Yiftee, the service for sending local gifts to friends, has raised a Series A funding round of $2.1 million led by Dr. Peter Fitzgerald/TransPacific Ventures, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook, LA businessman Burt Sugarman and his wife, TV personality Mary Hart, Asset Management Company (Franklin “Pitch” Johnson), Jillian Manus/Broad Strategy Fund and Michael J. Levinthal. The company previously raised $1 million in seed funding in 2012.
Yiftee allows you to give gifts to friends via a mobile app. However, all gifts on the platform are from local businesses. For example, you could gift your friend a glass of wine, manicure, or lunch at a local merchant. To send a gift, the consumer fires up the Yiftee iPhone app or website, chooses a friend and their location, and Yiftee will present gifts from featured merchants in that area first with pictures, descriptions, and pricing. Once the consumer chooses a gift, she writes a note, pays Yiftee for it, and sends the gift notification via Facebook, email, or text. The gift recipient can then pay for the gift via a prepaid MasterCard credit card that he or she shows the merchant on a smart phone.
As we’ve mentioned in our past coverage, the startup is the brainchild of Lori Laub and Donna Novitsky, who was previously the CEO of Big Tent, which was sold to Federated Media in 2010. She was also a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures for nine years.
The startup faces competition from Facebook Gifts, which underwent a redesign that ended the sale of physical gifts in favor of digital gift codes or Facebook’s Gift Card. But Novitsky tells us that while startup originally was focusing on the consumer market (and going head to head with Facebook), Yiftee saw a trend of businesses using Yiftees as sales gifts, employee rewards and more.
For example, Zendesk is using Yiftee to gift employees gift certificates/experiences in the neighborhood in which Zendesk is located in (mid-Market in San Francisco). With this trend in mind, Novitsky and her team have launched YifteePro, which simplifies local gifting for professionals, businesses, or people with long lists of friends/family to whom they want to send gifts.
You can upload a list of employees, customers, clients, partners, patients, prospects, etc., choose a default gift venue from many local merchants and national brands, personalize, and send. The recipient immediately gets the gift message and can redeem the gift at a merchant local to them anytime in the next 90 days. And there is no extra cost to the business. If the recipient does not redeem his/her Yiftee in 90 days, the value is returned to the gift giver.
Novitsky adds that the new funding will be used to expand Yiftee Pro, as well as look to Asia for potential business opportunities.