Giftless
Giftless is now Giveable

Hi everyone.

We have some awesome news to share with you. Giftless is now known as Giveable!

One topic that regularly came up with Giftless was the slight negativity around the name; especially the ‘less’ part. Giveable is a much more positive sounding name. There is also some awesome new branding on the way too, so stay tuned for that.

You can still get the same awesome gift suggestions by visiting the new website at http://giveable.co

The best way to stay in touch with Giveable is to:


- Adam

P.s. you can revisit Giftless’s social media goodness at https://twitter.com/giftlesshttps://www.facebook.com/giftless, and http://blog.giftless.com

AngelCube Week 8 - Roller Coaster

Single Founder Reality

In week 8, the reality of becoming a single founder really hit home. Talk about roller coaster highs and lows. There is so much to get done. It’s all about doing. Doing, and hanging in there. Do what ever it takes to survive.

The mentors and other teams at AngelCube were super supportive. Thanks everyone; couldn’t have done it without your help :)

During the week, I stumbled across two opposing articles on startup leadership. Both views are valid, and wrestling with them both helped me get through the week. The articles are:

  1. "What does it feel like to be the CEO of a start up" via Quora
  2. "Startup CEOs, stop acting like victims" via suberianfruit

Metrics

One outcome last week was the definition of metrics to better represent Giftless. Initially, I was using number of registered users, which by itself is a vanity metric.

The outcome of the week was a set of metrics that do a reasonable job at representing the momentum/progress of Giftless. Right now, they are easily measurable, but not completely indicative of success. I see these as ‘Iteration 1’ of our metrics, and will enable us to get to a better ‘Iteration 2’, etc etc.

The metrics are outlined on Slide 5 of the presentation above.

Legals

The Giftless legals were a big consumer of time. My advice is to keep things simple, and execute quickly to implement them.

Also discovered a great alternative to printing, signing, and scanning documents. Preview (the OS X app) has a great feature where you can sign documents right there on the screen. This has no doubt saved numerous trees! :) 

AngelCube Week 7 - Moving Forward with Passion



From two founders to one

Last week was the toughest (and most action packed) week of AngelCube so far. The biggest event by far was between Paul and myself; we’ve parted ways as co-founders of Giftless.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve both been very passionate where Giftless is going, but these passions have not been aligned. This has been affecting us both as individuals and as a company.

The decision was extremely tough for me. Paul is a great guy, and brought a skill set hugely complimentary to my own. You can get a hold of Paul through his website http://paulhayes.co/

Simple vision

The pitch practise on Friday yielded one unusual insight. Sam, a fellow co-founder from ggBet/Dragonfly, announced that he finally understood what Giftless does. I was a little stunned, as he sits right across from us in Inspire9 and has seen us pitch/update most weeks.

In my opinion, things can always been simpler (see KISS); it’s not easy but totally worth it. To put it simply, the Giftless philosophy is “Humans have interests; give interesting gifts" and our flow is "Pick a friend, choose an interest, select a gift”.

Simple! :)

Changed, Problems, and Pivots

Giftless has been on a winding road since starting at AngelCube. Starting off as a gift discovery system, then changing to a gift card system, and most recently a group photo card system.

In hindsight, these were most definitely not pivots. They were changes; changes to the a different problem and vision.

The Giftless vision is now clearer than ever:

help people give awesome meaningful gifts

AngelCube Weeks 5 & 6 - Pivot or Persevere

Weeks 5 & 6 have been incredibly difficult and tough for the Giftless team.

Gaining visibility of key metrics that determine at least the short-term fate of Giftless has been a key focus of mine. It was neither an easy nor a fast process to be able to isolate our traffic and truly understand our business’s metrics and data.

And now that we have clear and isolated visibility of our different traffic sources, the feasibility of the Giftless gift discovery application has been seriously challenged. 

Traffic growth occurs through one of 3 means, viral, sticky or paid. 

In the case of Giftless, sticky growth is unlikely because most of the pages are dynamically generated, there is little to no static content and because our landing page has a  Facebook connect login, we also have a high bounce rate. Also getting deep linkage in its current form is impossible.

