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

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spring. One key design feature is that it’s possible to exchange information even if the person providing it does not have the Cardigan app installed on his smartphone. This is not the case with apps made by some competing companies, including Bump, an electronic business card startup that Google reportedly acquired in 2013 for at least $30 million. According to a report from Mashable at the time, “the fact that both parties needed to download Bump for it to work was a road block to truly mass adoption.”

Since Younkle was the only one of us who had installed the Cardigan app, he had me enter information about myself into a form—I just put in my name and e-mail address, and left the other fields blank—then tap a button marked “Connect Us!” Tapping this button did a couple of different things.

First, it saved my info so that Younkle can add it to his phone’s address book with just a few additional taps.

Second, it sent me an e-mail with a button to download Younkle’s digital business card. Clicking that button took me to a webpage showing Younkle’s name and picture, as well as the information you’d typically see on a business card: company name, title, address (both e-mail and postal), and phone number. The page also has a box saying when and where we connected.

“Those are the two things that I usually write down on a [paper] business card,” Younkle says. “I always like that context, to be able to refer back.”

The webpage displaying Younkle’s business card also has a button allowing me to add him to my phone’s list of contacts.

The process was surprisingly streamlined considering I didn’t have the app installed. But what gets Younkle really excited is what’s possible when both parties already have Cardigan on their phones and want to trade information.

“If both of us happen to have the app, then it’s just going to be a gesture-based exchange,” he says. “I use the idea of zipping up a Cardigan. Literally, you have a zipping-up motion that pushes our data back and forth to each other. At that point, it’s very quick and very seamless.”

Whether this will appeal to a broad audience remains to be seen. The electronic business card sector is crowded. CamCard and Evernote, which allows for integration with a user’s LinkedIn connections, both offer popular services. So far, a clear winner has yet to emerge.

Cardigan is attempting to compete with a long list of technologies, many of which have deeper pockets and more refinement. Younkle says Cardigan has raised about $100,000 in pre-seed equity financing. Most of the funding came from friends and family, says Younkle, who adds that he put in some money himself.

Younkle says that a significant amount of the product development has been done by people who are still employed at Adorable, and agreed to work in exchange for an equity stake in Cardigan.

(Cardigan also pledged to give a 1 percent equity stake in the company to United Way of Dane County, as Remsik and Younkle wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday.)

The pre-seed funding should be enough to tide the startup over for a while, Younkle says.

“We’re pretty lean,” he says. “Jim and I aren’t paid. We don’t have offices. We’re able to tap our talent at Adorable when and how we need it. I’m not anticipating raising a lot more money for … Next Page »

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