Bungee: A low-tech way to recover your high-tech stuff

By Richard Nieva , written on February 6, 2013

From The News Desk

We are in the age of connected devices, but among the boisterous Evernote-enabled fridges and smart locks, here’s a simple product that is as modern as it is low key: a lost-and-found service that uses only a paper-like material and a text message. Yes, paper –the thing we were supposed to banish from the digital revolution.

New York City-based Bungee, which recently launched its campaign on Indiegogo, has created a service that aims to help people retrieve their valuables, like phones, keys, and wallets.

A customer takes one of the company’s tags and puts it on an important item, like, say, a key ring. He then registers his email and the tag's serial number with Bungee’s system. If the customer then loses his keys, the person who finds them sees a tag that gives out contact information for Bungee -- not the owner's personal information. When the finder texts the number, Bungee sets up an anonymous text conversation between the two parties. Usually the finder tells the owner he has left the item in a trustworthy place, like with the cashier at a nearby store. If the lost item is a phone, the finder’s text is sent to the owner’s email.

Bryan Davis, the company’s cofounder, says the draw is the anonymous third-party number. “When you’ve got something like your wallet, you don’t want to put your personal information on that,” he says.

It’s kind of like the 21st century version of the of the luggage tag. The charm of it, though, is that the technology is barely 21st century. There is nothing special about the tags themselves; they are not bendable screens or connected anything. Just a sturdy, coated material that feels more like the glossy paper from a flyer promoting a nightclub than a piece of tech ingenuity.

Perhaps there’s good reason for that. Davis says he and his cofounder AJ Bontempo conceived the idea when they were running a New York City nightclub – a black hole for lost items. The two owned The Dark Light in northern Chelsea, a club that put on nightly sideshows, featuring acts like fire breathers and jugglers. While working there, Davis lost multiple cameras and phones over the course of two years. Fed up, he thought there was a better way to reclaim missing things.

So the two worked on creating an elaborate lost-and-found device, but they eventually found that it worked better as a bare-bones product. The biggest difference between Bungee and an app like Find My iPhone, Davis says, is that his product is directed toward the finder – who presumably already knows how to text or call.

The company charges $25 for a lifetime supply of tags to put on devices, or $10 for a year’s worth of tags. Customer acquisition may be tough for such a simple product, and it can feel more like a feature than a standalone business. Davis concedes that point, and says the company has been in talks with companies to go the white-label route, integrating with device case makers. Bungee is also exploring working with device-insurance companies such as SquareTrade or Asurion.

When it comes to this business, the more losers, the better.

[Image courtesy: gorbould]