Karma, the gift-giving app made by the founders of Tapjoy, made its official debut just two weeks ago. But with $5 million in funding from heavyweight venture capital firms including Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins, Karma has clearly caught the attention of some important people. So we caught up with co-founder and CEO Lee Linden while he was at South By Southwest Interactive this week to get a demo and see what all the hype is about.
In short, Karma lets you buy and send gifts to friends and family directly from your iPhone or Android smartphone. Gift recipients can then exchange that gift for other items from the same vendor, or choose to donate the money used to purchase it to a charity. It may sound simple, but building apps that deal with money, shipping physical products across state lines, and allowing for exchanges can be very tricky — especially with the kind of gifts Karma deals in, which include wines and food products. Linden tells us the Karma team actually spent months building a comprehensive e-commerce platform from the ground up, so there’s a lot going on underneath that slick user interface.
To be sure, Karma isn’t the only one working on making it super easy to give thoughtful gifts to friends — Wrapp and Giftly are just two recent examples of apps working in a similar space. Whether any of them will truly make it so the default birthday present goes beyond an exclamation-mark-filled Facebook wall posting remains to be seen, but we can all dream for a better tomorrow.
Watch the video above to see Karma in action, and to hear Linden talk about the inspiration behind building the app, why he didn’t take a break after his Tapjoy success, and the thousands of gifts that Karma has already processed to date.