TipCity Offers Search Engine for Diners, Enables Local Restaurants to “Flash Deals”

7/8/10Follow @bvbigelow

As the entrepreneur who successfully pioneered Bluetooth software at San Diego’s Widcomm (now part of Broadcom), Hiep Pham is accustomed to taking some calculated risks. Today, he is betting that consumers will respond to “flash deals” for restaurant discounts that are sent to their mobile devices by text message or e-mail, and are displayed on their favorite social media sites.

Pham describes TipCity, a San Diego-based startup he founded last year, as a location-based marketing tool that connects tech-savvy diners to real-time, hyper-local restaurant deals.

The company’s technology could sound the final death knell for old media restaurant coupons. It represents a more precise way to target customers than existing subscriber-based daily or weekly deals that are blanket-e-mailed to a group database. TipCity says its technology enables restaurants and other partners to transmit promotions instantly to customers who identified their favorite restaurants and taste preferences when they signed up at TipCity.com, which is currently in beta development.

Through its mobile applications, online presence, and social media integration, TipCity says its technology can reach customers in real time, just when they’re leaving a theater and looking for something to eat or drink. In addition to driving traffic to its restaurant customers, the startup says it also helps restaurants and other partners better manage their revenues and inventory by enabling them to offer instant promotions during a business lull. Participating restaurants in San Diego include Pat & Oscar’s, Pick Up Stix, and Donovan’s Steak House, and the company says it plans to expand to other markets in coming months.

TipCity’s founders provided the initial startup capital, and additional financing has come from former Burger King CEO Jeff Campbell and Tony Thornley, a former president and CFO at San Diego-based Qualcomm. Pham tells me by e-mail that the company is planning to engage with venture capitalists to raise its series A funding in the next few weeks.

The company says its “flash deals” also will be promoted on TipCity’s website, Facebook, and Twitter pages, as well as an iPhone App, Droid App, and on the websites of its promotional partners.

The company says its controlled marketing gives restaurant operators unprecedented flexibility, for example, by increasing walk-in traffic at a popular lunch spot by offering a half-off lunch deal on a rainy day—good for two hours only. TipCity says it also offers its subscribers in San Diego the largest database for restaurant deals, promotions, and happy hours discounts. In a statement issued by the company, Pham says, “It’s like the Google search of restaurant deals.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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