By Carrie Chitsey (Founder & CEO, 3Seventy)
When we started our mobile company over three years ago, we were attending several tradeshows to learn more about mobile and innovation. We developed a handy SMS (text messaging) technology using keywords for our company so people could reach us after the shows. We thought it was unique and would help us stand out from the piles of paper business cards.
With Blinx, people could now whip out their phones regardless of device (regular mobile or smart phone), text our name to a short code, then instantly get our business card. It would download into their phone and a reporting system showed ROI on your business card. This showed the user who was requesting their card and who downloaded it.
What we quickly discovered was other people loved the concept, and wanted one of their own. We kept hearing, "Where do I buy that?" from individuals we met. After further discussion, it went from a fun idea to something we wanted to make and patent.
Getting Down to Business -- The Patent Process
Developing a product for patent meant that we had to develop a new website, get payment processing, develop an easy user interface and create a business model of how we were going to make money. This was done while furthering the technology to a 2.0 platform with more functionality. We developed a new mobile website to signup, added advertiser network, a new keyword logic and shortened signup process.
The next step was to document the process and technology and start working on the patent. The patent process was not an easy one -- we spent about three months going back and forth writing the documentation of our product, the process and the technology. We had a handful of people working on this and then spent another 30-60 days getting it into the format the Patent Office requires it to be in (we started this way but apparently it changes).
Once the patent was filed we got letter of acceptance for the provisional patent in about four months. The provisional patent was out there for about 1.5 years and we then got the final patent about two years after filing. While launching the product to the masses, we aligned the launch with SXSW. We rented a 50-foot tour bus, blasted music, provided free beverages and food and educated the audience about our new product.
The product name was originally "BlinxMe.com" but we nicknamed it "Blinx." We wanted the name of the product to be catchy and we wanted people to say "blinx me your card."
Sustaining our Brand
We have broadened our demographic beyond business people to include aspiring environmentalists, moms, college students and singles who are in the dating scene. Blinx has been mentioned in Fast Company and was named one of the Top 10 Dating Technologies by Match.com.
Sometimes, you end up with a product that you weren't setting out to create for the masses. Blinx is a sub-brand of our parent company 3Seventy, so it's not our core business. It is however, a fun product that we love to use and talk to customers about. Try it yourself by getting a free card here.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Carrie Chitsey is the Founder and CEO of 3Seventy. She been a serial entrepreneur in many sales, marketing and technology ventures. Carrie brings the pragmatic experience of working for the Big 5 Consulting Firms and the vision of a forward thinking, "out of the box" entrepreneur. She has received a Six Sigma Green Belt and is certified in multiple technologies such as Avaya, Siebel, Nortel and others. She serves on the board of several charity organizations in Texas.