If there was one startup which investors were not worried during the pandemic, it was HiHello. In fact, HiHello’s virtual business cards fit in perfectly to the social distancing measures required because of the pandemic.
But pandemic or not, HiHello’s growth has been really inspiring in the last few years since it’s inception. With angel investor Manu Kumar as founder & CEO, HiHello has never been short of dreaming about the big picture – a world where virtual business cards will not only make it easier for people to share their details but also contribute to the environment by reducing paper usage.
And investors have seemed to have backed up this idea as they pour in $7.5 million in the latest fund raise for HiHello. We at Venture Mirror had the opportunity to talk to Manu regarding the path ahead and how the company is planning to make the best use of the capital. Here are the excerpts.
Congratulations on the fund raise. How has been the growth in the last year or so?
Thank you! The last year has been very interesting. When COVID lockdowns first began in March of 2020, we were a bit concerned. There were no more in-person networking events, no conferences or trade shows — all the areas where we expect people to use business cards. We decided we have to go where the users are and we introduced HiHello Virtual Backgrounds for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet, which connected your virtual background to your digital business card.
Around September of last year, we started to see an inflection in our growth. What was odd was that it wasn’t in the tech audience as you would expect but a more general and widespread audience with people from all walks of life—hair stylists, real estate agents, lawyers, mortgage lenders, finance professionals, etc. We realized that in the tech industry people can stay home and keep writing code and interact with their team, but in service industries, where the business is all about connecting with new customers and new clients, digital business cards were just taking off because people either couldn’t use paper cards because they were meeting remotely or because of COVID receiving a piece of paper from someone just didn’t feel right. Since HiHello’s digital business cards can be touchless and contactless, they are a perfect fit for this post-COVID world.
In the last 12 months, HiHello’s digital business cards have been viewed over 1.5 million times. We’re seeing accelerating growth in the number of users on our platform.
Who are your primary customers at this point – other enterprises or individuals?
It’s a healthy mix of both. We did an analysis of our paying customers recently and found that it’s an almost even split between individual users and businesses. I am always amazed and in awe of the variety of users we have on the HiHello platform. Among individuals, we have people ranging from small business owners, entrepreneurs, to skiing instructors, dive instructors, electricians, balloon artists, chefs, real estate agents, teachers, students, and more. On the business side, we have mortgage companies, wealth management companies, law firms, real-estate firms, human resource companies, manufacturing companies, and so many more that use HiHello Business as their business card platform.
How will the capital be used? Are you expanding to other verticals like social networking?
We’ve already built a product that is the best in the market for individuals and small businesses. We’re now focusing on extending that core experience that we’ve refined over the last few years and adding a lot of enterprise features that enable companies with hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of users to leverage our platform to manage digital business cards for their whole company.
The capital will be used to grow the company in every area, including product, engineering, marketing, sales, operations, and more. We’re actively hiring and so for anyone who is awesome at what they do, if you’re interested in joining a company that is going to grow big, we’d welcome hearing from you at email@example.com. We are a remote team and so we’re open to hiring talented people anywhere in the world (with the constraint of them working within US time zones).
HiHello’s cards have been used in more than 147 countries. Which countries are you focussing more at this point?
I believe that these days businesses are global from the beginning. We didn’t set out to be an international company and were initially focused only on the United States. But we opened our apps to all English-speaking users around the world. And we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how users in different countries have embraced HiHello. I used to joke that the only counties I haven’t seen users in are North Korea and Greenland. But sure enough, I think we now probably have at least one user in Greenland too!
Our largest user base is of course in the United States, but we have customers in Australia, South Africa, Singapore, UAE, etc. With our upcoming push on internationalization, we will also be serving more countries in Europe, Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
How has HiHello been able to create its own niche in this space? What’s the secret sauce?
The secret sauce for any company is grit, perseverance, constant iteration, and improvement. You keep improving things little by little. I personally have a high bar for what the product experience should be for our users and even though we have a product experience that far exceeds any other product in the digital business cards space, I still feel that we have a lot of room for improvement. So we’re going to keep on making our product better.
Sadly it’s true that when you make something good, people will copy it. We’ve seen our share of copy-cat attempts as well (I’m not mentioning them here as they don’t deserve the attention), but the fact remains that if you are going to win in a space, you have to keep on improving. There’s a wonderful saying that’s posted on a banner on the athletic fields at Stanford: “You are getting better, or you are getting worse. You never stay the same.”
Where do you see HiHello in the next five years? Are more services in the pipeline?
We plan to continue to add to the product and services that we offer, but I don’t like to pre-announce things. So you’ll definitely see more from us, and we look forward to speaking with you again as and when we introduce something new.