Qrious Seeks to Crack Smartphone App Market, Capture Data on Folks You Meet at Events

7/28/11Follow @jpruth

Conferences and other business events offer the chance to make new professional contacts, but wading through the masses of attendees can be a nightmare. Marching around with a guest list does not make it much easier. Enter seven-month-old Qrious, a New York startup working on an app that lets smartphones sift through contacts people make in-person.

“Our goal is to help business people meet more of the folks they want to connect with,” says Qrious co-founder John Federico. The app is still in beta but has already been put to work at events hosted by the MIT Enterprise Forum, Pace University, BarCamp NYC, and the Chicago Clean Energy Alliance.

The Qrious app is still in its embryonic stage of development, but here’s how it’s basically supposed to work. Users of Qrious create profiles activated through their LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter accounts that let them share contact information with other event attendees. Qrious users can search profiles at the events based on industry, area of expertise, or other criteria. Event planners can also print name badges, through Qrious, with quick response (QR) barcodes that provide contact details for the respective attendees. Qrious users can scan the barcodes with their smartphones to swap information, Federico says. Exhibitors at events can also use the Qrious codes at their booths for attendees to check-in to receive incentives.

Qrious is developing a feature to notify users when anyone with a profile that matches their search criteria enters the room they are in, Federico says. Future uses of the feature include breaking the ice between buyers and sellers at events. “We can match them up with the right vendors without actually sharing personal information and make a connection if they choose to do so,” Federico says.

The app in its current form works on the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices. It has also been designed to share information with the popular event planning site, Eventbrite, for groups that use the website to handle RSVPs. But Eventbrite is not required to upload the attendee list to the Qrious system, Federico says.

Qrious faces a crowded market of apps such as Sonar, Addieu, and Hashable, which all offer to help manage social contacts on smartphones. While those apps may appeal to fans of general social networking, Federico says his company is seeking to differentiate itself by connecting professionals at events. Even so, he has ambitions that go further than its current niche. “Ultimately we would like to move beyond that,” he says. “You’ll be able to meet someone on the street and scan each other’s code without having a [name] badge.”

John Federico met his fellow co-founder at an Ultra Light Startups event.

Federico, a marketing consultant, and fellow co-founder Kliment Mamykin, the engineer behind the app, met at an Ultra Light Startups event in New York. Ultra Light Startups is a monthly forum for technology entrepreneurs. Mamykin and Federico began working on Qrious in January. The company is currently self-financed, though Federico says they are in talks with potential angel investors. “We have some commitments but nothing’s closed yet,” he says.

The two-man company is beginning to attract an audience. Ramon Ray, editor of Smallbiztechnology.com in Montclair, NJ, says he plans to use Qrious for some of the events he hosts including next March’s Small Business Summit, which he says on average draws more than 450 attendees annually. “My audience says they want to meet people and capture rich information,” Ray says.

Neither Mamykin nor Federico have quit their day jobs yet while developing their startup. Mamykin works in New York as an engineer for a speech analytics company, while Federico runs his own marketing communications consulting firm, called The New Rules. “Right now Qrious is a labor of love versus my primary income generator,” Federico says.

Qrious admittedly needs some polish, Federico says, before the beta label comes off. That is not stopping him from reaching out to event planners to use the app. “We want to put this into people’s hands and get feedback before we do that,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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