In an otherwise digital world, paper business cards don’t make sense anymore, say three Birmingham entrepreneurs who, through their own brand of disruptive technology, are looking to uproot the business card industry.
Elliott Potter, Jared Mattsson and Patrick Sullivan – three longtime friends and all colleagues at Birmingham tech giant Shipt – cofounded Linq this year to provide an alternative to the business card exchange. It’s an industry, the team said, that sees 27 million business cards printed daily, 88 percent of which are thrown out in under a week.
“Your business card is an extension of you,” Mattsson said. “Statistics are showing there’s something missing and we’re coming up short. Think of all the relationships that could come if people had a better tool to facilitate it.”
After an awkward business card exchange at a networking event earlier this year, an idea hatched. The three rarely remembered to bring their business cards to events, and, if they did, the handoff was clumsy. Many of the cards they exchanged ended up lost or misplaced, rendering the entire interaction useless. As software developers, they thought, there had to be a better way – and maybe they could create it.
“Right now, the way we’re meeting in person and exchanging contact info is painful,” Sullivan said. “Where there’s something painful, there’s an opportunity to be improved.”
The team knew they didn’t want to create an app for their idea – that had been done before with minimal success – so they decided to tap into Apple and Android phones’ built-in QR code reader and use it to their advantage.
Each Linq user gets an individualized QR code with information that would be on a conventional business card – name, title and contact information, as well as virtual links to social media accounts and websites. By holding one phone’s camera over another phone’s QR code, Linq’s technology allows the immediate exchange of the personal information into the smartphone’s virtual wallet.
“Linq is a great balance of being a tech solution but also really easy to use,” Sullivan said. “The main goal in what we’re building is to build technology that gets out of the way. In a time-sensitive situation where you’re meeting someone you really want to meet, with Linq it’s just boom, get out of the way and continue on with the conversation.”
Mattsson used his own technology when he met Will Lochamy of Birmingham Mountain Radio at Art on the Rocks this summer. Instead of giving Lochamy his business card, they exchanged information via Linq. Lochamy was so impressed by the technology he invited the Linq team to be interviewed by him at Sloss Tech this summer, where even Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian became a Linq member, along with 70 percent of Sloss Tech attendees.
“I thought ‘Why has no one else done this?’ It didn’t make sense,” Lochamy said. “Business cards are so antiquated and a hassle at best, but it’s a necessity to have to be able to trade information. Now, if anybody tries to give me a business card, I say ‘Oh, let’s not do that’ and I get them on Linq. It’s the perfect technology at the perfect time.”
Potter, a Birmingham native, said Linq will always stay headquartered in the Magic City.
“Birmingham is an amazing mix of hospitable and forward-thinking people,” Potter said. “With everything going on in the city these last couple of years, there’s a buzzing energy in the air. People are wondering what’s next and where’s the future going. We’re trying to capitalize on that part of the wave and trying to ride the wave of what’s next. We hope we are a part of that.”