MSKYNET, a startup that provides an API that allows other companies to generate and perform analytics on 2D barcodes called SPARQCodes, has raised a $550,000 seed round led by Andy Liu (Buddy TV), with other participants including Chris DeVore (Founders Coop), and John Keister (Marchex).
Founder Jesse Chor says that SPARQCodes are similar to standard QR codes, but with a few key differences. For one, he says that most QR codes try to embed all of their payload data into the 2D barcode itself, which can result in barcodes that are visually complex and harder for phone cameras (which are generally low quality) to scan. SPARQCodes help solve this issue by storing the payload data on its servers — the code you scan is actually for a shortened URL rather than the data itself. This, Chor says, makes the codes easier to scan for phones with low-end cameras. Users can scan SPARQCodes using most standard QR reader apps.
SPARQCode’s shortened URls also come with a few other benefits. First, they allow the barcode’s creator to track analytics, the same way you would with a link shortening service like bit.ly. They also allow the publisher to detect what kind of phone the user has and serve up content that’s been tailored for that device’s capabilities accordingly. For example, if you wanted your SPARQCode to send the user a map, you could link iPhone users directly to the phone’s built-in mapping application, while sending less powerful phones a basic image of the map.
Chor also says that SPARQCodes are visually designed to grab the viewer’s attention better than standard QR codes, and claims that they get 300-1000% higher conversation rates than traditional QR codes for app downloads.
The startup’s customers have used SPARQCode’s APIs in a variety of ways. FlightStats presents users with a unique SPARQCode for every flight they want to track; other customers include the barcodes in magazine ads. SPARQCode’s monetization model varies depending on how its customers are using it — FlightStats pays based on how many codes it creates (a lot), while a customer running the codes in a magazine will likely pay based on how many people take a snapshot of the code.
I’ve never been a big fan of 2D barcodes, and while they’re huge in Asia I’m still skeptical about their acceptance in the US. To that point, Chor says that SPARQCode is definitely seeing traffic in the States pick up.
Update: The company is actually called MSKYNET, but their product is SPARQCode.