If you happened to be wandering around the Austin Interactive business technology conference last fall, you might have heard whispers among the gadget-loving trade show elite about some new business cards being flashed around. Flashed, as in electronically. As in uber-cool business card technology.
The buzz was about a clever and timely innovation from a feisty little Central Texas startup called Text4ROI, which is one of 10 select companies that will be showcased in StartupRow at the InnoTech conference in October. The firm is led by equally feisty CEO and co-founder Carrie Chitsey, who announced today that her firm’s patent pending new product – Text4vCard - is ready for prime time. And it’s oh-so-easy to use.
“With Text4vCard, you can send your business card to someone instantly, and they don’t have to be signed up with our service or download any applications before they can receive a card,” said Chitsey.
Text4vCard is an electronic SMS business card exchange service that lets people share contact info (plus any personalized text, like a Twitter user name) through cell phone text messaging. Users can then import the info to any contact database that accepts standard vCard formats, such as Outlook, Gmail, Address Book (and soon, SalesForce).
Chitsey, an acclaimed entrepreneur, innovator and Fortune 100 sales and marketing veteran, calls the service “phone agnostic” – it isn’t bound by any proprietary technology, so just about anyone can use it. All you need is a cell phone with a text messaging plan and a computer. And, if you happen to own a smart phone, you can add the vCard to your address book within seconds.
The evolutionary technology is bound to make the cavemen of Corporate America stand up a little straighter, especially now that they can shed their 100-pound card stock in favor of a weightless alternative.
The idea of exchanging contact info electronically isn’t new, of course. Companies have fiddled around with the concept before. But no one has approached the level of sophistication and ease-of-use that Text4vCard delivers. The service has advanced capabilities like a dashboard, which can generate reports about distribution, use and ROI. Users can see how many vCards they shared at an event and how many people actually added the information to their contact databases. Text4vCard also lets users add and share more information than other SMS-based services.
“You can enter more than your name, phone number, and e-mail address,” Chitsey said. “We have more fields for information and customized text and you can revise your information any time. If you change your phone number or switch jobs, you can instantly update your card.” Editing on a whim is a nifty capability, especially if you find yourself at a speed dating mixer or Star Trek convention and someone with green horns asks for your number.
Text4vCard may be the belle of the ball at cocktail parties and trade shows this fall. In fact, speakers and exhibitors at four upcoming trade shows in September and October will be flashing their new techno-cool Text4vCards, and people have already started snatching up vanity names. By the time South by Southwest 2010 rolls around, we'll all be texting our digits on gadgets.
I'm no early adopter by any stretch of the imagination. But Carrie and her colleague Dave Valentino had me sign up for a free trial, and - what do you know! I discovered it's rather fun to exchange business cards this nifty new way. I always took great pride in the design of my old paper cards, but it's pretty cool to tell someone to text my name to 70626 and see what happens. And yes, after a few tries, I succumbed to vanity and paid a little extra for "MissCharlie," so the rest of you Charlie girls will have to think of another vanity name (and I'd hurry, because they're going fast).
To see a live demo, text TXT4 to 70626; or for a free trial, visit the Web site: www.text4vcard.com.
Photo illustration by Roy Pena. Thanks, Roy!