Technology brings Business Cards into the Modern Age

cardsWith digital networking on the rise, it may seem like traditional business cards won’t be around for much longer. But don’t count out those little paper squares just yet.

A business card service from Japan is making ripples in corporate circles, offering clients the opportunity to keep business cards relevant while cutting down on clutter and organizing contacts.

Sansan was started by Japanese entrepreneur Chika Terada. Japanese professionals often introduce their role in a company before they introduce themselves, so it’s crucial to have a business card to make a personal impression. They’re so essential to Japanese business society that pocketing a card or writing on it would be considered extremely rude.

Sansan allows clients to download an app they can use to take pictures of the cards they receive. Sansan has two main components. Sansan is for businesses while Eight services individuals. Clients can also rent scanners that can scan 30 two-sided cards a minute for about $100 a month. Sansan actually uses human transcribers rather than character recognition technology to ensure accuracy.

Sansan recently received a $14 million investment to expand it’s market to America, where it will compete with US-based services like LinkedIn’s recent partnership with Evernote. Evernote’s premium service includes business card scanning that transcribes cards to an electronic database.

Though Eight recently expanded to the larger Asian market, Terada is holding back from introducing Eight in the US, not wanting to compete with LinkedIn’s new partnership, though it will compete with CamCard in China. There is not currently a domestic competitor for a corporate service like Sansan.

Consumer targeted business card readers have had trouble getting off the ground in the US. Hashable went under in 2012, as did Cardcloud and Cardflick. LinkedIn recently abandoned CardMunch for Evernote, which offers a wider variety of services.

This isn’t necessarily a reflection on business card use. According to Terada, about 10 billion business cards are still exchanged each year. If anything, the failure of individual card reading programs in the US might mean people are still comfortable with a simple exchange of paper business cards.

Sansan might be just the momentum business cards need to stay in common use. Considering that Google’s business card replacement program Bump shut down this year, it looks like paper business cards won’t be fading into obscurity anytime soon.