In Our Brave New Socially-Distanced World, Popl Keeps Us Connected With Contactless Sharing
COVID-19 has kept us physically apart from one another. Before, business cards would be exchanged and numbers saved in each other’s phone. Now, social distancing requires us to be six feet apart from one another. How do we connect and share in our brave, new contactless world? Before COVID, Jason Alvarez-Cohen and Nick Eischens viewed business cards as anachronistic norms of older business culture. Now, they see an opportunity to help us keep connected through Popl. Popl is a startup using near-field communications (NFC) technology to provide the fastest way to share your social media and contact information. The contactless sharing startup is based out of Los Angeles.
Frederick Daso: What moment or series of events led you to the realization that sharing social and business information needs a solution?
Jason Alvarez-Cohen: In college, I missed connections and opportunities because exchanging information can often be awkward and cumbersome. Today, social media is integrated into all facets of life. We snap friends on Snapchat, sell products on Facebook, exchange money on Venmo, find jobs on LinkedIn, etc. When I learned about NFC and first thought of this phone to phone use-case, I got the right to create a new platform that would make these social media interactions more efficient.
Daso: When did you realize after first starting Popl that you’re redefining how Millennials and Gen Z connect?
Alvarez-Cohen: Well, we aren’t there yet, but that’s our mission. Our first realization that we found a product/market fit with Millennials and Gen Z was on TikTok. One of the most exciting things about Popl is the reaction it creates. The first time someone gets popped, they often think it’s magic. With a brand new account with only 500 followers, our 4th TikTok shot to 7M views. We had no idea it would take off as it did, and that’s when we knew we had something.
Daso: It’s clear that you’ve had success in targeting high school and college students, but what about older generations like Gen X or the Baby Boomers? Have you had any interest in Popl from them?
Alvarez-Cohen: At first, yes, the interest in Popl was Gen Z massive thanks to our start on TikTok. As our presence on Instagram and Facebook started ramping up, we noticed a growing interest from Gen X and Baby Boomers, who use Popl as their digital business card. The goal of a business card is to connect with someone via phone, email or a website. Popl allows you to instantly transfer this information, ensuring it’s correct and saved to their phone versus getting forgotten about. We have noticed a spike in Popl users who own small businesses. From boutique hair and nail salons to real estate agents, small businesses use Popls for payments, growing social media, and booking appointments. As entrepreneurs, we love empowering all types of businesses.
Daso: Given the unexpected presence of COVID, has Popl’s growth faced headwinds from the virus? Has there been any reluctance among users to connect with others via Popl?
Alvarez-Cohen: In the past, connecting with someone meant exchanging business cards or typing information into a phone. With COVID, neither are ideal. What’s excellent about Popl is we’re empowering contactless sharing. Popl requires no touching or typing to exchange information—which helps minimize physical contact when meeting in person. We’re calling this market “Instant Contact Sharing,” but due to COVID, we’ve adjusted the name to “Instant Contact(less) Sharing.”
Daso: Why did you choose to use NFC as the primary technology to facilitate information sharing between users? Why not WiFi or mobile data?
Alvarez-Cohen: A few NFC features appealed to us. One, NFC is always on in the background for modern iPhones and Androids, Two, the receiving person doesn’t need a Popl or our app to receive a pop. We also like how NFC requires close proximity to share information. This eliminates potential over the air security breaches and creates the intuitive behavior of tapping phones to share information.
Daso: How does the Popl NFC tags/hardware double as a style accessory for your phone? Are brands taking advantage of this fact?
Alvarez-Cohen: During our rebrand from Rippl to Popl, we realized that if people were going to use our product worldwide and place it on their beloved phones as a phone accessory, our look and product design needed to be stellar. The back of the phone is valuable real estate for branding. It’s clear that other brands see this, and as a result, our B2B sales channel has grown at the same fast pace as our B2C channel. We also prepared our manufacturers and operations to be agile for a high number of custom designs.
Daso: How do you and your cofounder, Nick Eischens, currently manage the talented individuals that make up the Popl team? What strategies have you had to adapt to keep your team on track to grow Popl to new heights?
Alvarez-Cohen: It’s all about your team. It’s vital to bring on A players early to amplify your company culture, which will ensure goals are achieved. We’re all about empowering others to make company decisions. By bringing on talented individuals, we can trust they will deliver without being micromanaged. Popl has become so much more than us. That’s incredibly exciting but also very humbling. Without our Popl Family of resellers, ambassadors, distributors and partners around the world, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Daso: What is your collective vision for the contactless sharing world we are now entering? How will Popl shape that for this current generation and future ones to come?
Alvarez-Cohen: Every country is currently adjusting to a society that requires various forms of social distancing. Our vision is to help the world stay connected in these uncertain times. Even with COVID, life will continue, friendships will flourish, business will proceed and people will connect. We’re focused on empowering these interactions.
For the latest tech news, subscribe to my newsletter, Founder to Founder.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out my other work on LinkedIn and my personal website, frederickdaso.com. Follow me on Twitter @fredsoda, on Medium @fredsoda, and on Instagram @fred_soda.