I have a box that sits under my desk, quietly threatening to overflow at any moment. Like an iceburg, it’s sheer volume cannot be detected from the surface – yet I know the power of what lies within it’s depths. I’m talking about a box of business cards.
Allen Stern, the popular CenterNetworks blogger-turned-startup entrepreneur, launched CloudContacts in October 2008. The growing service allows you to mail in your stack of business cards (or email them if they are already digital), CloudContacts processes them, adding some extra value here and there and poof! You now have a database of valuable information and quick access via email or social networks to all of the people you’ve met over the past years. You can export the data to your email, address book and other tools and formats. Other features of the service include:
- A Web interface to access business card contacts from anywhere
- Integration with CRM applications including SalesForce and 37Signals Highrise
- Double verification for accuracy
- Works with the Apple Mac Address Book
- Full backup of your business cards
- One-click connect to your contacts on social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
- Your business cards can be recycled
- vCard tools and introductions
What many people will find useful is the “Social Connector” which looks at your business card contacts and then finds matches on social networking sites, based on the email address. One aspect that Allan explained on his site’s blog:
You can now connect directly to your business card contacts on Twitter. After you connect your Twitter account with your CloudContacts account which takes just a second, following a person on Twitter takes just one click. We also display which contacts you are already following. This new functionality takes a scanned business card to a whole new level of online connectivity.
We know Allen and have great respect for his company -but best of all, have heard great things about his service from colleagues, which is why we are bundling up all of our cards to send his way. But here’s what we want to point out about CloudContacts to other entrepreneurs:
- The company blog. Allen has a long history of blogging, and he’s applied it well to his company blog, using it to share special offers, creative business card ideas, stories, product updates, personality, press and more. It serves as a great example for other startups.
- Product Evolution: from simple to sophisticated. Allen launched a very basic service and has since added in more sophisticated features as he learned about his audience. He listens well to his customers, responds accordingly and his features add value.
- Allen bootstrapped CloudContacts, had a real business model from the beginning and his customer base continues to grow.
- Allen hustles, hard. When we mentioned we were having a startup breakfast in Austin a few weeks ago, he jumped at the opportunity to pitch his product in front of an audience. He seeks out those opportunities.
Good practices to learn from. I bet he manages his contacts well too.