Are you dying to tell your friends about all the new startups you read about on TechCrunch? A newly launched iOS application called Just Because is now making that possible. With Just Because, you can offer your friends a free gift from a startup – like $20 at Uber, for example, or a free lip gloss at Birchbox or a free t-shirt at JackThreads. And what’s even better is that each gift only costs a dollar to send. Why only a dollar? Because startups are more than happy to give away some freebies here and there with the hopes of converting those first-time users into lifetime customers. They can factor in the costs of doing so into their customer acquisition budgets.
Already, several companies are on board to give Just Because a shot, including Uber, BirchBox, TaskRabbit, Warby Parker, Trunk Club, Jack Threads, BetaBrand, MoxieJean, Bespoke Post, and Cheeky Chicago.
Just Because co-founder Matt Hartman, a biz school grad and ex-Hot Potato intern who stayed with the company through the Facebook acquisition, says the idea was spun out from his first startup, ReferBoost, a social lead gen operation for apartment referrals. “One of the things we were doing was giving out gift cards to residents for posting about the building and writing reviews,” he explains. “As were doing that, Uber was doing customer acquisition in Chicago. So I thought to myself, we’re paying for Starbucks gift cards, why don’t we do Uber gift cards?”
Uber thought that sounded interesting and gave him some cards. However, Hartman was constrained by the number of buildings he had on his system, which is what led to the idea of the iPhone app. But now, instead of rewarding people for their activities, the app simply offers them the opportunity to send these virtual gifts.
Of course, there are a lot of “gifting” apps out there, including the Facebook-acquired Karma, the newly launched Giftly, Wrapp, Giftiki, and others. But the focus for Just Because is slightly different. It’s not about sending a friend a real “gift” on a special occasion, like their birthday – it’s about just sharing something you like with a friend. “We’re trying to change the economics of what it means to send somebody a gift,” says Hartman. “The use cases [for the app] are not just attached to special events, they’re more about the people and the brands: ‘this made me think of you – this brand – just because.’”
To keep the app from getting too spammy, Just Because has editorial oversight into the startups accepted, and the goal moving forward is to only include those where there’s a real, tangible gift involved – not just a coupon or discount. Users can only receive a gift once, and the gift codes provided only work for new, first-time customers. The app requires a Facebook login, and the gifts are shared by having the sender post to a friend’s Facebook wall. In the future, plans to offer sharing via SMS may come into play.
For the participating companies, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for them. While Hartman won’t talk specifics about the cost to the startups, it’s a function of having the recipient sign up and become a customer who places their first order, or it’s a dollar amount per acquired user. Startups don’t pay if it doesn’t work. And the system also lets these companies identify their top evangelists, which could translate into some type of reward further on. That’s something to be careful about, Hartman says, because you don’t want people only participating for the incentives.
The Chicago-based company is a bootstrapped team of two and is already talking to other startups to expand its current lineup. You can download Just Because on your iPhone here.