Keynoir launches innovative members-only group buying model

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A new take on the group-buying bandwagon launches today, but this one will attempt to address the information overload about offers, known as “voucher fatigue”, while incentivising local businesses. Keynoir is described as a “private buying club meets Woot”, in reference to the tech site which made its name by having just one offer on one decent product a day. The startup even includes aspects of the old

But this is not a trivial play. Keynoir has already secured £1.3m of investment from PROFounders Capital, investor Jan Riem and Index Ventures (including Dominique Vidal). Serial entrepreneurs Paul Birch and Andrej Henkler participated. Vidal and Sean Seton-Rogers from PROfounders will be joining the board.

The founders are Philip Wilkinson (founder of the UK’s first price comparison engine which later became Kelkoo), Glen Drury (ex-MD Kelkoo Europe and VP Yahoo), and Jan Riem (technology deal maker). It launches in London this week , and plans to exand across the rest of the UK and Europe by the end of the year.

Here’s how it will work. Users will buy lifestyle experiences (such as hotels, restaurant bookings and spa days) and more “unusual and secret things” they say. There will be one such offer a day (called a Keypass) with a limited time window and limited quantity available, driving adoption.

As with other group buying sites, a minimum number of people are required to confirm a purchase before the offer is unlocked to the rest of the member base. But the founders emphasise that since not everyone who arrives at the site will be accepted as a member, Keynoir will be very targetted.

“People are becoming increasing weary and cynical of the whole discount marketplace and are looking for something more fulfilling,” says Wilkinson. It’s targeting 23 – 35 year old professionals and is looking to have a strict selection process for deals across the travel, food, retail and entertainment sectors.

His view is that that local businesses will like Keynoir since the business only pays if it gets enough people to buy on that day, thus filling capacity in the downturn without heavy advertising costs.

Hoberman is equally enthusiastic. He calls it the start of a “a new generation of social buying which will effectively connect the offline and online worlds.”

My view is that the walled garden approach is smart. In fact it’s already been tried by Wahanda, not through creating a barrier to entry before you can get in, but by targeting a niche. This is the one thing that most group buying sites have missed, thus leading to offer fatigue.

However the model is of course replicable, so watch as other sites spring up to copy its approach.

Especially for TechCrunch readers, this link will automatically get you around the invite selection process and let you create an account to see the first launch deal.

  • alan jones

    So… it’s meant to be more exciting to me because not everybody can be a member… but then at the end of the story is a link allowing anyone to become a member?…

    • Mike Butcher

      That’s just ’cause you’re a special TC reader. Enjoy!

    • Mike Butcher

      Great comments everyone keep’em coming. As I say, the model is course replicable, unless they can be smarter and earlier about who and how they target.

    • Special Deals

      No need for £1.3m. All we need are deals and your user base so we can set you up with your own website and facebook app in a week. See and contact us for more info.

      • Dave

        Can you possibly make your site look any worse?

      • Special Deals

        Thanks for the comment. We try to make the site look as good as craigslist so it is working and making money. :)

        Btw, please comment our facebook app at too. Thanks!

  • Dave Hanna

    Have to let some peak behind the curtains, create the buzz and then kick everyone out. Classic Night club membership process- make them wait in line when nobody is inside, yet.

    Wealthy groupon, nice job.

    • Dave Hanna


    • Charlie


  • BobbyBrown

    Exactly Alan!! I was involved in one of these and ultimately it’s a numbers game, the more ppl that are available to buy the healthier the business. Exclusivity greatly reduces the ability for the business to grow, and consumers will see through this tactic (with an invitation in tech crunch).

    It’s a highly competitive space though, so innovation is key

  • Yali

    This is a really interesting concept. The key thing isn’t the walled-garden itself, but the fact that Keynoir are trying to build a geniune community of like-minded (and highly targeted) individuals. (The walled-garden is just one tool in their arsenal to build the right kind of community.) As I’ve argued elsewhere, there’s no reason existing community sites shouldn’t look also try employing group buying to add value to their community members whilst growing their revenues.

