Stickybits allows you to embed digital content on objects


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Last fall, social media entrepreneur Seth Goldstein was hanging out with ace programmer Billy Chasen in Manhattan. They had a pastrami sandwich at 2nd Avenue Deli then walked the streets, chatting about different ways to leave digital traces in the physical world.

A few weeks later, Chasen seized on the idea of creating stickers with bar codes that could be scanned by Android phones or iPhones.


You could put the stickers on any object. Then you could attach a message to the bar code: say text, a photo, music or a video that anyone could then scan with their smart phone.

More messages could be embedded and anyone who scanned the bar code could see the stream. People would be notified when someone picks up their message. Each scan and related message would carry a location tag so you could track the object’s movements.

Like other location-based services, this is technology that no one could have imagined or afforded before the advent of the smart phone, Goldstein said. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that tagging the physical world with digital data via a smart phone could have endless possibilities for consumers and businesses.

Stickybits was born. Goldstein and Chasen got the backing of software mogul and philanthropist Mitch Kapor and venture capital firm Polaris Ventures. In 100 days and with $100,000, they went from concept to launch. Their tag line: “Tag your world.”

The mobile app is free. Stickybits is selling packs of 20 vinyl bar code stickers for $10 apiece.

Already the concept is getting a lot of attention. ReadWriteWeb blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick called Stickybits one of Goldstein’s most interesting yet. Not all of his ideas pan out, but Goldstein has a solid track record. He backed bought by Yahoo, Etherpad bought by Google and which is all the rage thanks to Twitter. He raised $10 million to build a successful advertising network called of which he is still chairman.


Will Stickybits catch on? Kirkpatrick is not sure. ‘Someone is going to nail this, though. I’ve long fantasized about being able to use my mobile phone while around town to find out the news, demographic and property ownership history of various locations,’ he wrote.

Stickybits is handing out free sticker packs to the 12,000 attendees of the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, to see how creative people use them. Goldstein already has plenty of ideas. An Etsy seller slaps a sticker on a custom handbag that plays a video about how the bag was made. A refrigerator comes with a bar code that pops up the owner’s manual. A greeting card can be scanned to play a personal video from the sender. Doctors can share medical records.

“Just because something is made from atoms, not bits, does not mean that it is not dynamic,” Goldstein said. “We have just never had a way to connect objects to each other or to people. This is an attempt to make visible all kinds of social dynamics around objects that otherwise have been invisible.”

-- Jessica Guynn