December 2, 2012
Cambridge-Based Delightfully Transforming Digital Gifts

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 gift cards and will soon add 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.”

Susan Johnston is a journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Susan on Twitter (@UrbanMuseWriter) by clicking here.