Perhaps the only act which surpasses the joy of receiving an amazing gift are the heart-warming, thoughtful feelings behind giving one. But in an age where time has become an elusive luxury, many reluctantly resort to easy pedestrian gift-giving methods such as gift cards or brief messages on social media to mark special occasions. That’s where Giftagram co-founders Jason Reid and Richard Kapustin discovered an opportunity to build a mobile platform that they hoped would deliver value to time-strapped young professionals. Giftagram aims to redefine the gifting experience by integrating the lost art of gifting with the potential and conveniences offered by mobile commerce and technology.
Launched quietly before the 2013 holiday season, Giftagram has steadily developed its business and user base over the past year. Reid says that Giftagram is effectively “a platform and marketplace for best in-class local retailers and merchants, as well as top international brands who use Giftagram as a mobile distribution channel.” For consumers, Giftagram offers a stress-free, secure and reliable app that facilitates sending physical gifts with the speed and ease of sending a text message. Reid explains that “Giftagram plays an in-between role as “content curator” to bring the best products and offers onto the Giftagram platform, making it easy for people to send gifts to their contacts without the need for physical addresses.”
Giftagram’s story originates with Reid’s personal passion for giving and receiving gifts. Reid notes humorously that he’s the typical prototype of a busy young professional who doesn’t have time and never quite knows how to find the perfect gift. “I’m always calling friends, asking for advice, and spending way too much time researching and buying products that occasionally arrive late or fall short of the quality I envision.” The first hand pain-points Reid experienced in the onerous process of traditional gift giving was a major motivator behind the inception of Giftagram. “As someone who wanted to provide and facilitate thoughtful gift experiences and make great impressions on people through the physical act of gifting, we conceptualized Giftagram as a way that transformed the art of gifting from a time-consuming headache to a streamlined process with a personalized touch,” says Reid.
Giftagram blends the complimentary skill sets of the company’s founders with an understanding of the massive potential of mobile commerce. As the CEO of Giftagram, Reid comes from a strong background in business development, tech and finance. Richard Kapustin, the company’s CTO, provides a complimentary skill set instrumental to the creation and continual development of Giftagram’s platform. Viewing Giftagram as a “mobile marketing platform for the brands and partners we work with,” Reid also emphasizes the vital role Giftagram’s first employee, Jessica Bloom, has played as the head of the company’s media and marketing efforts. “With the phenomenal success of companies such as Uber in Toronto, it has become apparent that mobile commerce is becoming increasingly mainstream,” says Reid. He goes on to add, “there are already incumbents in the gifting space, but most companies focus on digital transactions such as gift cards and money transfers; instead, we want to enhance and revolutionize physical gift giving.” In conjunction with providing value to consumers, Reid emphasizes Giftagram’s usefulness for retailers. “Giftagram provides a seamless marketplace platform for retailers who want to integrate an effective mobile distribution strategy for their businesses,” says Reid.
The essence of great gifting through an iterative curation of products and experiences lie at the heart of Giftagram’s business. “We feel really good about our technology platform and our proprietary intellectual property” Reid says, “but at the end of the day we’re all about delivering that phenomenal user experience: it’s the focus behind what we do day in, day out.” Reid fleshes out how Giftagram’s curation process leads to an amazing user experience, “We work through a small network of advisers and thought-leaders in their respective industries. We only offer products and experiences we believe in and see as great quality gifts. Users keep coming back and we engage with our customers regularly, constantly adding 3 to 5 new offers weekly and rotating products depending on seasonality, events and customer feedback.”
Giftagram’s decision to establish Toronto as its base of operations stems from an appreciation of the opportunities present in one of North America’s premier cities. As a major cosmopolitan city, Toronto has a large demographic of tech savvy, smartphone-wielding young professionals who value “luxury” experiences and services, but may not have the time in their hectic schedules to personally scope out said experiences. Reid comments that “Giftagram acts as kind of digital concierge or personal assistant to its users in a way which provides value and irreplaceable convenience.” Growing up in Toronto, Reid also feels a strong attachment to the city and a commitment to supporting and boosting Toronto’s local businesses. “Taking in to account Toronto’s growing stature as an economic powerhouse and its vibrant local scene, it makes sense to launch here. Many of our partners are actually neighbouring businesses here in downtown Toronto. Our close ties with local Toronto businesses fosters a community of innovation and support.”
Even as an experienced member of Toronto’s entrepreneurial tech scene, Reid admits that there are challenges entrepreneurs and small businesses face continually at all levels. Reid reflects upon some of the best advice and lessons he’s learned through working with entrepreneurs over the course of his career, highlighting an all-star team as paramount to Giftagram’s continual success. “Having the right people in the right seat of the bus to drive the business forward is fundamental for entrepreneurs. I don’t have a 9 to 5 job or weekends because I’m always working, so enjoying and supporting your team is crucial for motivating and galvanizing yourself to perform at the highest level each and every day.” Another key point Reid stresses is an obvious area of focus that many entrepreneurs seem to gloss over – raising capital. “Having the ability to raise significant capital is crucial because it allows you to learn quickly, pivot and evolve as well as get to a point of stickiness with users allowing you to scale and drive your business forward.”
The mood at Giftagram is definitely energetic and upbeat concerning the company’s future plans. Reid can barely contain himself, “up until now Giftagram has been very local and Toronto-centric. We’ve now reached that critical mass of users and we’re at a point where Giftagram is ready to hit the mainstream.” Reid continues, “we have a completely new and redesigned version coming out in October with a whole host of brand new features. The one that’s most exciting for us is multi-city functionality, which allows you for the first time to send gifts through Giftagram across Canada.” As we conclude our chat, Giftagram’s CEO conveys a sense of optimism balanced with the knowledge that with greater scale, Giftagram will inevitably face new challenges, “no matter what happens, we’ll always be innovating and evolving Giftagram to enhance the user experience, be it features of functionality or expanding the depth of products available. We will always push forward to continually provide unique value adds to our users.”
Images courtesy of Giftagram.
JJ Wong is a contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter.