Dealing With Business Cards

Update: is no longer available as FullContact has integrated this into all of their consumer applications. The simplest approach to doing this is now FullContact CardReader.

There are some things I wish would just go away forever. Business cards are one of those things. I stopped carrying them several years ago and simply give people my email address ( as my primary contact data. But at the end of every day I have a handful of cards to deal with. Sometimes it is one or two; often it is a big pile.

Yesterday I was at the Xconomy Big Data Conference in Boston. I was the lead off keynote speaker so I decided to spend my 30 minutes doing a rant on Big Data that I started off with the line “Big Data is Bullshit.” It was fun for me and I hope useful for the 500 people in the audience.

I ended up with 20+ business cards from people who I talked to in between sessions. During the afternoon, I took a photo of each of them with my iPhone, emailed the photo to, and then tossed the card in the trash. I now have a photo of my card on my iPhone and due to the magic of the FullContact CardShark API the data was automagically turned into a vCard and a Google contact. I got emails back with each card, clicked one button on the email, and voila the contact data was in my Gmail Contacts data.

My friends at FullContact talk about how they do this in their post If Only CardMunch Were An API… Oh Yes We Did!. When CardMunch first came out I was a happy user. I struggled some with quality, but put up with it because it was better than the alternative. I stopped using it about six months ago due to reliability and the overly tight integration with LinkedIn at the exclusion of other approaches.

@mattdelliott and @travis_todd created a replacement for me (and for you) at HackDenver in 6 hours of codings. Literally all you do as an end user is:

  • Take a photo of a business card (two photos if it’s a two sided card)
  • Email the image(s) to
  • Wait a few minutes for the reply email


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  • Dave Jilk

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could take a photo of the person too? Then you could actually remember who they are.

    • bfeld

      Yeah – no shit! Smart.

    • Dino

      @ Dave– wouldn’t it be great if with these “Google Glasses” you could not only take a quick pic of the person, but also a vid snippet of conversation and attach it to the file…then you can relive the initial meeting and have a refresher…CRM automation…

    • Travis

      Dave, that could certainly be added. Just had a good discussion w/ the team as to how to best accommodate it. We’ll riff on that idea.

    • James Mitchell

      It is common practice for residential real estate brokers to have their photo on their business card.

    • arinewman

      great idea on the photo of the person!

    • QueryTree

      Try Evernote Hello as an alternative to accepting cards in the first place. It includes taking there photo.

  • jonathan hegranes

    interesting to see these kinds of hacks being the best alternative (i do something similarly by having a business cards folder in my evernote).

    at the same time apps like bump never took off, and i’ve seen qr code gimmicks at conferences.

    one day we’ll get to seamless beaming of data – whether that’s contact info or otherwise.

    ps, love the email idea and not carrying cards (if only we all had such easy names to spell :)

  • @FakeBradFeld

    Are you an investor in FullContact? I like what they are doing.

    • bfeld

      Yup. This post is also categorized in “My Investments” which is one of the ways I deal with disclosure.

  • ClickBrain

    Brad, do you have any invites? I signed up when you first mentioned, but haven’t heard a word. Would love to give this a try.

    • Travis

      I’m assuming you signed up for the FullContact App beta? To use this you don’t need to sign up for anything. Simply email an image of a business card to

  • Chris Johnson

    I always like the realtors and recruiters that send you 15 or 20 business cards. I really hope that never stops happening. (Said no one, ever).

    • RBC

      Haha, indeed! Business cards are crack to networking. They give an instant hit, but don’t indicate the level of depth, commitment and follow up. That being said there are a people I’ve met whom I wished I’d asked for their card – try not to make that mistake anymore.

  • William Mougayar

    I just tried it and it emailed me back a vCard within a few minutes. Beauty.

    But when I downloaded it to save it, it went to iContact instead of Google Contact. Hmm…will have to figure that one out. Apple is hijacking my contacts.

    • Travis

      William, on the iPhone go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendar there is an area under “Contacts” that has “Default Account”. This is where new contacts not created in a specific account get placed.

      • William Mougayar

        Thanks Travis. That worked well on the iPhone!

  • Smokey80018

    …CamCard app….nuff said… 😉

  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I will need to try that! but it sounds very useful

  • Brendan Monaghan

    Cardmunch (owned by Linkedin is great too)…snap photo in the app, automatically gets sent off somewhere, comeback shortly thereafter and info is transcribed…you can save to your contacts and connect via LinkedIn (with one button). Very easy to use.

    • bfeld

      Except for two issues. 1. Tight linkage to LinkedIn and 2. Poor data quality. I used to love CardMunch. Now I find it close to useless. I’ve tried plenty of other ones, including ScanBizCards (which is pretty good but definitely has data issues) – none of them really work well.

  • Buzz Bruggeman

    In terms of dealing with business cards take a look at Eyejot for the IPhone, e.g., , very clever app. Ties vCard into quick and easy video. Very easy to allow you to associate name/face.

  • Teddy

    Why can’t you point your smart phones at each other and click to exchange electronic cards?

    • bfeld

      Theoretically Bump was going to be the app that solved this. But it didn’t.

  • Salim Ismail

    Tried it out – works great. Badly needed service, and better than others I’ve dabbled with..

  • aliciadirago

    This is awesome. (Also awesome? The ad for business cards that showed up beneath this post in Google Reader.)

    • bfeld

      I love those mis-targeted ads!

