In 1658 a Star Was Born

In or about 1658 in France, during the rule of Louis XIV, the business card was born. More than 350 years later and approximately 140 million of us worldwide are using business cards in almost the same way – a small piece of paper used to transfer contact and commercial information.

Although the business card might have been inspired during the period of Louis XIV, it has matured from a calling card into a necessity preceding business transactions. Several years ago, while talking on the subject of business cards with a colleague, he identified the business card as “the world’s tiniest billboard”. And isn’t that what it really it; a billboard that can be easily passed around?

In 17th Century England, the “trade card” grew roots. In London at the time (a period before GPS) is was often difficult to find merchant shops. Shopkeepers used the trade cards to help potential customers find them more easily. Typically there was a small litho map giving their shop context to the vicinity.

In the 19th Century, business cards begun their use in France by nobility, while at this same time they made their away across the pond to America. Within fifty years business cards were widely used and accepted in commercial transactions.

During the 20th Century business cards reached critical adoption rates. Nearly all types of businesses and professionals used business cards to trade information at the beginning, or end, of meetings. This custom continues to this day. Business cards are most widely used in the Unitied States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia. However, due to global westernization, business cards can also be found used with frequency in Eastern Europe, Russia, China, and India.

After the fall of Japan in World War II, the American influence on commerce included business cards. In fact, like many of the post-war developments of Japan, they took the business card and made it better. In Japan the business card is known as “Meishi”. If you ever have an opportunity to do business in Japan, you’ll do well be reading this information first. Trading business cards in Japan is serious business and if you forget to bow, you might not get the deal.

Back in late 2006 the team was working on a web-based SaaS and discovered several users appreciated the way we helped them to display and manage contact information in the web environment. In March/April of 2007 we launched a new application (called Lyro) to test out our hypothesis that business people may want to share business cards across the internet. Although the service was met with some fanfare and some critical suggestions, we were genuinely the only company putting all our efforts into the concept of a Business Card 2.0.

So here we are in 2008. Thousands of publishers and blog owners continue to hide their contact information behind forms. Hundreds of large e-commerce websites maintain people behind walled gardens of data, making it as difficult as ever to find the right person at a company. And, in the mindset that business is all about two people connecting in a meaningful way, tens of thousands of websites of service provider companies don’t even publish information on who their sales reps are. This is likely a turning point in personal branding on the web. More than ever, people want to be easily discoverable.

So what is the future? We believe that future is, and it will launch Summer 2008.


3 Responses to “In 1658 a Star Was Born”

  1. 1 markiyan August 31, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Congratulation on your cardly acquisition!

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