Phillip Bellé, co-founder of MoID, talks about the story of his company
Everything started during my term abroad at UCLA. I was sick of writing down the email addresses and phone numbers of my classmates. I thought there must be an app that recognizes people around me and allows me to stay in contact afterwards. There wasn’t, and so the idea of a mobile ID app, MoID, was born. But this was just an idea: there was no team, no name and of course, as I was studying business administration, I had no idea of how to develop an app. (I still don’t!).
So, the first thing I did was to order an iOS development book on Amazon. However, when I received it I realized pretty fast that I would never become a developer and that this one book probably wouldn’t be enough to help me realize my vision for MoID as an app for iOS, Android, Windows 7, and Blackberry. During that time I didn’t talk to anybody about my idea for two reasons.
First, I was afraid that somebody would simply take the idea and develop it on their own if I told anybody about MoID. This was actually completely the wrong way of looking at it: if somebody is so interested in your idea, she is exactly the person you need for your startup and she won’t develop it on her own because she would never find anybody better than you for the project.
Second, I wanted MoID to be protected by patent (no bad thinking: you won’t get a patent if you talk in public about your invention). Obviously this wasn’t going to be helpful when searching a co-founder with a technical background. How do you find a suitable match if you don’t talk to anyone about what you want to do?
Fortunately, my online research led me to Dennis Pagano and Damir Ismailović who were organizing a lab course on iOS development at the Technische Universität München. I asked them whether they knew any motivated students who might be interested in founding a startup. Fortunately, Dennis and Damir themselves were interested in co-founding a startup.
"As a startup team, we really try to focus on our product. Therefore, it is always great to hear from happy users who opened MoID on the next day after a meeting, and were surprised to see that the app actually remembered the other users they had met."
So, we met for lunch and luckily they also liked the idea. From that day on, we started developing the app. The idea evolved from a simple contact exchange, over a face-to-face meeting, to the easiest way to connect with people you meet for the first time, across and within various social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and XING).
Within the first year, Amel Mahmuzić and Thomas Pieronczyk joined as software developers and are still part of the team. Last year we got a (printed) letter from a young student (Laurent Meyer), who asked for an internship. We were really surprised to receive such a formal letter, but decided to see him anyway. He is now working with us and is by far the biggest geek on the team. We still don’t know how he ended up writing a letter instead of dropping an email, but we’re happy that he did.
As a startup team, we really try to focus on our product. Therefore, it is always great to hear from happy users who opened MoID on the next day after a meeting, and were surprised to see that the app actually remembered the other users they had met. We often hear “but the app didn’t even run”, and we see people wondering how this was possible, given that MoID doesn’t even consume that much battery (our first prototypes nearly killed the batteries). It has been quite a long journey to get to this point, and at MoID we are very proud of this achievement.
However, our biggest challenge is the net effect: the more people have MoID, the greater is the benefit of using it. Unfortunately we cannot yet spend too much money on marketing since MoID is free. So, what we need right now are users who love to be first and who tell their friends about MoID. We also need features that do not depend on the number of users. We already have lots of ideas, but we would love to get customer's feedback.
For instance, a cool upcoming feature is the possibility to leave your virtual contact card wherever you are. Somebody you’ve talked to will then be able to install the app retrospectively, revisit the location, and exchange contact details. We think that will be quite fun.
Besides our Android and iOS app (we scrubbed Windows 7 and Blackberry) and our team of course, we are very proud that we have a patent. After handing in our patent application, everybody told us that we would never get a patent for MoID and that we had wasted our money. Maybe we just didn’t know better, but eventually we got patented in Germany and have a patent pending in the US. We believe the day will come, when someone will be interested in it - hopefully within the next 20 years. So, our message to you: focus on your own ideas and beliefs, and don’t take any thought for granted.