5 reasons why your business card is like a paper clip


Product Development was one of my favorite courses in business school. And one class I remember particularly well was when Prof. Robertson challenged us to a seemingly impossible task: improve on the design of a paper clip.

One would think that, having the paper clip design not changed in almost 150 years, it would be ripe for innovation, yet improving upon it proved incredibly challenging. We are, in fact, surrounded by objects and tools that, like the paper clip, resist unchanged in the face of phenomenal advances in technology, materials and computing. The business card is one of them.

There have been countless attempts at replacing the quaint paper rectangle with NFC-enabled devices, mobile apps, social applications, QR codes and more. Yet, even among technology professionals, the business card remains an essential business accessory.


  1. Universal interface. To transfer a business card to someone, you use your hands. Since (most) everyone has hands, there are no “interface interoperability” issues, so to speak.
  2. One gesture. It takes about 1.5 seconds and one gesture to hand out a business card to someone at a tradeshow. That ergonomic efficiency is hard to beat.
  3. Power-less. They work perfectly well in the absence of electrical power, when Wi-fi is down, Bluetooth is off, etc…
  4. Personality. Unlike standard app UIs, business cards convey the attributes of your personal and corporate brand. Choices of size, cut, weight, typography and content create, and communicate, personality with an immediacy otherwise impossible to achieve.
  5. Expectations. Business professionals the world over have been conditioned to expect to exchange business cards when they meet. The cognitive barriers in switching to a different behavior are phenomenal.

Next time you think about disrupting an established product category through new technology, it may be worth thinking long and hard why it has resisted change for so long in the first place.

Image by CieraHolzenthal/Flickr


Who in the world gets the best broadband access?

Any strategic consideration about the development of web-based applications in a specific market must take into consideration broadband penetration rates and the performance of last mile public connectivity. This is especially true of applications that use large amounts of bandwidth capacity such Broadband and OTT TV, streaming and online gaming. So if you are looking for good worldwide ISP performance data, one source should be the Akamai State of the Internet Report. In their words:

Each quarter, Akamai publishes a quarterly “State of the Internet” report. This report includes data gathered across Akamai’s global server network about attack traffic, average & maximum connection speeds, Internet penetration and broadband adoption, and mobile usage, as well as trends seen in this data over time.

You can download the free quarterly report here, and also use a fun visualization tool to chart network performance in different countries. Who in the world gets the best broadband access?  Find out.

Akamai State of the Internet chart

Traveling to the Bay Area in July and August? Check out these tech events

Many of my European friends take advantage of summer vacations to visit the Bay Area. A few ask me to suggest tech events to attend while they are here.

I put together a list of interesting tech and business events taking place in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, in July and August 2010. The focus is mostly web, internet marketing, social media, software etc.

Here’s the Google calendar in HTML and iCal format.

PS: I am not associated with, nor endorse any specific listed organization or event.

Italians spark electrical aviation records

In aviation circles, the span of time between the two World Wars is remembered as the Golden Age. A global race to speed, range and performance records pushed the limits of technology and pegged countries and manufactures against each other.  It was a great run for Italian engineering too, culminating with the 1934 Schneider Trophy speed record that Francesco Agello established on a Macchi MC 72. His 709 km/h (440 mph) remains the fastest speed ever attained by a piston engine seaplane.

As an an aeronautical engineer, I was very excited to learn that, on June 12, 2009, Maurizio Cheli established another speed record and aviation milestone on an Italian built craft. Continue reading “Italians spark electrical aviation records”

Why Facebook should sell your data

We are drowning in irrelevant advertising. Some are inspired by it, most ignore it, some would like to get more relevant ad messages.

I have been convinced for a while now that selling user data is one of the most direct and potentially lucrative ways social networks can achieve the kind of revenues that would justify their valuations. A recent article on Facebook’s intention to “cash in” on user data reminded me of a recent conversation.

Continue reading “Why Facebook should sell your data”

Italians at the Frontier

Italiani di Frontiera Logo“Italiani di Frontiera”, Italians at the Frontier. It’s the project of Roberto Bonzio, Reuters journalist and entrepreneurial spirit who is turning a six-month sabbatical in California into a blog, book and multimedia project, covering Italians past and present who have taken to the American frontier.

I had the pleasure to sit down at Caffe del Doge in Palo Alto (apt location!) with Roberto for a chat. He posted his report here (in Italian).