Despite being just five months old, FlikGift has already secured a strategic partnership with Australian digital media company Mi9, and enjoys the backing of start-up incubator Pollenizer.
The brainchild of Shaun Johnson – founder and former chief executive of comparison website Switchwise – FlikGift is a social gifting app, available on the web and mobile devices.
FlikGift is headquartered in Sydney but also has offices in Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Johnson talks to StartupSmart about partnering with Pollenizer and Mi9, and the growth of the gifting industry.
What prompted you to launch FlikGift? What niche did you identify?
We knew that many retailers were suffering as a result of a variety of economic and structural changes, and that many of them were stuck in a discount spiral that had grown tired and stopped resonating with consumers.
We had also witnessed the success of the group buying market, but such a heavily discounted model is not attractive to retailers due to the massive discounting it relies upon.
We worked through several ideas and models that would help retailers more effectively target consumers and entice them into retailers’ bricks-and-mortar and/or online stores to make purchases.
So we developed FlikGift, which provides a marketing platform to retailers that enables them to target and acquire new customers based upon social network demographics as well as to reward existing customers and reactivate dormant customers.
Our platform enables retailers to get more out of their existing customer base by using gift cards to encourage their customers to shop with them again, and to get their customers to promote their brand to their customers’ social network friends.
How did you fund the business?
I partnered with Pollenizer to start the business so we are both funding the business at this stage.
We were also fortunate to secure a partnership with Mi9 so they have been helping us by marketing FlikGift to their massive customer base.
We have just kicked off a fundraising process with investors to take the business to the next level.
How do you promote the business?
We have been marketing online, testing all the usual channels. As mentioned above, we have the Mi9 partnership, which has helped to give us a wide marketing reach.
The beauty of our model is that it is inherently viral by being integrated into Facebook so that gives us great awareness and enables us to get new customers.
These partnerships with Pollenizer and Mi9 – how did they happen?
I met [Pollenizer co-founder] Phil Morle in early 2008 when I started my previous company.
We have kept in contact ever since and had talked about launching a business together and FlikGift is it.
The benefit of working with Pollenizer has been the speed with which they have been able to develop and launch the business.
They are great at coming up with and testing ideas, learning from those tests and then reiterating quickly to get the business into the right position for growth.
Also, they seem to know everybody, which helps with fundraising and opening doors with retailers and other potential partners.
We were introduced to Mi9 via Pollenizer. The benefit of working with Mi9 is obviously access to their massive online audience as well as the opportunity to work with other businesses in the Nine Entertainment group.
As you know, a great challenge for start-ups, even if they have a great product, is making consumers aware of it and getting them to use it. So Mi9 really helps us get around this problem.
How do you stand out in the market? What’s your point/s of difference?
To stand out we need to ensure we have a fantastic consumer experience that makes giving gifts really easy, fun, social and personal.
Building deep relationships with retailers, and providing them with the tools they need to market effectively, is also critical.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
It’s still too early for us to start projecting revenue.
That’s not to say revenue isn’t important – it is – but our focus this year is on validating the business model, and growing our customer and retailer base.
The gifting category seems to be heating up. Why is that?
Firstly, it solves both a consumer and a retailer problem.
For consumers, it offers an easier and more social/fun way to send gifts to friends, and to get together with a group of friends to buy a combined gift.
For retailers, it offers a new, targeted marketing channel that doesn’t rely on discounting.
Secondly, it provides an effective way to monetise Facebook users and mobile users; something many businesses have been seeking.
Finally, Facebook’s recent acquisition of Karma (a different take on social gifting to FlikGift) has generated a lot of buzz and interest.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
Not growing fast enough.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Not yet but it’s early days! As this is my second start-up, I’m fortunate to have learnt a few things along the way so I don’t make the same mistakes again.
What advice would you give to other online entrepreneurs?
I have learned two key things – the importance of persistence and adaptability. There are lots of ups and downs with any new company, and you have to persist and find a way through every problem you encounter.
In the online world especially, you have to be willing to learn and adapt quickly; the product or business model you started with might not be the same in a year’s time, so you have to be able to recognise that there might be several paths to achieving your vision.
Failing to learn and adapt can be catastrophic.