Afton resident a semifinalist in entrepreneur competition
Ever been to a conference where you network with 50 people and collected about 40 business cards, but after returning to work couldn't remember what card belonged to which person?
Afton resident Billy Kaye wanted to create a simpler way to connect people together, professionally and personally, in a private smartphone network.
"There has got to be a better way to aggregate all these different identities in one spot," he said.
Kaye, the founder of ConnectToMe, a smartphone application invented to simplify exchanging contact information, is a semi-finalist in the 2012 Minnesota Cup Competition.
The 23-year-old started the company in his senior year of college while majoring in economics at the University of Minnesota.
"It's like a business card but utilizing the cloud technology," he said of ConnectToMe, which is competing for a $200,000 cash prize.
"You're never going to forget who you met, where you met somebody, what you talked about and how to get a hold of them," he said.
ConnectToMe is a free application for iPhones and Androids. It's a tool that manages contacts in a private network and keeps their information up-to-date. It allows users to input notes and map where people met.
Kaye said his company is trying to develop the first "PRM" or a personal relationship manager.
Each member of ConnectToMe is assigned a code that stores all of their information in cloud-based data storage.
When one person meets another, all they have to do is scan the QR Code and they're instantly added into their private ConnectToMe network.
The application allows members to upload basic profile information with a photo, phone number and email, as well as extended details that basic smartphone contact lists don't offer, Kaye said.
When people connect through social and business networking sites, they don't necessarily have to meet in person, he added.
"We're trying to maintain that element of tradition," Kaye said. "That relationship is more meaningful. We're a network of quality, not quantity."
The 2012 Minnesota Cup business idea competition received more than 1,000 entries this year.
It named 49 division semi-finalists in June, including the High Tech Division where ConnectToMe was one of 11 semi-finalists.
Division winners are awarded $25,000 and each one competes for the overall prize of $200,000.
The competition offers a mentorship program where experienced entrepreneurs work with participants on their business plans.
"They want you, regardless if you win cash or not, to at least be better for it in the end," Kaye said. "There is a lot of really, really smart people in the competition which is exciting."
Minnesota Cup will announce three to four finalists in each division by Aug. 20, who will then compete in the finalist round. The winner of the overall competition will be announced in September.