Viral growth is also unlikely, Shopycat is the epitome of a gift recommendation engine powered by social media and even with its huge seed that is Walmart’s customer database, Shopycat hasn’t gone viral.

That leaves Giftless with paid growth, which would be ideal for Giftless if our CPA < LTV. Unfortunately for us, the data is not suggesting it will be. Now that we have clear visibility of our campaigns in complete isolation, we have realised we have the following CPA’s for Signups.

Interest based ads = $2.20

Generic ads > $29

Personality targeted ads > $40

So our best case scenario has a CPA of $2.20, but this for a signup not a customer. Our average commission is %5, considering that if 100% of our signups converted to customers, we would need to sell $44 worth of goods to break even.

However, we realise that the absolute best conversion rate we could achieve is %5, which means our break even point is actually $880 worth of goods sold. Unfortunately this is unrealistic and so rules out paid traffic as our mechanism of growth.

On the flip side we actually have some solid data that is quite positive. Which added to our confusion of the question at hand, pivot or persevere.

Facebook ads targeting interests have extremely high CTR, in one example, the CTR of an interest based ad “Discover Star Wars Gifts” had a CTR 600% higher than a generic “Discover Great Gifts” ad.

The signup rates are far higher with interest based ads 10% (Discover Star Wars Gifts) versus 3% (Discover Great Gifts)

The average session time of a user acquired through these “Discover Star Wars Gifts” is also far longer than those acquired by the “Discover Great Gifts” ad too.

We considered going down the B2B route, we considered a customer segment pivot, we considered accepting the realisation that Giftless is simply a long term play.

Ultimately, with the wisdom of the AngelCube mentors we decided to pivot. 

We did this by looking very closely at all of our competitors and identifying the key characteristics of why they are succeeding. Then we took the common themes of success and distilled them into our own new business model.

The common themes were:

  • simple user experience
  • viral as a core feature 
  • Facebook wall posting and lots of it
  • Group purchasing of gift cards
  • Gift Card Market

The most interesting competitor I studied was Wrapp. Wrapp has one of the most beautiful business models I have ever seen. It leverages the customer database of its partners for user growth and it gets the customers its partner companies to market for both Wrapp and the partner company.

Wrapp has created the most effective and efficient social media marketing platform to date. It also combines a combination of conversion techniques such as people who use coupons spend more than those without and that conversion rates of traffic directed from social media can be as high as 71%.

Our pivot is based around Wrapp’s business model and adding a group photo card as the core user case scenario. We are currently validating our the key assumptions of our pivot and I’ll have some more information next week regarding this.

To be honest, it has been incredibly difficult having to pivot so late into AngelCube. But learning how to validate or invalidate a business so quickly is in and of itself a skill-set and I feel 10x the entrepreneur for having mastered it.

AngelCube Week 4 - Giftless’ First Acquisition Offer

Week 4 at AngelCube was a reality check and a grounding week for the Giftless team.

First Acquisition Offer

Some of the marketing I have been doing has been achieved by posting on warriorforum.com asking them to crique the copy of the landing page and to get feedback on the giftless as a whole. This has served a dual purpose of getting high quality feedback from direct marketers and copy writers but also has led to a few signups.

I actually received a private message from a warriorforum member with an offer to buy the Giftless concept and upload the website to him for 3,000 USD. Whilst we enjoyed the thought of graciously accepting and handing Adrian his 300 USD dollar share, we ultimately declined. Though not before asking if he was interested in a strategic partnership/revenue sharing arrangement which he politely declined.

The validation from the offer was nice, but we are focusing on working towards gaining real validation of our business, not just validation of our concept!

First acquisition offer

How does Giftless get better the more users it has?

We have realised very early on that a crucial element to our long term success is making sure our viral coefficient is greater than one. This is essential because most likely our CPA will be quite high compared to our LTV. Also, creating network effects could end up being  a key competitive advantage long term. We had a brainstorming session with Guy and Bevan about this issue and came up with a strong list of possible ways to ensure their is a strong incentive for users to recommend Giftless to their friends.

