Taking a chance on CDs

Media entrepreneurs put a new spin on the tried-and-true

You’ve probably been seeing them for a few years now: those CD-ROM business cards that seemingly made paper cards passé. Oh, they were a hit for a while, but then they became outmoded as well. After all, what was the point if digitized cards contained the same static information you got from a paper card and a brochure?

Fast forward to the present. Companies such as HYLife Productions L.L.C. are taking the old concept and putting a new spin on it. Headed by David Wilson, 27, the New York-based multimedia production company began offering VIM (video interactive media) cards to clients in 2003 after one of Wilson’s business partners, Darryl Harrison, discovered them on a trip to Asia in October of the previous year. “Compared to a [traditional] business card, these [VIM] cards have a lot more value. [They] eliminate the follow-up calls — they become your personal salesperson,” says Harrison. The card, which operates like a CD-ROM, can hold audio, video, and digital content.

When Wilson started HYLife in 1999 with Jamal Benjamin, he was 23 years old and had little more than a dream. “I had $800 in the bank and every form of rent due. There is a thin line between being foolish and being courageous,” says Wilson, who quit his day job two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center. In addition to his savings, Wilson, along with his partners Harrison and Dan Woolsey, was able to scrape together an additional $25,000 through family and friends. With little capital, Wilson took his experience as a television producer for three of the major networks and launched HYLife Productions.

But the timing couldn’t have been worse. Unaware of the pending economic downturn, the graduate of Rowan University hit the pavement by developing television shows and pitching ideas to any network executive who would listen. To keep the company afloat, Wilson picked up some freelance producing assignments.

Initially, Wilson and Harrison saw VIM cards as a unique and cost-effective way to market their fledgling business. Instead of carrying around tapes of directors’ reels, the VIM card became their calling card. But soon, it also became a way for the company to raise capital.

After investing approximately $8,000 to develop several prototypes of the VIM card, and partnering with award-winning graphic designer Darren Morgenthaler last July, HYLife began offering custom-tailored VIM cards to the public as an additional service. HYLife handles everything from the planning to the shooting of a visual marketing campaign for its clients. “These cards are an easy way to transfer a great deal of information. [It's] like having a briefcase of information in the palm of your hand [because] all of the card’s content is built in,” says Wilson.

Companies can put entire marketing plans onto these cards. “[They] can be commercials, jingles, video presentations, lectures, or menus, whatever the case may be,” says Wilson. Ranging in cost from $3,000 to $15,000, the HYLife VIM card, which is compatible with both Macs and PCs, can hold up to eight minutes

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