Giftly Now Lets You Give The Gift Of Discovery (And Some Money, Too)

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San Francisco-based startup Giftly is looking to help you kill two birds with one stone: quickly give your friends and family gift cards via the web, and introduce them to interesting new restaurants and venues that they (or you) have never heard of. The company is also announcing that it’s raised an additional $600K, which comes on top of a $1.8 million round last March.

Since launching, Giftly has made it easy to send virtual gift cards to friends. But it doesn’t focus on just sending the money — you’re supposed to tell your friends where they should spend it. Which can be an issue, if you, say live in another city. So this week the site launched a ‘Gift Ideas’ section: Giftly is now employing curators who bundle together various activities and restaurants your friends may enjoy in their city.

For those who haven’t tried Giftly, here’s how the process works:

Say you wanted to give your friend $20 for their birthday. First, you’d head to Giftly.com and choose how much you wanted to give. Next, you’d specify up to three places where your friend could redeem that gift — be it a restaurant, a retail outlet, or whatever else you’d like. Finally, you send the Giftly via Facebook or email. You also can attach an image and a message to help spruce things up a bit.

Giftlys are redeemed via a smartphone app — you just tap a button and your credit card gets credited with the amount of the gift.  The service doesn’t use any merchant API or interface with your credit card company, so you don’t have to figure out which card to use or show anything to the merchant. This also means you could actually just redeem your Giftly immediately and have the amount added to your credit card, without using it at one of the venues your friend originally suggested.

Which seems a little counterintuitive. So why is Giftly using this setup?

CEO Timothy Bentley says that this system has a couple of benefits. The first is that because Giftly isn’t actually dealing with any of the merchants, it doesn’t need a sales force, and it’ll work anywhere — you can specify any venue, activity, or restaurant you’d like. And second, he says that restricting the use of gift cards to a given merchant is a practice that has value for the merchant, but doesn’t provide any value to the consumer.

The service originally did used to check your phone’s location data to verify your purchase was at the venue your friend had previously chosen, but it decided that if people want to spend the money elsewhere, they can.  And while you can use a Giftly anywhere, he says that most people still wind up using it at one of the venues their friends originally suggested (I suspect this is because the site implies that they have to do that).

Giftly has several competitors that are also trying to innovate around gifting and gift cards, including Giftiki (which lets friends band together to give one large gift) and Treatful (which focuses on restaurants).