Start-Up Unwraps Social Gifting to Help Men Buy Better Presents

Seattle-based Thoughtful is launching a mobile application that feeds off the stereotype of men who forget to buy presents or don’t know what to buy–and it’s just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The local-focused service will launch first in Seattle and only in a limited beta through its Web site or mobile application.

The company fits snuggly between social and mobile trends in e-commerce, and, much like Groupon and Gilt Groupe, it recommends a limited number of offers based on the recipient’s tastes–drawn from Facebook or gleaned from a short questionnaire.

Offers could include anything from kayaking trips for the outdoorsy type, to dinner for two for the wine lover, to a cooking class for someone who’d rather eat at home.

But unlike with Groupon or Gilt Groupe, the deals are not discounted–they are regular price, or close to it.

Before you think that’s suicide in today’s bargain market, ask this: Is it appropriate to buy a Valentine’s Day or anniversary present at a discount?

Thoughtful’s co-founders Chris Lynch and Tim Low say it’s a social quandary they toy with a lot.

“It’s buying for me vs. buying for someone else. We are focused on premium gifts and experiences that you are buying for someone else,” Lynch said.

In other words, Thoughtful is trying to corner the market of recommending gifts that will match with specific tastes at the time of purchase. The service is aimed at affluent people “who are busy, have jobs, have a lot going on and have the impulse to do something good.” Low said, “It’s like a personal assistant that manages the important people in your life.”

Because of that, it attracts a set of buyers who have a strong intent to buy and have a deadline for an upcoming event, making it attractive to merchants, who are looking to avoid the “discount hunting hordes that perhaps generate lower volume at higher margins than Groupon.”

The service starts by gathering information from your Facebook page, which may automatically know who your wife is, what her tastes are and when the important times are in your lives. It also can track other important people in your life and their birth dates. If the information is not on Facebook, some manual input will be necessary, including answering a short, whimsical survey that takes just a few clicks to complete, and asks questions such as whether the person in your life is a fan of beer or wine.

Thoughtful said it negotiates for itself a 25 to 35 percent split for the offer, which is off a full-priced item vs. something that is already half off.

Thoughtful has seven employees and has raised $130,000 in seed financing. It has used crowd-sourcing techniques to come up with ideas for offers, and will be collecting feedback on this beta to figure out its next step, which could include market expansion.

Here’s a video on how it works:

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