  • Jackson

    Information overload about offers?

    All our lives we’ve been exposed to direct mail, print ads, adverts on television, online banners and suddenly, when 10 or so daily deal sites emerge (and actually see some success), we develop a mysterious syndrome known as voucher fatigue? That sounds like some fabricated terminology straight off a company press release. Could you please link a couple of examples of the term “voucher fatigue” being used by someone other than Mr. Wilkinson?

    • Charlie

      Voucher fatigue, now there are some capital words. I love it. Unfortunately I think it’s total rubbish. These voucher sites are all based around the same principle that the user REQUESTS the newsletter/update on fb or whatever. It’s a subscription based model. Nobody gets unsolicited ads. And I think this is one of the core reasons behind its success. It’s ability to be genuinely usefull and not invasive. If you don’t like it you unsubscribe. The whole process of subscribing to everything under the sun to find out (horribly) that now you have to go and unsubscribe because 90% of them are useless, I would agree, can lead to fatigue. It could also lead to mouse-finger-tendinitis too. So beware everybody, don’t click on that subscribe button just because it has a nice photoshop effect applied.

  • Nigel

    Very exclusive membership, what a joke, go to the site and sign up anybody can and it lets you in immediately. And as for a deal a day it says this one runs for “a few days”
    There is also only 100 deals available so Keynoirs share cannot be very big. It will take them a long time to get the 1.3 mill back at that rate. I dont see there target audience bothering to share the deals either, they are all too busy already

  • NS

    The comments on this thread are unnecessarily harsh, and fairly ill-informed. This company has been set up by some of the most intelligent and innovative people in Europe. In order to launch a company of this sort, you need some sort of database, which is what they are building through TechCrunch. The cynicism towards them from TC readers, who should know to have faith in start-ups, is disappointing.

  • Char

    While I buy some of the criticisms of the membership, I’m sure there’s an argument not to make it too difficult to join on launch day. I’m not likely to get voucher fatigue with money off a Michelin 2 star restaurant…

  • Mike

    I agree with Charlie, I love “Voucher fatigue”, what a name! Much better than “Discounts Blindness” or “Deals Overload” I would use… So jealous of these guys vocabulary. However, what a rubbish, people are skint and love a good deal when it comes – Just look how well are even recently started Group Buying Websites doing, like or – they are selling deals. And as Charlie pointed out, people can always unsubscribe, but to tell the true, I cannot make myself unsubscribe from LastMinute or myvouchercodes – what if next week they come up with deal I am looking for??? However, I like exclusivity Keynoir want to introduce, but I would be afraid that exclusivity will mean that not enough people sign up and deals will not get live. Plus, how can you share deals if they are exclusive, I thought that sharing deals was behind success of sites like Groupon.

  • Paul Duggan

    Whilst there is no doubt an abundance of businesses popping up in the hope of emulating Groupon’s US success, knowing Phil & the team he’s established I believe Keynoir is in a position to have a real shot at it. In terms of walled garden I think the jury will rightly remain out (& arguably the quality of the deals & marketing will be the key determinants) but they’re innovating around the edges rather than simply me to’ing (which is good).

  • Peter

    Well if anyone is going to make it then these guys are.


    Groupola selling? If you mean selling 2 deals a day then yeah they are selling.

    The only people that seem to be selling any are:


    Good luck to them all.

  • Sarah Edwards

    Nice – makes sense to me. We’ll see what the quality of the deals look like as it might be the case that pitching itself as a members club enables them to get better places on board as it protects their brand. Kind of what Gucci and Vente Priveee do for example.

  • Joe

    Why all these sites require people to subscribe and login before they can even see the deals?

    Why they all copied the gimmick of requiring a minimum number of takers?

    No need to subscribe or login and everyone can buy instantly at I just bought 2 Swim with Dolphins deals there and saved $144!

