Bump, With a Fresh $16 Million, Explores New Ways to Connect Mobile-Device Users—Q&A with David Lieb and Jake Mintz

1/12/11Follow @wroush

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grow the team. We think this opportunity is enormous. If we play our cards right and execute right, we think Bump could be on every mobile phone in the world in a couple of years. And that is what we think this funding is going to let us do.

X: You’ve talked elsewhere about the idea of being able to bump not with another person, but with a business or a person at a merchandising table at a concert or perhaps a kiosk in a store—so that bumping could turn into a form of marketing. That’s another departure from your original formula—is that something new or has it always been on your product roadmap?

JM: It’s something that we have thought about from the very beginning. It’s in a lot of ways much more difficult than what we’ve done so far. With Bump, so far, we’ve built software that gets noticed because people share it with their friends—it distributes itself. Once we start moving beyond people to places and brands, we start talking about physical hardware and about working with other companies, so there is a lot more friction that goes into that. But in general, one of the things we think is really exciting going forward is moving beyond just person-to-person to person-to-place and person-to-brand.

If you look at how you spend your day, you communicate with a lot of people, but you also form a lot of connections and interact with a lot of non-people. We think there is this big opportunity to create richer, more robust transactions—to take things you are already doing and make them easier, or to take things that were impossible to do before and make them possible. Pretty much every day since we’ve launched, we have had inbound interest from merchants, brands, bands, and others saying ‘We really like the Bump technology, have you though about expanding it?’ We just haven’t had the resources to build the right product for that. That’s a lot of what this next year and this funding is going to let us do—to build a product that can enable all these interactions for places, brands, and things.

X: I’m wondering to what extend you’ve been influenced by all the attention recently to near-field communications technology—including the idea that all phones will eventually have NFC chips that allow them to store credit-card data or virtual cash. As you talk about enabling person-to-place interactions, are you trying to make sure that Bump still has a place in a world where lots of phones may have near-field technology?

JM: NFC is a really interesting technology, but it’s been kind of funny for us, because a lot of people have written off Bump, saying ‘Once NFC comes out there’s no need for Bump anymore.’ But what got us excited about working on Bump years ago was that we thought there was this huge opportunity to build powerful and valuable interactions [between mobile devices], and we looked around and there was no technology to enable that. So we went off and created our own that would work on modern smartphones without NFC.

There are really three layers to Bump. There is the connection, and there is the network formed with the technology, and there’s all the interactions built on top of the connections. The last two, the network and the interactions, are what’s really valuable. The connection technology is an enabler. It’s necessary for us to do this stuff, but we don’t think … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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