Is SavvyCard The Online Business Card For You?

On a fundamental level, SavvyCard is a web-based business card, but the technology startup has more to offer than room for your name, title and email address. For one thing, SavvyCards exist only online.

"Savvycard's mission is really to be the go-to platform for connecting people, places, events, you name it,'' says Cofounder and CMO Lisa Nalewak.

So how does it work?

Simple. Create your free beta stage card and personalize everything from links to your social profiles to recommendations of other SavvyCards. With an online marketing and referral platform that is optimized for mobile phones, the company's cards are backed by a database that is continually updating and expanding.

"The biggest component of our system is the trust referral network concept,'' says Nalewak. "In smaller and perhaps more tightly-knit communities like ours, the product is a really useful tool and people get a lot out of it.''

The Trust Referral Network

As mobile-optimized websites and applications gain popularity, platforms like Savvycard give early adopters an edge on connecting with clients or constituents on a more personal level than previously possible.

So who could benefit from a SavvyCard?

Some verticals are better suited than others for SavvyCard's flexible features. For example, Nalewak explains, real estate was a natural fit to optimize on the card's referral system. When people buy a new home, they often don't know where to turn for a real-life recommendation on, say, a contractor or plumber. And since real estate is a business based largely on word-of-mouth, SavvyCard's referral-marketing network can extend the life of a realtor's card indefinitely.

Government is another place where SavvyCard intends to relieve some pain points. Savvycard recently developed a partnership with the City of Temple Terrace in Hillsborough County. Complete directories of city workers and staff will be available on interactive webpages that are tailored for mobile devices. Photos, contact info and descriptions of job functions can be found on each individual's sleekly designed SavvyCard, which is shareable via text or email.

An Evolving St. Petersburg Startup Ecosystem

SavvyCard is part of Tampa Bay WaVE's accelerator program, one of the few in an active growth stage. The company was established in Dunedin in Pinellas County before eclipsing into a space on the ground floor of the modern, glass-walled tower of One Progress Plaza in downtown St. Petersburg.

But putting down roots in St. Petersburg wasn't always guaranteed for the startup. In the early days, back in summer 2013, the company's founders and advisors went through a decision-making process that involved potential relocation to Austin, San Francisco, Silicon Valley or a similar better known tech hub.

Ultimately, CEO David Etheridge decided that he wanted to stay and help grow the local entrepreneurial scene. It was the people who populate the Tampa Bay startup crowd who swayed the decision.

"At the end, we found like-minded people -- and once you do find them, the local support is amazing,'' Nalewak says.

The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership gave the company a "moderate investment,'' says David Morris, Savvycard's Director of Communications. But that's not why the startup stayed in town. "It's more about the relationships with the people who contribute a lot to the ecosystem,'' Morris says.

A Growth Stage

"Bigger picture'' thinking is a focus for SavvyCard.

Nalewak, who moved to the Tampa Bay area with her husband, Etheridge, in the mid-2000s, says, "This place has an enormous amount to offer that makes it very attractive for startups, in terms of the cost of living and the competition for resources.''

As the startup grows, they plan to help St. Petersburg and Tampa become "generally a friendlier place for startups, for entrepreneurship and to do what we can as a company to further that,'' Morris explains.

At "Lunch and Learn'' networking events, for example, entrepreneurs and members of the local tech community come together to hear about the platform's possibilities for expansion -- not to mention to mingle with other local thought leaders.

Still, the company aims for national expansion.

At the closing of Savvycard's first funding round in late spring 2014, the startup raised $84,000 from nine individual investors through Florida Funders, a venture capital model that operates like a crowd-funding site and allows for small investment contributions beginning as low as $1,000. A recent round of overall funding attracted another $1.5 million in Series A funding.

Interested in working for Savvycard? They're currently hiring.

"In a startup, there is always a juggling act between growth and revenue,'' Nalewak explains. "You're always trying to catch one side up with the other. We're in a growth stage right now, where the capital that we've raised is really crucial because it's allowing us to put the foundational team in place in order to then go to the next level.

"There's a lot of opportunity to really foster people from ground level up, retain them as employees, and grow the area,'' she says.
Justine Benstead is a freelance writer who spends her days walking her dog Chloe in her South Tampa neighborhood, drinking far too much coffee, tweeting and taking photos with her trusty Nikon. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Justine Benstead.

Justine Benstead is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.