Wanted to connect with the person you met at the conference but couldn’t find his visiting card? This is one situation all of us have encountered at some point in our lives. While some of us have ditched the old paper card completely and have favored connecting over social media, it still is a painful process. And sometimes you just don’t want to get connected to random strangers straight away on social media.
But then what do you do? What is the solution? HiHello is here to solve just that. HiHello is a free digital business card and contact manager app. On HiHello you can create multiple digital business cards—for example, one for work, one for friends, and one for people you met at the dog park. You can customize your card to choose what information you’d like to share in these different contexts.
In addition to your run-of-the-mill contact information, you can also include your pronouns, a short biography, a video, any social handles, and more. One great thing about HiHello is that you can share your digital business card with anyone, even if they don’t have the app. HiHello also has a human-verified business card scanner—if you hold a paper business card up to the app and scan it, it’ll digitize it for you within 24 hours.
Finally, HiHello is creating what they call a “Self-Healing Address Book,” which is essentially a personal CRM. The goal here is to have an address book that is always up-to-date with your contacts’ latest information.
We at Venture Mirror recently got in touch with Manu Kumar, the founder of HiHello and also a well known investor. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
How did the idea come to you?
I’ve never been a fan of paper business cards, so in 2009 I co-founded CardMunch. CardMunch—a service that converted paper business cards into digital business cards—was acquired by LinkedIn shortly after we launched the product. Unfortunately LinkedIn didn’t develop the product and ultimately shut it down by giving it away to Evernote. I was still determined to build something that solved the problem of contact exchange and contact management, and so in late 2017 I teamed up with my co-founder and we started building HiHello.
HiHello is creating what they call a “Self-Healing Address Book,” which is essentially a personal CRM. The goal here is to have an address book that is always up-to-date with your contacts’ latest information.
Who is your initial target market? How has been the response so far?
We’re targeting anyone and everyone who uses paper business cards. Our users come from almost every industry you could imagine—we have realtors, salespeople, hair stylists, VPs and GMs, investors, travel agents, and more. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Users love HiHello’s digital business cards and they love that they have a better way to manage their network. We still have a lot more work to do, but I believe we’re headed down the right path.
HiHello seems to be a great product that works really well once a lot of users download the app. How does HiHello intend to solve the initial chicken & egg problem? Or has it already solved it?
You’re absolutely right, there is definitely a chicken and the egg problem! But this is something we’ve thought about right from the start. Unlike previous apps like Bump that required both users to have the app to exchange information, with HiHello anyone can receive a digital business card — even if they don’t have the app. A HiHello user can create their cards on the iOS and Android apps, or even on the web. Once they send their card to someone, if the receiver does not have the HiHello app, it will open for them in the browser as a fully functional card that can be saved. So we’ve solved this problem. That said, we’re always iterating to make this experience as smooth as possible.
Who are your potential competitors? Do you think social networks like Linkedin can be competitors too?
There are a handful of other digital business card apps that we see as competitors, but they’re missing the relationship aspect of building a network. LinkedIn will absolutely be a competitor for us down the line.
You also have different languages enabled in HiHello apart from English. Are more languages going to be introduced in the future?
Right now the HiHello iOS app is available in English, French, and Spanish. Initially it was only available in English, but we actually received a few emails requesting that we translate the app into French and Spanish. We’ll translate HiHello into more languages as we grow.
Tell us a bit about yourself. You are an entrepreneur as well as an investor. How do you find time to juggle between the different things you do?
Time management is the hardest part of what I do. I don’t think I do it well. It feels like I’m in constant triage mode, which is not very conducive to creative thinking. So every once in a while I have to block out a whole day to be able to get in the zone to be able to think creatively. That said, there are benefits to being both a founder and an investor at the same time. As an investor, I can relate better to the problems faced by founders and have a higher level of empathy. As a founder, I get the benefit of learning from all the other portfolio companies and applying those lessons to what we’re doing at HiHello as well.
When it comes to investing, what’s the one motto you always follow?
’What if it works?” — There are lots of reasons why companies can fail. But as an investor it’s important to also think about what the world would look like if the company, business, or idea works.
Thanks so much Manu for your time. Any advice you would like to share with young entrepreneurs who are reading this.
When I was starting my first company I learned that the definition of Entrepreneurship is “Insane perseverance in the face of complete resistance” — never forget that. Building a company (even if you have done it before) is always hard and requires grit, persistence, and lots of hard work.