Social Gift Website

SocialGift makes group gift-giving a breeze

New Toronto startup SocialGift is helping gift-givers and birthday boys and girls everywhere get what they actually want for big occasions by removing the friction affiliated with group gift giving. Through online tools like Twitter and Facebook users can invite family and friends to contribute to a social gift, with a process the team calls "smoother than ordering a pizza."

Let's be honest, it's hard to tell people what you actually want for your birthday. Your crazy aunt, parents and best friend all want to know what to get you, but instead of saying "a new Macbook" like you really want to, you say "oh nothing, maybe some socks." And when you're buying a gift for a friend, whether for a birthday or other occasion, you're usually searching for a reasonably priced bottle of wine, instead of getting them something they actually want (although let's get serious - everyone likes wine).

So co-founder Mo Govindji got the idea while running a wedding photography studio when he realized there was a serious need for a better form of a bridal registry. "No one I met wanted pots and pans, and cutlery and all that nonsense. They wanted a laptop or a honeymoon," he says. "I thought there has to be a better way to do this." His eureka moment came after selling almost 600 seats to a photography class through daily deal site LivingSocial in just 24 hours, which he then applied to the gift-buying process.

Users can create a gift (either for themselves or someone else) in three steps. First, choose a gift from the database - there are thousands courtesy of their partner online retailers like Macy's and Amazon (Amazon gift cards are also available). The gifts range from electronics like Nikon cameras and Macbooks to perfume to jewellery. Then name the event and invite people to chip in via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Invitees will receive a link to the event page where they can chip in any amount using a credit card of PayPal.

As soon as the target amount is reached the event shuts down and the item is shipped to the gift creator - if the target isn't reached, the recipient will receive a gift card for the amount raised to that point. It's free to create an event and contribute, but the company charges a service fee on the aggregate price of the product (currently 4%). Shipping is $10-$15 per item, but it's included in the price of the item (along with tax). How fast the item reaches you depends on their partner retailers.

The system is easy to use, but it's not perfect. There are a limited number of products in the database, so you're not guaranteed to find the exact item you're looking for (although the site's help page says you can email them with the item you'd like and they'll add it within 24 hours). And there are price discrepancies - while the Xbox 360 with Kinect was less expensive on SocialGift than on FutureShop.ca, a Nikon D3100 SLR camera was almost double the price (Govindji says it's a bug they're fixing, and the camera prices will soon be in line with Henry's). And if someone gets you something you don't actually want there's no way to change the gift selected for you as of right now. But Govindji says they're constantly tweaking based on feedback, and encourages people to get in touch with suggestions. Over the next two months they're adding a mobile app, as well as a plugin for retailers to allow their customers to check out with SocialGift (which he says its "going to be killer").

Mo and his business partners Dimitri Colomvakos and Matt Bertulli launched the site to the public earlier this month. The team is heading to the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in NYC next week to mingle with serial entrepreneurs and investors - who knows, maybe one of them has a birthday coming up. SocialGift to the rescue.


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