new option that falls somewhere between a traditional business card and the mostly unpopular digital alternatives already on the market.
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TouchBase's cards are embedded with conductive ink circuitry, which mimics the electronic signal of a fingerprint. By tapping the card against a smartphone screen, the cardholder's digital profile is transferred to the recipient's mobile device in seconds.
"We realized that business cards really aren't going away," TouchBase CEO Sai To Yeung tellsMashable. "It's a critical part of business etiquette."
Tech ventures that try to replace the business card do so at their own peril. Google's Android Beam allows smartphones to exchange information through near field communication (NFC), but the technology hasn't been widely adopted as a business card alternative, partly becauseiPhones aren't compatible. Google also recently shuttered Bump, a similar mobile-to-mobile sharing app, and QR codes make a business card look cluttered and ugly.
The information stored on a TouchBase card is not limited to what's physically printed on it. When tapped against a smartphone screen in TouchBase's proprietary app, the card redirects to a digital profile with the cardholder's photo and contact information, with links to Twitter, LinkedInand Facebook profiles, as well as photos and videos of creative projects. This is in contrast to other card-scanning technologies, which rely on a photograph of the card to transcribe information (LinkedIn and Evernote both offer such apps).
"This is a way to keep the look and feel of your card, but when you want to share more information, you have that ability," Yeung says.
There are a few drawbacks to the card's current technology. TouchBase's trial run is limited to the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C, and the app cannot export information to your Contacts list. Because the card stock is not especially flexible, users might need to remove their iPhone cases in order to lay the card flat against the screen. Yeung says that TouchBase plans to print on more flexible card stock in the future, and that native apps for iPhone and Android are in the pipeline.
TouchBase's Indiegogo campaign will be funding until March 15. As of this writing, the startup has raised nearly half of its $30,000 goal.