The Xsync team. Enrique Dominguez, Bryan Leeds, and Daniel Shimshoni

You’ve heard of Bump — the mobile application that allows two phone users to exchange contact information, photos or videos with a physical tap of the devices. With more than 100 million downloads, Bump provides a pretty seamless way for friends or new acquaintances to easily exchange files.

But what if you don’t like the awkwardness of tapping your phone with a stranger?

Enter Xsync, a tiny Seattle startup that’s using your smartphone’s camera to transfer files. It does this using QR codes, skipping the need to transfer files via email, Bluetooth or near field communications.

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg recently called Xsync “an effective way to transfer files like photos, songs, videos and more between phones,” noting in his review that it was quick and reliable. Not a bad endorsement for the young startup, which is based in Seattle and led by Bryan Leeds and Daniel Shimshoni, an experienced software engineer who previously worked at Microsoft, Oracle and Decho.

We caught with co-founder Leeds for this installment of Startup Spotlight, learning how their distaste for germs and desire to share photos led to Xsync.

“Just as you can select a picture from your phone and send via SMS and email, our goal is to add Xsync’s technology to that list for all smartphones,” notes Leeds. Here’s more from the Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Xsync connects two mobile devices so they can exchange files.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We were trying to share several pictures stored on our phone with the people around us. Typically, we were emailing these pictures but we didn’t like typing on our phones and how the pictures needed to be downloaded as attachments. We dabbled in Bluetooth but had connectivity issues. We also tried the Bump app, but didn’t like the flow of the fist bump (we’re germaphobes!) and some didn’t like the fact that their location was being tracked. We were looking for something that would move files across any phone without the need for another app, and a solution that would sync files directly into our private cloud. From there… Xsync was born!”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap. We want to take Xsync as far as we can ourselves because we like the flexibility and freedom that bootstrapping permits. But to take it to the next level, we know that we’ll need extra help.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our technology is patented. We’re calling it Optical Message Service or OMS for short. We think this is something that could become as ubiquitous as SMS and MMS one day, so why not give it a name that fits?”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Making Xsync so that users on the receiving end of a file transfer don’t even need Xsync to receive the file.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not releasing a solid version one. We’ve been iterating while the Xsync iOS app has been live, so we never had a hyped up launch. We may have missed out on some press that would have driven more downloads.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Without a doubt, Bill Gates. Just as Gates put software on every computer, we want to put software on every phone.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “This article hits the press! Also, when we launch Xsync on the other mobile platforms (coming soon).”

Rivals should fear us because: “If somebody were to try all the options available for sending files from person to person they would find Xsync the easiest and most pleasant way to do it. Also, by being a small company we’re able to experiment and move faster than anyone else.”

We are truly unique because: “Xsync is cross-platform and uses existing technology. Instead of reinventing the wheel we found the wheel with a flat tire, and we patched it up.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Resistance to QR codes (which we use to initiate transfers). Even though more and more people are scanning QR codes, many people have very negative opinions about them.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Immediately find and reach out to veterans in your space, and to people who have gone where you are trying to go. Having conversations with these folks is invaluable. At the same time, consciously develop your sense to know which advice you should take and which advice you should leave behind.”


Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Pacific Northwest startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out this questionnaire in a fun and engaging style that shows off your startup’s culture. (Remember to upload photos). Past profiles can be found here.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/bdleeds Bryan Leeds

    Thanks John! I love the headline too!!

  • ChetCrunch

    I want to be excited about this, but I just can’t get there. I understand the notion of trying to avoid physically bumping phones together, but QR codes just seem like overhead. It makes sense that this has been a big hurdle. The other thing, maybe I’m the exception here, but I’ve been a smart phone user for years and have never found file sharing a problem that needed solving. Bump may have 100 million downloads, which is impressive, but I’d be curious to know how many people are using the service on a regular basis.. If there is a huge market for this, I don’t get it.

  • Mike

    Mailing stuff to someone next to you seems rather unnatural. This is a step in the right direction.

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