Discovery: Whatever Happened to Bump


Last week, we asked readers if they had knew the backstory on the tragic loss of Bump: a smartphone app that allowed iOS and Android users to exchange virtual business cards by simply bumping their phones together. And we offered a free pass to Startup Grind Global Conference 2020 to the person who had the answer. David Kim rose to the challenge:

“A very close relative managed an R&D lab for Lockheed Martin in the 70s, early 80s. One of the projects he worked was fiber optics and sending information through that technology. Yes... when Led Zeppelin was still finishing their legendary '77 tour, he was doing R&D on how to send information through fiber optics. I can't even get fiber optics at my house in 2019! (Yes, it's probably a logistical and money problem, but my point still stands.) This is one of many projects he worked on in the lab that are only now available to consumers.

“Bump was bought by Google and was shut down less than a year later. No doubt there was an element of talent acquisition, but I believe there to be a bit more than that. The CTO, AG Huibers, was awarded graduate research fellowships from the DoD and NSF. He has a PhD from Stanford, and developed the algorithm for Bump and programmed it. From the original website's FAQ, "Our CTO has a PhD in Quantum Mechanics and can show the math behind [Bump], but we suggest downloading Bump and trying it yourself!" In an article written from another co-founder, he bought a Mac and learned the foundations of programming on an Apple computer app in a week.

“This guy is smart, really smart. Take a look at some of his research here, and his exact profile here. I mean, "Quantum Chaos in Open versus Closed Quantum Dots: Signatures of Interacting Particles" ? To end up working to help launch Google Photos? (Think Google Photos + AI + 3D Imaging w/ Quantum Computing)
With AG at the helm, the company developed a way to literally bump phones together for an ease-of-use that is arguably more seamless than any NFC/Bluetooth system in regular use by the public (Apple Pay, etc.). It was too advanced, and so it was absorbed. What do I mean by "too advanced"? Well, it wouldn't be too hard to imagine there exists technology 10-15 years ahead of what is available to consumers. In fact, there has been public evidence of technology out now that was being developed 20-30 years ago, so R&D that far advanced wouldn't be absurd to consider. Usually, it's done in the military or a government contracted facility and protected under the auspices of "public safety." Technically, this cannot be proved and cannot be truly known, because the only validity to its claim would be from those with high level military clearance, and we all know how much they'd love to tell you what they're working on.

“The close relative had the same title as AG Huibers now (R&D Manager, whatever that and titles really mean) and was working with technology that still isn't regularly accessible to the consumer, like fiber optics, almost 40 years ago. He was regularly working on projects that weren't implemented until 15-20 years later. When asked why they can't just release the technology, he was met with the common responses of, "the public would not be able to handle it" and "it doesn't fit our timeline." As in, "product timeline."

“Why release technology even just 10 years "ahead" of consumer norm? If you're 10 years ahead, that means 20, 6-month iterations of a product with incremental improvement, and you can stay ahead of the curve. Think of how much money those increments would consistently bring to the company. The purpose of a corporation is to bring money to the shareholders, right?

“It's just like the automotive industry. In just one example, the 2008 Audi Q5 stayed pretty much the same for 9 years. Surely, the world-class German VW design and R&D team didn't go on vacation for that length of time? How could they... they were probably too hard at work trying to figure out how to beat emissions regulations!

Regular Earpods came out in 2001. Airpods came out 15 years later. Does one think wireless earpods were unconsidered by Steve? Was the technology really not there? There's a man in Santa Cruz who holds the record for longest bluetooth range, along 15km. He's had this record since the early 2000s, and he's said it was more of a hobby for him.

“Chris Rock said it best: "...they got metal on the space shuttle that can go around the moon… and withstand temperatures of up to 10000 degrees. You mean to tell me you don’t think they can make an Eldorado where the fucking bumper don’t fall off?"

“Bump was eaten up because it was a bit too far ahead of the curve. Now, AG Huibers and members of the team work on Quantum computing concepts that will be available for public consumption 25 years from now.

“Actually, forget all that. Bump was bought out by Google to buy IP & talent, and dissolved. Their technology turned into Android pay and other similar services, that use bluetooth instead (for some reason).”


Doug Erickson1 Comment