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Karma: The Social Gift Giving AppWe interview CEO Lee Linden at SXSW 2012 and talk about his sweet new take on gift giving through social networks.
Hey, everybody. I'm Hollywood from CNET. We're here at South by Southwest 2012. We're here in the second market house, this is like the recovery lounge. We need a lot of those here at South by Southwest. It's pretty great because it's in a bar, but it starts out the day with blue bottled coffee. Always a good thing... I'm Brian Tong with CNET of course. And also, today, we're joined with Lee Linden, he's the CEO of Karma. This is a really cool gifting app that's plugged into Facebook. And Lee, for people that really don't know about it, I gotta see it for the first time. Can you kindly explain what it's about? Yeah, you bet. So we're a new social commerce service for the in the moment gifting. Karma reminds of the important events in your friends' and families' lives. So if someone gets engaged, they have a baby, they moved, new job, and right in your phone, you can instantly send a beautiful and really thoughtful gift. It's sent immediately to someone else's phone or their Facebook. They can choose their color, flavor size, they enter their shipping address, and it's delivered as a beautiful gift straight to the door a few days later. See, that's what I like about it though, is because they're taking advantage of kind of the digital nature of the giving. The people can put in their own address... yes... and choose the specifics of the gift. We don't think people know what are their shipping address anymore. And furthermore, if you had to wait 3 days for something to be delivered, you kind of miss that moment. And so, Karma is all about in the moment gifting. Right when you think of them, you can reach out and help celebrate, say I miss you, or congratulations, or happy birthday. Now, with Karma, do they... do both users have to be on the service, or only one of the people has to be in there for the transaction. So we designed it so you can send a gift to anyone. They can have a BlackBerry and iPhone, and Android, a Windows phone, there's the desktop PC, still receive your gift, still see your card, customize it into their shipping address, have a great experience. So... but they do have to have e-mail, right? They initially have to receive that e-mail like my grandma maybe, not so much. So a gift to recipient can receive their gift via SMS, e-mail, or Facebook, one of those 3 channels. So this is interesting because, you know, there's a lot of sometimes, people become of yours that you don't really know on Facebook, sometimes, they could be people of the other sex that you might be interested. Does Karma work to someone's advantage like that, you know. We totally gets... I mean... unless you can be like yes or no, I bought you a present. Or we can have that for launch... and we have had people writing in and saying, you know, using Karma, they just met someone in a bar, maybe they have their phone number or their Facebook, they wanna send some chocolate or something else that's kind of nice and let them know that they really enjoyed meeting them... so using the Facebook hook... right... yeah... it does... yeah. Well, and actually, let's talk about that. It sounds like, so if you connect with Facebook, you have those reminders, just on a broader level, how important it is right now to build an app that talks to every other social network available, or is it just about Facebook? Well, I mean, we start with Facebook, we think there's a lot more to do out there. Facebook has... kind of rich information about people, and you can see, you know, people's engagements, or they move cities, or they have a new job. But what Karma does actually is a semantic analysis on top of people's Facebook walls. So we'll look to see if people are saying congratulations, or I'm so sorry on your friends' Facebook walls, and kind of extrapolate that to be okay, this is a moment you might not wanna miss about one of your friends. And that's a unique thing to Facebook that we kind of took advantage of, and we're very proud of. So it'll alert someone, like if... if something happened... let's say a great happened to Molly, and it would alert me that, oh, I might wanna be aware of this and send Molly a gift. Exactly. You might have a lot of noise, and you might have a lot of friends, but if 10 people are posting on Molly's wall and saying congratulations, I'm so proud of you, it'll pop up in Karma, and you'll be able to see that context, and you could send a gift right there. That's cool. So what would it say, like hey, we think maybe something good happened to Molly, or we think maybe something bad happened to Todd, or you know... yeah, so we have 2 categories, one is called celebration, one called... one is called tough days. And we'd pick out people, and we'd show you the comments on Facebook, so you can see right from Karma and kind of figure out what's going on. Wow. That's a little intense... I know. You know, the other that we liked when we saw about the app is, you know, a lot of people... we love choice, and even if you give someone a gift through Karma, you can either choose, let's say the color of a product, or you let them decide which one they want, that's pretty unique. Yeah. You know, we felt that there's this analysis paralysis around giving people gifts. And so, there's a bunch of beautiful great products out there, they come in different sizes, flavors, colors, styles, and with Karma, you can just give, you know, a bottle of Domaine Chandon and let your recipient choose their varietal, right? And you can give it... that's a good one for the bar I think... exactly. Just a tip. Champagne always works... yeah. So we're... speaking of the gifts, what is the catalog, where are you drawing the gifts from, and how they're curated. Yeah, we have a team of curators in San Francisco that reach out to really great and beautiful products. You know, we're 50 partners including Domaine Chandon, Javone... this week, we just added Kate Spade and Jonathan Adwer, and the Cliff Family Vineyards. And every week, you'll see us adding really amazing products from partners we trust and we think make beautiful gifts. Are you gonna get like good deals on them? Well, we work with them in a long term relationship. We're not trying to discount or liquidate their inventory. We think their products are great for gifts all year round. And so, we do partnerships to make sure that they're photographed beautifully, they look good on mobile, to consume them, and they can be gift packaged and sent directly to your recipient. And so, now, you guys launched before South by Southwest, right? Yeah. Was that on purpose? Were you trying to avoid some of those noise? Well, we certainly wanna get out there as soon as we could. We thought people wanted our product. We had been in beta for a couple of months, and we're getting some great feedback. And you know, it's been a week and a half, we're already sending in thousands of gifts. People are using it at South by Southwest, they need someone new to wanna reach out and connect or impress... see, it works. It works, right. Yeah. We call this pimp town. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah... no, that's great. Well, congratulations on the launch. And any new features that you've rolled out since launch that we need to know about? So you know, we have some new partners coming on, I mentioned Kate Spade and Jonathan Adwer. I think you'll see some other great partners coming on board from new partners and... from new other companies the next coming weeks and so forth. You can also browse by a place now, and so, that's a great functionality item, and yeah, we're just getting started. So I think, you know, as the weeks and months go by, you'll see us really expanding this category of social commerce, and we're excited to do it. That's great. I haven't seen anything like it. So we're looking forward to playing with it. Thanks so much, Lee. Yeah. All right. We are here at South by Southwest 2012. Check cnettv.com for a lot more interviews just like this one.