While there’s a perennial debate on the West Coast about whether and when business cards might become irrelevant, they continue to be at the center of business customs in China and Japan.
It’s just basic etiquette when meeting a new contact to offer your card with two hands and a slight bow.
That’s why it’s natural that a Chinese company — not an American one — might be able to dominate this market and behavior globally. LinkedIn’s Cardmunch had scanned 2 million business cards a year after their 2011 acquisition, and hasn’t released stats since.
But Shanghai’s CamCard boasts 10 million monthly active users, with 50 million registered in total. About half of them are outside of China.
The company is part of a new wave of Chinese startups that are either run by very internationalized Chinese founders or foreigners that are able to build and design consumer products and apps with global appeal.
Intsig, the company behind CamCard, originally launched the app back in 2009 and has quietly grown it since.
They use a freemium model that caters to both consumers and enterprises. On the consumer side, there’s a free version of the app. And then there’s a paid version, which costs about $2.99 in the West or $11.99 in Asia. It feels like price discrimination but Intsig justifies it by saying it’s more technically different to do optical character recognition for Chinese and Japanese and because Asian consumers may be willing to pay more for a business card service.
The paid version has a cloud syncing service that lets people save cards across all of their different devices.
On the enterprise side, companies pay for extra security features to make sure their client and business partner lists stay safe. In China, the vast majority of smartphones are Android devices and Chinese consumers are much more concerned about getting viruses.
As for the parent company itself, Intsig has raised roughly $10 million from investors including Matrix Partners in China and other local investors. The company’s CEO Michael Zhen had a long career at Motorola, where he says he picked up the skills and ideas necessary to start his own company.
I’ve seen one other regional competitor, Japan’s Sansan. They’re an older rival that is transitioning to a smartphone-centric world through a card-scanning app called Eight. Before that, they were actually leasing scanners to local Japanese businesses.