Ever met a large group of people and immediately forgotten all of their names? There's an app for that. 

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and pop star turned tech entrepreneur will.i.am are two of the investors in Knock Knock, a free mobile app launched Wednesday by relationship management company Humin. What distinguishes Knock Knock from virtually every other app ever created is the fact that you don't even need to open the app to use it.

Here's how it works. One person in a group of people "knocks" twice on their mobile phone, as if they were knocking on a door. If other people in the group make the same gesture--knocking twice on their phone with their knuckles--they're instantly connected in a group chat. The app shares names and photos, but leaves it up to each user to share additional contact information.

"The breakthrough here is that the phone can even be locked and turned off in your pocket and you're still able to join," says Humin CEO and co-founder Ankur Jain. "You can have 15 people out at dinner all knock twice, and suddenly all 15 of you are connected."

The idea for Knock Knock first came to Jain when he noticed that the most-used feature on Humin, the contact management app he launched a year ago, was the tool that helps users remember names. The discovery inspired him to create a different app that connects people but eliminates the "pressure and awkwardness of having to give everybody your phone number," Jain says.

Knock Knock was built on top of the technology used for Humin, and Jain says he hopes college and high school students who get the new app will also use Humin for its additional contact management features.

"It's a product in our portfolio that helps us really hit a younger user base," he says. The plan is to eventually create premium features for Knock Knock that will come with a fee.

So how did Jain get Branson and will.i.am on board as investors? Both men helped with beta testing for Humin after working with Jain through the Kairos Society, an international, student-run organization of entrepreneurs and innovators dedicated to changing the world through business. Jain is founder and chairman of the society, and was named to Inc.'s 30 Under 30 list in 2011.

"I've been running this idea by these guys for a while," Jain says, adding that he and will.i.am have been discussing how to use Knock Knock for smart watches and other devices in the future. The company declined to disclose how much funding it has raised from investors.

"If you can remove the awkwardness of connecting to anything in the real world just by knocking twice on your phone, it's pretty exciting," he says.

Published on: Aug 19, 2015