Can ContactMonkey solve contact sharing with the mobile web?

ContactMonkey is so deviously simple it makes you wonder how a service like it didn’t already exist. Maybe one has, but none have seen similar exposure: ContactMonkey has recently been covered by The Next Web, GigaOM, and PandoDaily, in addition to a legion of mobile blogs. Why? Coming out of beta in August of last year, ContactMonkey has emerged at a time when the prevalence of social media and mobile devices makes the lack of a simple contact sharing solution beyond frustrating. In the year 2012, we don’t know the best way to get contact info into our phones (and hopefully our cloud or client-based contact manager), we don’t even know our contacts’ preferred communication method (do I use email, Twitter, IM or – god forbid – actually make a phone call?).

Many mobile apps have attempted to close this gap, but none have become the ubiquitous choice; they require everyone you meet to have the same app, or heavy use of your mobile camera, or lock you into specific networking platforms like LinkedIn. As a web-based solution focused on sharing self-curated profiles, ContactMonkey is looking to sidestep any and all issues that impede contact sharing. I was able to speak with Scott Pielsticker, CEO of ContactMonkey, about the pains of platform fragmentation, web vs. apps, QR code adoption, and why it’s taken so long for anyone to figure this out. Interview after the jump!

ContactMonkey is so deviously simple that it seems like it should have always existed. How did the idea come about?

We’re in the year 2012, there is a simple solution for everything… why not for sharing contact information?

What’s the most important aspect to get right for mobile contact sharing?

Cross-platform sharing with mobile OS’s – the minute you’ve left out an OS, you’ve left out a whole market of potential users.

The majority of mobile contact solutions have been app based, but either require two people to have the same app (Bump), or lock users into a specific platform (CardMunch). ContactMonkey is entirely web based. Was this a considered design decision against apps, or simply the quickest way to implement?

It was more than that. As mentioned before, by creating an app for one OS, you are ignoring users of the other various platforms. Implementing ContactMonkey as a web-based service allows for faster adoption and growth process; you can be in a crowd of people (at a trade show or conference) and know that everyone has access to you if they so choose, device agnostic.

ContactMonkey offers two ways of contact sharing: vanity URL and QR code. What’s the usage split between the two? Are your users savvy enough for QR codes?

Funny you should ask, we were just talking about this in the office. QR code adoption has been so slow in Canada, it’s almost like it never happened. Regardless, we find the vanity URL used more often, but encourage user’ to add their unique QR code to their business card or other visible spot for faster engagement.

Despite the ubiquity, the ContactMonkey mobile experience does prove a little tricky. For example, I can quickly add a contact to my iPhone, but I manage all my iPhone clients through gmail integration, which fails to work if I log in via Gmail (it just pulls up the attachment file and goes nowhere). Likewise, logging into ContactMonkey and managing my profile information from my mobile is a little frustrating, as the form is not mobile optimized. Are these limitations of web based solution over an app based solution, or just wrinkles to iron out as ContactMonkey develops?

In this situation it probably makes more sense to export a contact using the Gmail exporter on a desktop client.

Editing a ContactMonkey profile on a mobile device is possible, but it’s not yet optimized. We developed the application for desktop browsers first, but as we grow we are certainly planning to increase our capabilities on mobile, depending on feedback from customers.

Are there certain things ContactMonkey could only do via an app? Will ContactMonkey ever release a mobile app to take advantage of its inherent strengths (e.g. where the app notifies you of people downloading your contact info, or built in QR code reader)?

We are playing with a number of ideas in this space, with the usual challenge being resources available to support various different mobile platforms: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone… With iOS in particular we see the ability for an app to provide a smoother export experience, rather than having to rely on using vcards in the email client.

You offer ContacMonkey free to individual users, but then sell a white label solution to businesses. Has the freemium model affected uptake and lead generation?

Actually the freemium model hasn’t hurt us, it’s helped. Offering a free version of ContactMonkey has proven the value to individual employees who then sell us as a value-add to their decision makers.

The kinds folks at ContactMonkey have a free 30-day trial of their white label offering to businesses just for UNTETHER readers. You can sign up here.

About the author

Douglas Soltys

Douglas is the former Editor-In-Chief of Inside BlackBerry, BlackBerry Cool, and QuicklyBored, which he launched as a mobile gaming industry site. His knowledge of mobile and social media led him to a job at RIM (BlackBerry), where he got to travel the world and do lots of cool things. He is often left-handed, but rarely sinister.

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