Nifti, a Boston-based product tracking service, officially launched its “command center for online shopping” today.
The company, started by three Dartmouth Tuck School of Business alums, Nathan Sharp, Greg Kimball, and Abe Gurjal, aims to help shoppers save time and money by making consumers better informed about product price fluctuations. A customer using Nifti to track an item online is notified when the price for the good drops below a specified threshold, essentially allowing consumers to set prices for online goods.
Along with the launch, Nifti announced that it has raised $800,000 from Google Ventures, Otto Capital, Andy Palmer and Errik Anderson. Abe Gurjal, the company's technical lead, also invested in the company.
Two Ways Nifti is Different Than Anything Available on the Market
Nifti differentiates itself from other product for smart shoppers in two ways.
First, it is amazingly easy to use. When the “Nifti Button” is added to a web browser’s bookmark bar, an online shopper simply highlights a good they would like to purchase. The consumer adds the item to their Nifti queue, sets the desired price, and then waits for an email notification once the price drops. All the products that a Nifti user tracks are stored in a Pinterest-like catalogue that can be customized to make it simple for consumers to compare, organize, and share the goods they are tracking.
Second, Nifti analyzes the price history of all the products that its users highlight to track. This may seem like a superfluous feature to the price tracking component, but it quite educational to observe (in graph form) the random, dynamic price manipulation of products being sold online.
Nifti has already built a large database of price histories for the most popular goods that bought online. Once a shopper highlights a product, they will instantly be shown a graph that highlights the most recent price trends for the good. If the price isn’t already in Nifti’s database, its history is graphed from the point that it is highlighted. As more consumers use the product, Nifti’s storehouse of pricing data will grow exponentially.
Demonstrating the product, CEO Nathan Sharp was excited to show off the price history graph. It was almost shocking to see some of the (seemingly random) price shifts for a wide array of goods. Nifti adds a notification badge for each good that a customer tracks, giving the overall rise or fall in price percentage since the product was first tracked.
The demo proved that Nifti is a really exciting tool for online shoppers for two reasons.
For one, it gives buyers powerful information on the unpredictability of ecommerce. In the demonstration, prices for fashion goods would fluctuate dramatically for no reason. One pair of jeans could rise in price 200% while a comparable product’s price could drop 50% over the same period of time. Some goods rarely change in price; others shift almost continuously.
Nifti’s service also informs online shoppers of the large amounts of price manipulation occurring online. As the the company’s price history database grows, retailers could be forced to become more accountable for pricing while dealing with more informed consumers.
The Journey of an Idea
Sharp, who initially came up with the kernel idea for Nifti, may be one of the most interesting young CEOs in the country.
Originally hailing from Kentucky, Sharp came to Boston to attend Harvard and ended up getting involved in editing and business management for the Harvard International Review. While trying to sell ads for the publication, he became intrigued with sales and marketing and pivoted from his initial idea for a career in international relations.
His newfound interest in marketing led him to a summer position at Google in Mountain View, California. At Google, Sharp was on-boarded by “pre-Lean In” Sheryl Sandberg and worked in the AdWords division where he learned how random and unsuccessful the majority of searches and ad campaigns could be. Sharp thought that the inefficiencies in searching for goods online could be easily fixed by taking an innovative approach to the concept.
After Harvard, Sharp turned down a chance to work at Google and got involved with the Global Health Project in Bangalore, India, starting a project that was eventually funded by the Gates Foundation. “We set out to create a quality assessment system that would be able to differentiate quality at the lowest level of healthcare,” Sharp said, explaining how they helped make a difference in getting people better quality health services.
Even as he returned to America and headed to business school, the fact that there wasn’t a tool to track some of the inefficiencies for online product searches and shopping kept bugging Sharp.
Nifti had its “A-ha” moment one night as Sharp and Kimball observed how frustrating it was for Kimball and his wife to track the best deals for newborn baby products. Kimball’s wife had created a cumbersome spreadsheet filled with price discrepencies that varied randomly.
Sharp and Kimball connected with Gurjal, who had already successfully launched MobiTech 3000, a suite of apps that had over 9 million unique users, and the trio got to work on Nifti.
The idea that began when Sharp observed the randomness of sales prices working for the Harvard International Review had completed its journey; today, Nifti officially launches its price tracking system.
Nifti Benefits Both Consumers AND Merchants
Eventually, Nifti could become a powerful tool for consumers. Specifically, the data that Nifti has already collected, and will continue to collect as more consumers use the tool, may eventually lead to more accountability as merchant’s price goods for online purchase.
“We wanted to create a tool that matches merchants ability to change prices,” Sharp said. “It should be as easy for shoppers to see how prices change as it is for merchants to change prices.”
Nifti also could have some benefits for merchants as well. As consumers highlight online goods, Nifti will be able to analyze consumer shopping trends, creating a wealth of information that can help make product marketing more direct.
In the press release announcing the launch, both Rich Miner of Google Ventures and Andy Palmer explained what makes Nifti so unique.
Miner said, “As consumers gain new insights into product pricing, we see a strong positive shift in the dynamic between shoppers and merchants.” "The team at Nifti,” he added, “has created a platform to bring consumers and merchants together in a way that makes the most of this increase in pricing awareness. It's a clever take on the affiliate model because it benefits both shoppers and sellers."
“Ecommerce has to evolve,” said serial entrepreneur and Nifti investor Andy Palmer. “Consumers need simple information on the products that they want, and Nifti radically simplifies price alerts and wish lists for online consumers.”
Palmer added, “Nifti is changing the way that people buy online by giving shoppers easy access to price history and changes.” “Instead of being pushed an endless stream of irrelevant promotions,” he said, “Nifti users get only the updates they want so they can always buy at the best price.”
Nifti’s launch represents a big moment for innovation in online shopping. It also creates an even bigger opportunity for merchants to create more transparency in their pricing strategies. In the end, Nifti may make the entire online shopping experience better for everyone involved.
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.