There are two seperate areas we need to work simultaneously.

The first is how to make the Giftless system as a whole better the more users it has. These can be in the form of discovering there’s a relationship between the amount of interactions a user has with a person and how much that user is willing to spend on that person. We might derive that music t-shirts are more popular than music cd’s and prioritize those.

The second is from the users perspective. Having the ability to see what categories, interests and products other “friends” of the giftee has been browsing could help the brainstorming process and lead to interesting discoveries. Also, being able to leave comments on products such as, I know he already own’s this product could be invaluable.

network effects

Goals, metrics and funnels

We learnt a lot about funnels in the last couple of weeks and we now know what metrics we want to be tracking, though in some examples we don’t know how to isolate them (for example Facebook ads traffic versus traffic facebook wall postings). Tracking facebook ad conversions in complete isolation to general facebook traffic is actually really difficult with Google Analytics and it took a fair amount of research to be able to isolate this traffic in our goal funnel. We believe we have solved this issue, but are waiting on the completion of our first test to know.

Thankfully, the mentors are great and have been help us out a lot. I am working with Nic Hodges to resolve this issue. We essentially want to be able to track signup percentages from each source seperately and eventually be able to know the CPA and LTV and Viral Co-efficient per source.

Though above all else, the one key metric that trumps all others for us right now is the # of returning visitors. We have decided to focus our short term efforts on increasing our retention rates. Our plan in the short term is to focus on the smart reminder feature because we realise that this is the key feature that keeps visitors returning to Giftless. It also nice to note that the reminders are the #1 most requested feature from our feedback.

feedback

Facebook Ad CTR results and signup demographics

Our Facebook ad CTR results were interesting, the only age groups clicking through were 13-17 year olds. Though I suspect Facebook ads algorithm skewed the data a little bit. We know this because the percentage of impressions was 25x more for 13-17 years than any other age range.

None the less, we realised the most important demographic is the people that actually have been signing up. I used Rapleaf to identify the general demographics of our signup user base, and though at the moment the sample size is tiny, it is still confirming our initial thoughts about targeting the same demographics our competitors Wrapp, Giftiki and Karma are targeting.

Landing page redesign

Our new landing page by Diesel Laws is up and live. We would love any and feedback about the landing page. Please email us directly on first name (at) giftless com

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE NEW REDESIGN OF THE GIFTLESS SITE

Paul and Adam

AngelCube Week 3 - Give Users More Awesomeness


Release The Prototype

On the advice of some awesome mentors, we started to promote our Gifting system to the real world. For the last few weeks, we’ve kept it hidden away, instead using other tool such as mockups and screen shots to gain feedback.

Our gifting system can be found at giftless.com. We use Facebook for logins, so you can get started in seconds.

We’ve learnt A LOT by doing this. The feedback we are getting back is awesome and useful. We are able to leverage the prototype to conduct some very specific experiments & learnings too! I’d encourage everyone to share their app/prototype, regardless of what stage it is at.

Give Users More Awesomeness

We love making our users smile and generally feel awesome. We noticed that certain screens in Giftless make users smile and say “Wow!”, and others do not.

"Give Users More Awesomeness" is now a key guiding principle for us. Any day that we can make users feel more awesome is a good day for us.

We are committed to making Giftless awesome for you. We love hearing from our users about how Giftless can be more awesome!

AngelCube Week 2 - Become Your Product

Week 2 at AngelCube was another intense and crazy week!

Become Your Product

First thing on Monday morning we gave our weekly update. After describing how our assumption testing was going, the mentors Adrian and Andrew pointed out our biggest assumption:

We can make a gift recommendation that someone will purchase

This was so succinct and obvious, but we hadn’t thought of Giftless in this way before. To validate this assumption, we quickly turned this into a challenge to recommend and produce a sale for 1 person.