    • Robin


      Go watch the movie “The Cove” and then see how you feel about the “Swim with Dolphins” package. Seems that thousands of dolphins and porpoises are killed each year so unsuspecting kids can get their photos taken with flipper. Seriously, I dare you to watch that movie and then go through with it!

  • PeteJ

    I know Phil and Glen reasonably well and I don’t think they would enter a space if they felt there wasn’t an opportunity.

    From where I sit the offers don’t appear to be similar to the others out there – more premium and I guess that’s what Phil’s getting at with ‘voucher fatigue’. I don’t know many people who go to Pizza Express without a voucher.

    The membership deal feels like a bit of a non-issue to me – if they are emailing deals it’s simply a more elegant way of getting emails to those likely to be interested?

  • Nigel

    Keynoir is just another Groupon clone, nothing else. The team behind it should be embarrassed that they have ripped off Groupon. They are also the last of about 10 Groupon clones already in the UK so nothing new there either. The site is not a patch on most of the others either. None of the investors got rich by refusing people money so this clone is about as exclusive as Argos

  • Peng Fei

    how can they screen out 20-35 year olds through an email address?

  • Peng Fei

    Isn’t this just like another groupon?

  • Jorge Zapata

    Mike (and everyone else on this thread),

    This space is definitely growing fast. At we are currently indexing and categorizing over 200 offers from 73 Deal A Day websites across 56 cities in the US, Canada and UK.

    In cities like Chicago, for example, where we are following 14 ‘deal-a-day’ websites, visitors may subscribe to a daily email digest containing all the available deals for the day.

    The best part is we send consumers directly to the site and don’t keep you around on our site. It’s purely done to benefit the consumer.

    • Jason

      London has quickly become one of the most active cities as we’re now following 13 of these ‘deal-a-day’ websites.

  • Jared Friedman

    While there are allot of group buying sites out there a few have tried to distinguish themselves from the others. I will point you to that have activity oriented deals like Indoor Skydiving and Swim with dolphins @ 6 Flags for half off.

  • will

    well i linked through from a facebook announcement from one of their lawyers – and it hasn’t let me in. Does that reflect on me, their lawyers or facebook – i wonder…

    • Danvers

      William – please stop stalking me on Facebook!

  • Simi

    Agree with most of the points raised above. Another group of people who are just copying the groupon model.

    I’ve signed up to at least 6 of the sites doing this already as a deal is a deal! Only 2 of them really deliver like groupon though, and actually sell more than a couple of units. have some of the craziest spa deals. I bought an amazing spa offer with over 70% off and was more than happy to send to all my friends… who loved me as a result! is also fab. I’ve picked up a £1 pret voucher and a ridiculously cheap cinema deal. Do good restaurant deals too but still think that for restuarant deals noone beats toptable as they’ve done 50% off deals of restaurants for YEARS!

  • Pete

    I don’t completely understand some of the comments here.. Its subscription based so you’re not getting emails/’spam’ you haven’t signed up for, it helps restaurants fill up their bookings books and it gets me cheaper dinners in decent restaurants.. I’m pretty sure that a lot of restaurants wouldn’t mind a few more bookings at the moment, and I could definitely do with making my pennies go further.. Win, win, win?? Needless to say, I’ve signed up! Whats next?

  • Pirate Pete

    I went along to their ‘Bloggers Breakfast’ last week where they pitched their ideas to us – I posted a ‘review’ on the blog today as they just launched. I’m just not convinced that they’re doing this at the right time. They’re only offering very high-end stuff, and even quite wealthy people are doing serious belt-tightening at the moment.

    Can you say ‘bad timing’?

  • Nigel

    Well they did’nt stay “high end” for long, just another £15 Tapas deal today. If thats as good as they can get they might as well jack it in now.
    What an anti climax to all their rubbish hype

  • Jason Steadmean

    Don’t be a twit Nigel – why would they put a top-end expensive deal on every day – just wouldn’t make sense. You have to blend with cool, unique, cheaper deals too so people can buy lots in a month. If every deal was £100+ – you’d get tired out

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