  • eak4

    wait till you see what is doing with the FullContact API for lead retrieval at events! Exhibitors are already loving it based on the feedback we’re getting. Going to roll it out in our event app to all attendees too. Pretty sweet use of the new API in production, I think :)

    • bfeld


  • Human Being

    Brad… you throw paper in the trash? Yikes. Carbon footprint, man. Use some of that brainpower for the big picture. Love ya.

    • bfeld

      Do you have kids? Yikes. Carbon footprint, man!

  • Guest

    Hi Brad, why is it that you do not carry a business card? I also never have a

  • Andreas Kopp

    Hi Brad, what is your philosophy behind not carrying a business card? I also never carry one and its always awkward when you meet somebody and the person aks you about your card. My best response I came up with i this: Hey do you have a business card? No but I got a post-it ( I am apost-it artist) and I write them my e-mail Adress or my website on it. I always got good responses to that but it is sometimes no possible to write because there is no table, so I am thinking to get a card as well now. Or another solution I am thinking about is getting a stamp and stamp a post-it with my details.

    • bfeld

      I just hate carrying business cards. I’m on the road a lot and whenever I’d carry them I’d run out within a few days. I also don’t like the dynamics of a business card exchange. I have a really simple email address ( – I just give that out.

  • Rod Burkert

    Ok … I tried this last night and got nothin’.

    • Matt Elliott

      Rod, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the response back. Go ahead and send me an email to from the email address you used and I’ll have a look into it.

      • Rod Burkert

        I got it, Matt. Thank you good sir!

  • James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Hi Brad – I was at a Google Devfest in Zurich at the weekend

    The attendance badges were nfc enabled – so if you loaded a vCard onto your badge an nfc enabled phone could just swipe your badge to pick up the vCard

    OKey Dokey – No more piles of shit to deal with !

    • bfeld

      And that would require an NFC enabled phone (hint, hint Apple…)

  • Ricardo Diz

    I actually see LinkedIn as a possible substitute for business cards! And they’re dynamic so you know when someone changes project/jobs…

    • bfeld

      I’ve tried (and am an active LinkedIn user). The data is surprisingly stale for a lot of people, especially more specific, non-discoverable data like cell phone.

      • Ricardo Diz

        That’s a good point. Cell phones are normally not included in the profile… I do. guess people just don’t think about it, or they don’t want the same level of sharing with everyone. Still, it might be a good solution. At least the email is always available, and you can start a conversation this way.

  • mtupper

    Great tip, Brad. I just got back from a trade show in Las Vegas last week with same issue and was wondering what the solution was– sounds like this is it.

    As far as having cards go, I hadn’t carried one for a long time either but was pressured into getting them by my partners who are still a little old-school and traditional and feel its a fail to not have one. So I went with Moo and tried an experiment by putting a QR code on it with the phrase “Go green, scan and return” to see if people would scan my info into their phones and return the card, saving me from having to carry a pocket full and dole them out. For those who get it, it works great, unfortunately the vast population still don’t get QR codes despite having an iPhone for the last couple of years.

    • bfeld

      It doesn’t surprise me that the QR thing doesn’t work. Interestingly, when I have time, I often just photo the call in real time and hand it back to the person.

  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I tried this last night and it worked! It would be nice if the image of the person is not the business card and it can pick up their online avatar

    • bfeld

      Another good suggestion.

  • pointsnfigures

    Will try this. I tried cardmunch and then it fell off the face of the earth. I agree about business cards. One of our first associates at Hyde Park Angels wrote an app called Bump and I hoped that would replace business cards. But, alas, I have never bumped into someone that had Bump!

  • Pete Griffiths

    How do you deal with doing business in Asia? In Japan, for example, the ritual of card exchange is important.

    • bfeld

      I expect I would bring business cards on a trip to Japan.

  • Peter Lyons

    Here’s my thought on an even lower-hassle tech solution. Take your pile of the day’s business cards and line them up on a desk. Then take a smartphone video where you slowly move the camera across the whole stack of business cards and the fullcontact app does the work of snagging the data from each card from the single video file. For me, photo based apps on my underpowered and sluggish android phone are annoying (check depositing, opting out of junk postal mail) because of the tediousness of the process. I can’t imagine having the patience to deal with 4-5 clicks and waits per card.

    • bfeld

      Even better suggestion!

  • Mike Merrill

    As I stare down at 50 cards sitting on my desk I completely agree. I stopped carrying cards just over 2 years ago as I figured if folks wanted to contact me they would find me online. I’ve started using CardMunch more and more but even the transaction cost to that can seem high at the end of a conference.

    One other feature would be tying location to it as well say pulling in your latest check-in on foursquare as well.

  • Scott Barnett

    ok – very cool. One question – when I sent the email to, I got back a vCard, but not a Google contact attachment? What am I missing?

    • bfeld

      Are you getting it back in Gmail (gmail creates this automatically from the vCard). If you are using a different client, they you’ll only see the vCard.

      • Scott Barnett

        Duh…. of course. Yes, I was originally looking at it in Outlook, of all things. When I went into Gmail, I could add it to contacts right there. My problem right now is that I regularly use/check three different email addresses, and Gmail on my PC still hasn’t made that easy enough to break away from Outlook. I need to change that…. thanks Brad!

  • Papagallo

    Except for the whining of mostly disoriented tech junkies, biz cards have been doing the job for decades. But if working on your contacts is too much work, use a biz card scanner. They automatically generate a data base that depending on the technology you use, is accessible from a smart phone. Problem solved!!!

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