Stephane Doutriaux

Poken is a startup based in Switzerland with offices in Silicon Valley, CA. Poken has established itself as the social business card for staying connected. The Poken network makes it easier to connect and stay in touch with the people that you meet.

The first product is a fashion accessory that you can carry on your keychain and easily share your social media information by touching pokens and connecting with them on the poken platform.

Data is wirelessly and instantly sent from one device to the other based on the proximity and now both users will have the contact information that matters most in a digital world.

The Poken network online allows you to download your data stream to view your contacts, allowing you to see who you just met. The data includes all of their social profiles allowing you to to connect with them on a much deeper level. Simply explained, you can see their latest Tweets, their latest Facebook updates, their Flickr profile, etc, all based on what profiles they filled out and added to their Poken.

"Many people easily forget name, I’m one of them, but we remember people more easily when we can see faces or key in on information that remind us of where we met them," says CEO and Founder, Stephane Doutriaux in an interview with

The network has now become an action verb. The hope for this startup is that more and more people Poken each other.

The Concept of Poken

The idea first came to Stephane while in business school, completing his MBA program. Originally from Canada, transplanted to Switzerland, Stephane enjoyed the camaraderie of his classmates but all good things come to an end. On graduation day everyone was exchanging emails, phone numbers, but residence information was hard to share because few had permanent locales.

It’s too easy to assume that everyone has a Facebook or LinkedIn account, and in this case, it was just not so. In various countries around the world, certain popular networks are not as popular and substituted with local niche networks. In this case it made it hard to keep track of everyone.

Stephane notes that "In the world today, internationalization is changing how we communicate and stay in touch with one another."

Aside from exchanging emails and phone numbers, another option was to surf the school alumni network which is manually exhausting and very hit and miss.

In an example Stephane gave, with 90+ people in his graduating class alone, he was not always sure if he found the right "John Smith" in the database, and if he didn’t, he started his search all over again. It just didn’t seem functional, and created more confusion and frustration when you sent invites, hoped they responded, hoping the invite didn’t go into junk mail.

"Finding people can be filled with too many barriers," states Stephane.

This was where the inception of Poken came from, a quick touch and go system that could gather you everyone’s information, giving you multiple points of contact.

The name itself came from a lot of brainstorming. In Facebook you can poke someone which gives them access to your profile for a few days, and it says that you’re wanting to get to know them. A token is a piece of information in the digital world, so Poken was the natural combination of both those words. An important factor to the entire process was it had to be something that did not exist already, but was catchy enough to attract attention.

Thus Poken as it stands today was born.

The World Pokens

Staying connected is increasingly important, especially with a younger generation that is constantly switching jobs or residences. To be clear, Poken is more than just the little devices you see on our site, Poken in a broader sense is the act of connecting with people in the real world. Poken looks to create ways that people can build a network, they are also looking at mobile devices and other real world products that makes sense to use when you connect with people in the real world.

Poken strives to be as universal as possible. They added many popular networks, and depending on what countries took off, they’d look at them and see what networks were heavily used there and create a network connection for them. Now an open API exists where the networks themselves are able to create their own social connections for the product to recognize.

"The debut of Poken has been a wild ride. I had a startup back in 2000 that didn’t get as far as Poken has today so I’m happy to see that it’s been received well," Stephane shares.

Poken started out with fundraising efforts, and building a strong team, but what gained them traction and notoriety was an online site that encouraged users to spread Poken around them, share with their friends, and accumulate points and popularity, and for some even money. That really started working well in many different countries, and in some that could not support the bandwidth required for a system like Poken. So it was very surprising.

The Poken interface is very simple and logical, where users can upload information from their keychain accessory, no drivers, no installation required. Click the link on the drive and the website pops up. You’ll see the people that use Poken and when you met them.

The timeline matches your real world experiences with the people you meet. Finding people is simplified since it’s easier to remember a general timeline as opposed to finding them on Facebook contacts when you can’t remember their name. The timeline has proven to be effective for users so the user interface has remained for now.

Currently Poken is sold in more then 40 countries. For 2010 they are working on updates to the tools used to create a Poken network with a more targeted strategy. They are still a relatively small startup, so no TV or billboard, no Superbowl ad, but keep doing what they do best.

A focus on building tools for advertisers and event organizers is key in their plans. The hope is to encourage people to use Poken where they are at establishing an ecosystem of contacts.

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