Cardigan, Younkle’s Latest Startup, Seeks to Digitize Business Cards

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

First, Matt Younkle helped customers digitize their music collections. Now, the serial entrepreneur is working on technology to digitize the age-old ritual of swapping business cards with new acquaintances.

Madison, WI-based Cardigan has developed software allowing people to exchange contact information using their smartphones. The company’s mobile app became available on the App Store and Google Play late last week.

While he acknowledges that the concept of a digital business card isn’t new, Younkle says he decided to make a bet that “it’s the right time for this product,” and that the team he’s working with can succeed where others have stumbled in the past.

Jim Remsik is Cardigan’s other co-founder. Remsik is also the founder of Adorable, a software company based in Madison. Adorable, which develops mobile apps and other software products for its clients, had spent years working on digital contact-sharing technology, but it wasn’t an especially high-priority project at the company, Younkle says.

“The Cardigan project … was always on the backburner [at Adorable],” he says. “It just kind of was slowly brought along but never really got commercialized in any meaningful way.”

As Cardigan simmered on the backburner at Adorable, Younkle was thinking about what he wanted to build next. He is perhaps best known as one of the inventors of TurboTap, a device that pours beer from kegs faster than a traditional tap. Three years after selling his ownership stake in Laminar Technologies, the business built around TurboTap, Younkle in 2010 co-founded Murfie, an online music marketplace that will convert collections of compact discs and vinyl records into high-quality digital audio files. He spent nearly six years overseeing day-to-day operations at the Madison-area company before stepping down in early 2016. (Younkle remains a “strategic advisor” at Murfie, and continues to serve on its board of directors.)

Late last year, Younkle was chatting about his future plans with Remsik. The two had become friends over the years by attending some of the same entrepreneurship-focused events in the Madison area, such as Forward Fest, which Younkle helps organize.

“All the projects that I was considering getting involved with needed software development skills, so I wanted to talk to him about this team and his availability,” Younkle recalls. Remsik brought up the languishing Cardigan project, which piqued Younkle’s interest: “I liked the idea a lot. I told him if he’d be interested in turning it into something, I’d love to get involved.”

They eventually decided that instead of having Younkle join Adorable and try to bring Cardigan across the finish line, it made more sense to spin the technology out into a new company. Now, less than a year later, Cardigan’s app is available for download.

Younkle viewed early June as a good time to launch publicly. One reason is that the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference is taking place this week in Madison, and there tends to be plenty of networking in between sessions and at the end of the day. Cardigan will be one of 13 startups giving pitches on Tuesday as part of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. Younkle pitched the company’s technology at least once previously, in March, which he wrote about in a LinkedIn post. But Cardigan had mostly been operating in stealth mode until this month.

Younkle demonstrated Cardigan to me at a coffee shop in downtown Madison earlier this … Next Page »

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