Named one of Mashable’s 10 Tech Startups to watch and recent winner of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 Hackathon, SnowShoe Stamp is a piece of hardware used to authenticate smartphone transactions. Like snowflakes, no two SnowShoe Stamps are exactly alike.
This proves that the app user is in a specific place, at a specific time, and/or interacting with a specific system in an authorized way. Magic ensues. Conversation with Claus Moberg, founder and CEO:
Q: How was the concept of SnowShoe Stamp born?
A: We originally founded the company when Jami Morton (COO) and I were in grad school. We met in a research group at the University of Wisconsin in 2010. There was a business plan competition giving away $50K in a competition around addressing climate change. We were both studying environmental science and we came up with the idea of scanning bar codes at the grocery store to read their carbon footprint. It basically helped customers choose the items that were produced in the most environmentally friendly manner.
The first client we signed up told us the coupon loyalty aspect was interesting to him. We built him a fully digital manufacturer coupon system so digital coupons could be scanned at the point of sale. Then we started developing relationships with the grocer relations. We realized that these old cash registers were never going to integrate with our technology.
We were confronted with a problem with needing to authenticate that the user was at a point of sale but in a way that didn’t involve the actual point of sale system. We took a step back and looked at the sensors that were available to us on current smartphones. The multi-touch sensor was both very precise and also hadn’t really been used to authenticate transactions before. We set out to see if we could build a key that would interact with the phone screen to authenticate transactions.
We set up shop in Sector67, a hacker space in Madison. The founder is a friend of ours and six hours later, we had created our first stamp out of aluminium foil. I took it to our board meeting that night and we decided to pivot the entire company. It was obvious that this was a far more lucrative business.
Q: You hail from Madison, Wisconsin. What do you make of Boulder?
A: We love it. The natural setting of Madison is an isthmus. Here we are surrounded by mountains so we hike every morning. Walking around in a startup T-shirt feels great here.
You walk into a coffee shop and people want to know what you’re building. People accept you for the quality of your ideas and not for what you’re wearing.
Q: Is there anything the local community can do to help you?
A: We give out free hardware! If you think you have a use case– if you need to prove that a smartphone user is in a specific place at a certain time– write to us at email@example.com.