New start up eTree has launched a service whereby people can register all their contact details on the eTree website. People who want that person’s business card details can then send an SMS to eTree with a special code number, and for 99cents the  contact details are downloaded to the sendee’s mobile phone.

I’ve got a couple of concerns with this idea;

  1. Business cards seem to be somewhat passe. Most people I know just business-card by Google. It seems strange to be introducing a technological solution for a problem that really does not exist.
  2. The one sector that is still clinging strongly to formal business cards is the sales and marketing operatives. The major flaw with eTree’s model as I see it is that sales and marketing people try and remove as many barriers to prospective clients receiving their contact information – this is why people have eye catching business cards – to raise the chance of them being kept and acted upon. eTree’s service, requiring as it does both a physical action and a fee to be paid, reintroduced two major barrier

It is interesting to read that the eTree founders shunned putting their idea through an Incubator, feeling that it would hamper their credibility in the marketplace. I don’t want to sound uncharitable but it is their product offering rather than where they are located that will hamper their business – I can’t help but think that if they had gone down the incubator route, there would have been plenty of opportunity for their business proposition to be peer reviewed and possibly returned to the drawing board.

Just my 5cents – anyone out there like the eTree concept?

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • First – I think it’s sneaky how they say the service is free on the home page (apart from text messaging costs.) You have to read the small print (literally) to find out that the text messages cost 99c.

    Secondly – I don’t trust any company that doesn’t have any physical contact details on their website. Why are they afraid of telling us who they are? If they are proud of their service, they should be telling the world who they are – not hiding behind a “info@…” email address, and no physical address.

  • I agree Stuart – to be honest, to make the service compelling to those who would most likely use it, they’d be better off charging the card holder but making it free to the downloader. I get handed dozens of business cards every week – why would I pay to get them onto my mobile – the ones of value I’ll transfer myself thanks….

  • @Stuart:

    You wrote:
    >Secondly – I don’t trust any company that doesn’t have any physical contact details on their website.

    You mean like, ah, ?

    BTW I agree (and prefer ebay anyday over trademe’s auto-extending auctions, even as a seller I prefer a fixed end-time).

  • Head to the waterfront in Wellington and look for the giant NZX ticker display. Head into the building and if you get out and there’s lots of suits you’ve gone one floor too many. TM is the floor with young-uns in T-shirts playing foosball


  • @robin, I should have re-phrased that – I don’t trust any startup that doesn’t have contact details on their website. But you’re right – when Trade Me launched I wouldn’t have trusted them as they didn’t have any physical address or contact names on their site.

  • 99c to each file you want to send it a lot of money!! it is much more economucal to just print regular business cards. sending the info over the mail has a total different effect – then when you hand it out to the person.
    If you want a nice palce to order free cards try
    I’m sure that you will like it

  • @Stuart: Does trademe have contact details on their site even now?

    @Lea:Hard to hand out cards over the phone, or in a passport queue, or …

    That said, etree looks like something out of 1999 when money was plentiful and people were pitching all sorts of crazy ideas. I can’t see things panning out how etree is betting they will.

  • In order to have the “eCode” to d/l the person’s details, you’re more than likely to have to ask the person themselves.

    Why not just ask for all the details at that point?

    If it’s the “inconvenience” of getting a pen a paper out… well that’s what plain old “business cards” are for aren’t they?

    But in eTree’s case it’d be:

    Person requesting details: Oh wait, I got to run really soon can you give me your business card?

    eTree client: No sweat. Just txt “AAA” to “XXX” and you can get it for 99c.

    PRD: (Stupid look) ????

    So eTree has effectively:

    1. Shifted the cost of printing business cards from the person handing them out, to the person receiving it (who, by the way, REALLY wants it!)

    2. Assumed that someone who doesn’t even want the business card will pay for it at some point (All the sales people pushing out cards here…).

    3. Assumed that they will make thousands per conference because people will be happily spending their $$ on their phone downloading business cards

    4. That maybe stalkers are part of the target market? (Imagine the tagline “Afraid of getting shot down? Well here’s an easy way to get HER number!”)


  • There is another NZ company which basically does the same thing but with any text. I can’t think of the name right now but it basically a shared short-code service. Sending a vCard option shouldn’t be too difficult to add. To me this service seems like a feature and not a business in its own right.

    I can see a use for it. You could hand a card to someone and just say “text glen to 5585 to get this added to your phone” which would save them adding it into their address book at a later time (who actually does this for most cards they receive?) But then again at 99 cents that is quite steep. They should probably have gone for the cheaper 50 cent text option.

    I wouldn’t quit my job for the service and they really need to fix their website and sign-up form. Painful.

  • The guys from etree have shown one thing, they put their balls on the line for something they believe in, time will tell if they are on to something or not
    It’s easy to pick holes and critique, its a lot harder to take bold steps and try…

  • Do they even have a working product yet? Was a bit surprised to see a newspaper article on a “business” that has neither products nor customers. Further, why would they even need an incubator or VC funding? This seems a pretty simple add-on application, as Glen mentioned. One guy in a garage, no?

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