Punchbowl Changes Domain Name, Looks to Prevail in Tough Climate for Parties

9/14/10Follow @gthuang

Here’s an interesting snapshot of a lean, consumer-oriented Internet startup that has survived the recession so far—and is looking to take its business to a new level.

Framingham, MA-based Punchbowl Software, an online party-planning company, said today it has surpassed one million registered users as of a few weeks ago. That number includes senders and receivers of the company’s party invitations and e-cards, and it is a significant step for the business, says Punchbowl founder and CEO Matt Douglas.

After a tough 2009, the company’s “growth has been outstanding,” Douglas says. He declined to give specific numbers, but emphasized that “traffic and growth is accelerated.”

The startup also has acquired the domain name Punchbowl.com (it previously used MyPunchbowl.com). The company bought it from Rick Schwartz, the domain name pioneer who previously sold such venerable assets as Candy.com and Men.com for millions. Douglas wouldn’t say how much he paid, but said it was between one dollar and $5 million. There is strategic value, he says, in having a two-syllable brand named after an object—see Kayak.com or Facebook.com (which used to be TheFacebook.com back in 2004).

My colleague Wade first profiled Punchbowl back in October 2007. The company’s software helps party hosts do things like pick dates that work for the majority of people on their invite list, design invitations, track RSVPs, buy supplies, and share photos and videos after the event.

Punchbowl currently has eight employees plus a half-dozen contractors. It raised its most recent financing round in 2008—$2.1 million from Contour Venture Partners, Intel Capital, and eCoast Angels. The company also said today that Michael Waxman-Lenz, former senior vice president and general manager at American Greetings, has joined its board. American Greetings, Hallmark, and Evite (owned by IAC) are some of the big players in Punchbowl’s sector.

The startup makes money through a combination of licensing deals (to customers including 1-800Flowers and Oriental Trading), memberships, local advertising, and some e-commerce. Punchbowl’s party business is pretty seasonal—and with Halloween and the holidays coming up, its about to be high season, Douglas says.

“Revenue has been very strong,” he says. “We’re right on our plan, and it looks like the pipeline is opening up more.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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