May 23, 2012
Jim Huang, PhD, is a former researcher at Microsoft Research and published over 20 technical papers. But he recently went from doing a lot of thinking to doing a lot of doing – i.e., starting a company – because he wanted to solve real problems and delight people.
And delight is certainly lacking in the space he chose: professional networking, the realm of toppling piles of business cards and fake smiles. Huang’s iPhone and Android app, Napkkin, lets you swap business cards using a QR code.
It’s competing with a host of other apps, such as Card Swapp (which also uses QR codes), uME (to send cards by Twitter or email), CardMunch (to take photos of cards), Bump (to exchange contacts with, naturally, a bump), and CardFlick (to send cards to anyone nearby, even if you’re not talking to them). Napkkin boasts its own technology designed for faster scanning and the ability to make referrals within the app (no more of those X meet Y, Y meet X emails).
Huang’s cofounder is his wife, Vill Sithivong, who spent 10 years as the founder of a restaurant business. Apparently, they came up with the idea over dinner:
“Because we’ve established trust and intimacy to begin with, we avoid a lot of the problems with communication and coordination that might exist if we’d co-founded Napkkin as two strangers, or even two friends,” Huang explains. “The flip side of that is our personal and professional lives get mashed together, which is an extra problem that needs to be solved.”
How do you solve that? “Having the option of separate workspaces helps,” he adds.
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