Giftly Looks to Disrupt Traditional Gift Card Market
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the restaurant couldn’t take orders over the phone. And while there might be more options for gift cards in a startup-heavy culture like San Francisco, that wouldn’t help him much in Vermont. “I realized there was really no great solution out there,” he says. “The whole system seemed pretty flawed to me.”
Since leaving Aardvark, Bentley had been considering starting his own company, but the experience made him want to start a business that could rethink the market and create a gift card system without the usual constraints.
He pitched the idea to credit card companies and processors, and partnered with a bank to secure all of the purchased gifts. “We have a pretty elaborate financial back end to run the program,” he says. “We took the first six months to put the right financial system in place to build the user interface we wanted. It’s the sort of platform most startups don’t take on.” It was complicated, but not totally unfamiliar territory for Bentley, who has a background in both finance and tech.
Initially, he bootstrapped the company, but by March 2011 he had raised a seed round of about 2.6 million from investors including Baseline Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, RPM Ventures, SoftTechVC, Floodgate Fund, and Thrive Capital. The company has also grown from Bentley’s idea to 10 employees.
So far, he has avoided dealing directly with vendors, but next year, he would like to build more relationships to help improve the experience for merchants. “They contact us all the time about whether we can issue gift cards on their behalf,” Bentley says. “They want to be able to hand things out in their store. That will be next year.”
Bentley is still working to even out the gift cycle so that it’s not entirely bunched around major holidays, but still, this quarter will be a busy one. The company has only been operational during one holiday season—the fourth quarter of 2011–but Bentley expects even more traffic this year. “Last year, Christmas Day bought on our biggest surge of traffic by far,” he says. “Last Wednesday, we had as much traffic as we did last year on Christmas Day.”
In the meantime, Bentley himself is a big fan of microgifts and uses them all the time, sending along a drink, for example, to get together with friends.