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Rename it "Cardster" and Watch the VCs Come Running….

By - December 30, 2003

card_rolodex.gifOK, here’s a new idea: Search for people based on their business cards. I kid you not. CardBrowser is a web-based, paid registration database of…business cards gathered at various high tech conferences (more than 100 a year, they claim).

Now, nowhere on the site can I find exactly *how* they gather those cards, or if the folks represented on those cards are aware they are in a database, but…I’ve called to find out and will report back when I do.

The company behind CardBrowser is marketing the database as a way for companies to find “passive” job seekers – folks who already have good jobs in high tech who might not be actively raising their hands for new jobs. Recruiters can buy a subscription to the site and then contact potential recruits – and, the site boasts,have a pretty good chance of getting a response, as the information on a business card tends to be accurate.

This brings up a rather odd catch 22. Now, if the folks who are in this card database – and the company claims to have more than 17000 names, with some 2000-4000 added each month – *do* know they are being added to this database, then well, they ain’t exactly passive anymore, are they? As an employer, I’d be less than happy to discover some of my key people in this database, and were I the distrustful type, I’d probably get a subscription just to check. If, on the other hand, the folks do *not* know they are in the database, seems to me we’ve got something of a privacy problem on our hands. The company has no privacy policy I could find, and does not address this issue anywhere. Could this be a simple oversight?


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2 thoughts on “Rename it "Cardster" and Watch the VCs Come Running….

  1. Hi John and anyone who might be interested in learning more about CardBrowser. If you to to our website at http://www.cardbrowser.com and check the news section you’ll find an interview with XtremeRecruiting that answers some of your questions. But here’s a quick response to a couple of your issues:

    *how* we gather the cards — we have a field staff located primarily in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. who attend these events and collect the cards.

    *aware* they are in the database — the contacts represented in the database *do not* know they are in CardBrowser. We do have a code of ethics where will not lie, cheat, steal, manipulate, etc. to obtain business cards – at the same time we do not announce what we are doing with their business cards – nor do most people when they acquire a business card at a tradeshow.

    *passive candidates* – so we really are providing a pool of passive candidates – and quite a large one at that…

    *privacy policy* – you’ll find a *terms of service* link on our site which probably hits on the some of the points you are thinking about. Given the uniqueness of the service and how tightly managed it is there is not really a need for the kind of privacy policy you may be accustomed to – where people *register* at a website and provide their info.

    A couple of quick notes:

    *over 25,000 business cards* – your note said 17,000 but we are growing the database so quickly – at present it is 25k

    *real business cards* – there is a real business card associated with every contact in our database – no exceptions – and every card is hand collected – no exceptions – and we have all of the cards in a safe for authentication and verification

    *Privacy / Complaints, etc.* – obviously what we are doing is a real eyebrow raiser – because it is so different – and every one asks us the same question before they sign on for the service *do people know they are in the database?* Lots of folks like to analyze, take stances, argue, and all that over these kinds of things – so let me spare everyone from Blarguing (Blog Arguing :) over this — we’ve had the service up and running for 2.5 years — we have hundreds of customers including some of the most recognizable names in the software/tech industry — and over 25,000 business cards. We make ourselves known on our website – we are not disguising ourselves or hiding. It’s easy to get in touch with us by phone / email — and to date we have received two (2) complaints about CardBrowser. Both complainers said they were contacted by someone (a CardBrowser customer) who said they had their card from an event. The complainers protested saying they didn’t give us their card. We responded by emailing them their card (and we offered to mail them the original). Both agreed that they did give us the card. We asked both of them if they’d like us to delete them from the database – they both said No.

    If anyone reading this gets their Ire up and is in a real mood to protest – then I suggest that check out the list rental companies – there are hundreds of them out there and it is a $1B+ market. If you take the time to drill down explore how they get their data and compare it to how we get ours – hand collecting and being brave enough to hang our whole db out on the web for any Guest to view – then I think we set the standard for high ethics in the industry.

    FYI – you must be *qualified* to buy a subscription to CardBrowser. List rental companies will sell to anyone – which results in junk mail, spam, etc. To buy from us you must provide a corporate email address and website for us to review – and we will only sell to software / IT companies (employers) or companies who market products / services specifically to high-tech companies (for lead generation) – or to high-tech search firms.

    Thanks, Steven

  2. > *aware* they are in the database — the contacts represented in the database
    > *do not* know they are in CardBrowser. We do have a code of ethics where will not lie,
    > cheat, steal, manipulate, etc. to obtain business cards – at the same time we do
    > not announce what we are doing with their business cards – nor do most people when
    > they acquire a business card at a tradeshow.

    Ah, so you collect cards solely from individuals so desperate/confused that they provide their cards willingly to unknown recipients, or, perhaps, from those who’ve decided that the cost of a card (a penny or two, or less if it’s paid by the employer) and spam potential is worth the chance of scoring an iPod prize from J. Random vendor?

    If I provide my business card to someone at a trade show, it’s for a specific purpose, if only, in that latter case, to potentially nab some swag… it’d be nice if the companies collecting the cards would inform me that you guys might be coming along behind, presumbly gobbling up their fish bowls full of cards in return for providing them back an electronic version of what they give you in hardcopy?

    Appropriate notice seems to be absent here; the fact that you’ve heard few complaints (thus far) may stem from your not being that big (so far).