Paul and Adam, Your Friendly Gift Consultants

Consultant

After the excitement wore off, we started to gather our thoughts and pool our resources. We started off listing some major online retailers and gifting platforms. We also listed some common interests and gift categories. In addition, we could use the prototype to easily get toHow hard could it be?

With our simple tools ready, we set off to help some giftless people. At this point, we realise we are no longer entrepreneurs, but “Gift Consultants”.

Put Out The Call

lots of phones

With our new glamourous titles of Gift Consultant, we set out to assist anyone who had an impending gift purchase. A few people at AngelCube needed help, so we started by consulting them. We then expanded to other residents of Inspire9, and then to a few other close associates.

After each session, we would tweak our “algorithm” (a word document) and gift sources. Process feedback and learning were important for us; by the last session we had a well formed set of steps and learnings.

We also sent out some follow up / reminder emails after our consultations. We wrote these emails with a typical system-generated feel. Kind of ironic really, a human pretending to be a computer.

Did We Succeed With A Recommendation?

So, how did we go? Did we help anyone?? We are still chasing down some specific individuals, but signs look good so far.

What We Learnt

This exercise has been one of the single biggest learning experiences so far at AngelCube. What we learnt about gifting:

  1. suggesting ‘the perfect gift’ is technically very hard
  2. gift selection is an emotional, personal, and important journey
  3. on that journey, other interests and gift ideas emerged
  4. gift buyers will quickly dismiss inappropriate recommendations, and will explain why
  5. we were unable to provide suggestions at a quick enough rate (ie. we were the bottleneck)
  6. timing is critical (ie. just the right lead time)
  7. advice from other close friends is often required
  8. some people are just hard to find gifts for!

This experience was truly eye opening. As an internet startup, the thought of doing something manually made no sense. From a high level, we:

  1. Experienced first-hand the interaction with our customers
  2. Gained real insight into the manual process before attempting to automate it
  3. Felt the effect of providing bad service
  4. Felt the joy of providing a good service
  5. Realised very quickly which parts of the process should be automated, and for what reason they needed automation

I’de recommend this exercise to every new startup out there. Look at what your product does or will do, then become it.

AngelCube Week 1 Learnings
View more presentations from Paul Hayes.

Early Adopters

We have hypothesised that our early adopters will be busy professional males

Top 3 problems

Our top 3 problems (ordered most to least painful) are:

  1. No good ideas what gifts to buy
  2. Remembering the event early enough
  3. Have no time to go gift hunting

Build

Giftless started with a list of your facebook friends in order from who has their birthday the soonest to latest. When a person was clicked on, the next screen would be a list of gifts that could be purchased. No affiliate links were set up, gifts were manually entered into the database and the engine only took into account age and gender.

Measure

We simply measured their reactions to the MVP, which was very insightful. We learnt just by asking unscripted questions and just simply probing.

We measured the number of people that agreed to signup to the app and we had a surprisingly success rate of 100% of all people interviewed/

Learn

Our initial first steps have been to probe our friends and families about the process they undertook to choose perfect gifts. Also, we should them the MVP to gauge their reactions.

The common themes are:

  • I only buy gifts for family or extremely close friends
  • If this gave really targeted suggestions, I would use this.
  • I didn’t realise that my friends birthdays are coming up.
  • No matter how good giftless reminders are, I will always be a last minute gift buyer.
  • I want to buy gifts that are really personal to the recipient; nothing lame or tacky.

Build

We improved the prototype specifically for this early adopter and no other customer segment.

This list was manually created, without an engine, and as you can see it includes much more intimate gifts the majority of guys would give to the majority of their partners. I am personally not a fan of seeing any irrelevant gift choices such as the mr men water bottles or the I am not a paper cup. It actually turns me off.

Though I need to test this to see if its just my thoughts or if that is a common theme.

The only learning we received is the gift selection feels too generic, and not targeted. For example my wife is a fan of Roger Federer on facebook. She would love to receive a poster of Roger Federer and an extension of that is she would to receive a ticket to see Roger Federer play in a tournament.

The prototype needs work, but it is improving.