New Facebook app toasts to 'social e-commerce'

Give Real's model--buy virtual drinks for your friends and let them get real ones in return--isn't totally new. But with a Facebook payment system supposedly still in the works, we could be seeing a lot more like this soon.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read

Announcing a new way to get your friends drunk: GiveReal.com, a Facebook application (and standalone Web site) that just emerged out of private beta. It's hoping to pioneer what the founders call "social e-commerce" by letting people send virtual drinks to each other that can be translated to a real-life libation.

The concept is, in theory, very similar to start-ups like buyyourfriendadrink.com. But services like that are only compatible with participating bars, and Give Real has found a workaround that will make its gifting service compatible with any bar that accepts credit cards. You opt to send a drink to a friend, your credit card gets charged, your friend chooses to accept the payment, and his or her credit card will be credited for that amount of cash when a purchase at an establishment considered a bar, restaurant, or cafe is made.

If the Facebook app is used, activity shows up in members' news feeds.

Drinks run the gamut from "Draft Beer" to "Pinot Noir" to "Purple Hooter Shooter" (what's that?) and there's no fixed price. So, depending on your generosity and wallet size, you can offer up anywhere from $1 to $99. If your recipient doesn't accept the purchase, you'll get your money back 12 months later.

On one hand, it is a very cute spin on the virtual-gifting trend that can be used to settle bets from afar ("I'll owe you a beer if...") or embarrass your friends by having an apple martini show up in a box on their Facebook profile. On the other hand, you're really just transferring a dollar amount to your friends' credit cards that's eligible for any purchase at an establishment classified by the four major credit card companies (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover) as a "bar, restaurant, or cafe."

So your friend could be using the $8 for that pina colada and spending it on cheese fries instead. But as they say around the holidays, it's the thought that counts.

Payments via Facebook
What's more interesting is that Give Real created its own payment platform to handle the transactions. Facebook has famously had a transaction system in development, something that may or may not have been delayed with the departure of product manager Ben Ling. I spoke to one of Give Real's founders, and he said that the introduction of a Facebook payment system would make it a lot easier for Give Real. But, at this point, they seem to have figured it out on their own, and say they've figured out the tough parts--fraud prevention and security.

The company aims to make a profit by charging a small transaction fee to each buyer and by doing branded campaigns whereby you can "buy" your friends a sponsored variety of drink (say, Corona or Jim Beam). The first of these partnerships should be announced within the month.

Give Real has been funded by Battery Ventures and Hillcrest Management, as well as angel investors Brian O'Kelley (co-founder of Right Media) and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. Facebook junkies may know that he's the co-founder who hasn't exactly been on stellar legal terms with CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But he still has a big stake in the company, and undoubtedly wants to see the platform keep up its momentum.

A source with knowledge of the situation said that the funding was in the low seven figures. In these economic conditions, I'll drink to that.