If you’re in the business of gift-giving, they say it’s the thought that counts. That’s all well and good unless of course you can’t think of anything to buy. Launching officialy today, UK startup ThePresent.co promises to numb that pain-point.
Using its own recommendation engine and algorithms, linked to its database of gifts — ranging in price from £8 to £80,000 — the smart personal shopper asks you to link the service to your Facebook account so it can glean demographic and interest-graph data from your intended recipient. Alternatively, you can fill out a simple survey on who they are and their interests.
Using this data, the web app will suggest suitable gift ideas within the target price you enter, let you go on to purchase the gift from the merchants it works with, wrap the gift and dispatch it for delivery. In theory, it’s a company after my own heart.
Yet, when I took the app for a brief spin, I was faced with further indecision: should I link ThePresent.co to my Facebook account and send it off to mine (albeit, publicly available) data on my intended recipient. I hate handing any app the keys to my social media profiles at the best of times, but when it’s for the purpose of interrogating data on my friends without their explicit permission, my uneasiness increases. Opting out of Facebook and filling out a survey also feels a little intrusive, not least because the first thing that ThePresent.co asks for is the name of your intended recipient.
More broadly it opens up a whole can of worms around who not only owns your data, but how that data can be used by the friends you’ve connected with on various services, even if that data is publicly scrape-able anyway.
However, in the case of ThePresent.co, I likely have nothing to worry about. “We are really against spam and the misuse of data in general, it’s for that reason that we never store any data after a search,” says CEO and co-founder David Yalland.
“On your question around storing data, we absolutely allow people to bypass Facebook. Whether you are nervous around using Facebook Connect or simply that the person you are buying for may not be connected to you (i.e. your Grandmother), then you can just use the dynamic hints filters (i.e. style / interests) to allow our technology to still recommend a relevant selection of gifts for the recipient.”
(I’d humbly suggest that the site makes its no data storage policy clearer from the outset.)
And certainly, for a time limited shopper (read: lazy) like me, a service like ThePresent.co does make a lot of sense, although it will be dependent on the reliability and quality of its recommendation engine and inventory of gifts.
Its founding team looks decent, too. Alongside CEO Yalland, it comprises Rupert Hambro (former Chairman of Hambros Bank, currently Chairman of JO Hambro), COO Charlotte-Anne Swerling (former Balderton VC), and Chairman Dominic Perks (serial entrepreneur and active investor).
Meanwhile, ThePresent.co is backed to the tune of £1.5m from various London-based investors, including a Goldman Sachs syndicate.