Monday Dec 3, 2012 by Susan Johnston - Contributor, VentureFizz
From ebooks and daily deals to MP3s and Pandora subscriptions, countless consumers will send electronic gifts this holiday season. Cambridge-based startup Delightfully, which launched in September, enables those consumers to customize the gift recipient’s experience by adding personal photos, notes, and other content for a flat fee of $3 per gift.
“The convenience of a digital world is that everything is immediately accessible to us,” says cofounder Jason Shin. “But that same direct convenience means I can send it to you in an instant but it’s not conveying in an email that our relationship is worth this time and thought that I put in.”
As a groomsman in a friend’s wedding in early 2011 Shin received an Amazon gift certificate from the groom. Wanting to make the gift (and the groomsmen) feel special, the groom had printed out the codes and put them in gift bags with frizzy paper. That experience prompted Shin to think about creating the excitement of physically unwrapping a gift without physically printing or wrapping the gift.
“We believe that not only can we create that anticipation and thoughtfulness but there’s a wide open world of ways that we can apply technology to meet the needs of the gift giver,” says Shin, who met his cofounders Gina Luciano and James Barabas in a mobile apps programming course two summers ago at MIT. The three cofounders pulled together some friends and family money and received mentorship and angel funding from Bill Warner.
Rather than feeling limited by the lack of physical objects to unwrap, Shin sees it as freeing. “The experience doesn’t have to be limited to tearing apart paper,” he says. “It can be playing games, it can be solving a crossword puzzle … We’re not trying recreate anything that’s in the physical world. People want to interact with each other and strengthen that relationship through gift-giving.”
Delightfully offers e-Gifts such as custom-made dress shirts from Boston-based company Blank Label or users can pull in e-Gifts from outside merchants. This week, the site added Fandango.com gift cards and will soon add Amazon.com gift cards. The site also added functionality that allows consumers to schedule the delivery of their e-Gifts.
“When you give someone a gift like [custom-made shirts or customized chocolate), you’re giving them an opportunity to create something that really fits them uniquely,” says Shin. “It’s this whole move on the internet to mass customization. These are things that we’re making available to our gift-givers so that they can very easily deliver a very meaningful gift.”
Moving forward, Shin says Delightfully has filed patent applications and plans to offer its service as a plugin for existing online merchants. “We know that 200 characters isn’t enough to make a meaningful gift, so instead of that form that has 200 characters to personalize a message, with one click of a check box, you can add us,” he explains. “After purchase you’ll be fed into this wrapping process. That’s something we’re really excited about because we feel like that can create a win for the merchants. It’s source of revenue without interrupting their checkout flow.”