Poken: review quickie

I’ve been meaning to write a quick review of my experience with Poken at LIFT conference. Poken is a small toy/gadet/figurine/whatever that has some near field connectivity (something like an active RFID) in it. The point is that when you meet somebody who also has a Poken you high-five your two figurines together (high-four actually, it missed a limb as it’s not human), and then you’re best friend forever on all your social networks at once. We got a sort of strippeddown Pokens for free as part of our LIFT badges, which I found to be a really awesome idea (a PCB in your badge has this nerdy appeal). Not sure I’d try if I had a pacemaker.. The idea is lovely and the thing is cute.


For a 5 year old kid. I found it very nice to test it, and it’s an awesome idea to give it for free at a conference. Great marketing guys. But, after discussing with their awesome product manager – who managed to sell me two of those – I kind of felt “shit, why the hell did I buy that thing?”.


MAJOR TURN OFF NO. 1: Pokens would be awesome and would really work only if everybody in the world would have one – which I doubt. As he told me, they sold 50k units but hey, who the hell would really would buy that (it’s 10 chf =~ 6 euros)?

MINOR TURN OFF NO 2: It just doesn’t look serious. I mean what would I think of a formally dressed VC that pops out a three eyed alien with a blinking led instead of his usual business card? I would be like “Dude, no. I don’t really feel like going to your place and see your electric trains collection and your lego city, but thanks for asking though”. The idea is great for conferences (at least much better than shockfish’s spotme), where you could leverage the social net of the conference and befriend all the people you meet automatically (@lift crew: why didn’t you leverage lift’s social net, and use the pokens to befriend people directly?? That would have been so cool!! the kind of things that we did at picnic rfid hacker’s camp).

MAJOR TURN OFF NO. 3: This was the worse for me: when I gave him my biz card, he back offed just as a vampire that was presented some garlic, and said “no no get away with that, our goal is to eliminate business cards from this world for every”. I realized that this idea is plainly horrible conspiracy. I am a business card design fetish and I think I’d be so sad if natural human interactions (business or not) were to be replaced with a generic digital high-5. I don’t want paper business cards to ever disappear. First because it’s something physical, tangible that conveys someone’s personality. Just like someone’s clothing, it gives you essential details about someone, how much do they care for details. But it’s also a gift, it’s something you cherish, you deserved his card. By seeing a business card, I remember much better about the person who gave it me, what we discussed about, eventually what I wrote about that person on it. A clean, well-designed business card, is just like an elegant suit, it shows that people have spend time to chose it. See, I’m really a fetish for business card, so maybe this turnoff is quite personal.

MAJOR TURN OFF NO. 4: The website, just, simply, plainly sucks. I mean the toy works great and seems reliable, but their website is of a much lower quality than I’d expect from a Web 2.0 startup, and that’s a total turn off for me. It’s sad that they did such an excellent hardware, but neglected to do a really flashy, great, nice, appealing web site! It looks like a modified version of my first website in 1995, just with less animated GIFs. In terms of usability it’s really bad. Guys, please hire a decent designer, because I really don’t feel like using this website, and most people who see it won’t use it again.

Then it’s kind of befriending any people you speak to more than 5 seconds (hey let’s pokenize dude, see u soon, k thx bye). When connecting with someone on a social net becomes so easy, then I think it will just bring a bigger mess in your social net, where half of the people you just met drunk at a party and asked them for a fire to light your cig.

Oh, 1 mil $ question: you still have to friend the people on each network manually, as it doesn’t seem to automatically friend me when I met the peopl, or am I just plain stupid? If you still need to invite all of them to friend them on each network manually, then well it’s just a shortcut to search for people’s profile on each site, which makes me doubt the value proposition of poken.

For the good things, it’s a Swiss startup, which is awesome. Second you got a 1 GB memo stick with it… (so the business model of poken is to sell memory sticks, right?). For the rest, well, I wouldn’t buy that for me (okay, I did already, but I’m selling it, so mail me if you want a 3-eyed alien or a panda…)

I have absolutely nothing personal against the poken crew, I really wish them all good, and I encourage more people to do the same, dream big and build companies in this hot field. I just hope they’ll think about these point and adapt their product to something more useful and valuable, not just a cheap toy that you get bored after playing with it for more than 5 minutes.

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  • Agree. It’s a funny toy by now. I know the guys can do better websites than the current one, it just really plain sucks. I think their tool should not replace business cards, it should rather enable you to connect to people in various modes (business mode = instant connection on XING, LinkedIn, etc.; friend mode = connection on Twitter, Facebook, etc.;), where you’re free to choose how many profile modes you want and which network is included in which profile.

  • The basic idea behind poken is great but I agree that it is really poorly implemented. In addition to your turnoffs, I also find frustrating that you need to disclose the credentials to the social networks you want to add. E.g. with facebook this would not be necessary. Even worse, when doing so SSL is not mandatory (you can tweak the URL in oyur browser manually, yes, but who does that?). That’s quite poor in my opinion and a real security issue. I and others have told the poken crew but so far they do not seem to care enough to fix this.

  • Zavier

    Just letting you guys know that poken is coming out in Australia soon. This website looks like the only one selling them so far and are taking pre-orders:


  • hevangel

    I just got mine poken from the DAC conference today. This thing actually may fly in speed dating application instead of business card replacement.

  • Unique Michael

    Poken is a great technology. The website is wonderful and easy to use. Poken’s success rate is going very high. Only a closed minded idiot would negatively criticize a product that is revolutionizing the way people meet, and connect.

    • sure Mr. Unique! we don’t criticize the idea of meeting people! If you depend on an electronic gadget to meet people, I’m really sorry for you man.

      And I’ve heard the “success is high” over and over, but I doubt the company will go very far unless their business model switches from selling cheap electronic devices with low margins (that will soon saturate the market and that have no other functions anyway), to something more viable financially. Let’s see in 2 years… And if it really works, I doubt the model will remain unique (because their added value is just a cheap thing made in china, where they are certainly copying it already…)

  • Adriaan Theist

    Could anyone tell me how to remove the write protect so I can use this toy as a 1 GB drive?

    • no clue. They should do it by default… but I guess they didn’t think about it. still not yet…

  • Well actually I just got a new Poken and it does serve as a memory stick by default so I guess there is maybe a way to unlock the older versions… but no clue how!

  • Nina

    I just got mine from an Apple conference and I absolutely adore it! They managed to make a custom Apple logo for our Pokens that we had bought from them and distributed at the conference. Fortunately for us, we were able to network with so many reps from other companies. I was even told that they are partnering with Google and starting in Universities for Community building which is a fantastic idea! I’ve even made a few friends because of it 🙂

  • CA VC

    I just got given one of these at a conference, and can confirm that these well and truly suck – they are just socially awkward to use and to be quite honest are being overtaken by mobile phone based technologies in any case.   

  • guest

    Agree – the website TOTALLY sucks.  Poken is just a toy – it may seem like a marketer’s dream, but in reality it is just a worthless gimic.

    They tried to use these things + the website to deliver the slidesets from a recent conference, but the result is simply unusable.  In fact, I can barely think if a worse way to distribute powerpoints from a conference.  Whatever is wrong with simple URLs from the conference programme, rather than having to navigate some awkward scrolling animation of ‘contacts’, sorted just by date with no search facility!