“Erm, thanks for the present, it was… just what I wanted.” Trying to avoid disappointing friends and family with rubbish presents can be tricky – but Toast, which launched its app in the App Store on Wednesday, is hoping to make such underwhelming responses history.
The Berlin-based startup has been developing its social wishlist platform in closed beta for six months, during which time it has delved deep into the psychology of giving people gifts. Having secured funding from some big-name angel investors, the Toast team are now looking to ramp up their service ahead of Christmas, the ultimate gift-giving time of year.
Users can create their own wishlist on Toast made up of things they see online, products in real life stores of even intangible services like a night out with friends or babysitting. They can also see their friends’ wishes and add them to their own lists. In addition, Toast’s Web endpoint makes it easy to share wishlists with other people, including non-users.
And one of the features which has proved surprisingly popular during the beta testing is telling users of friends upcoming birthdays.
Wishing, Giving, Thanking
But the co-founders of Toast insist that it is not just yet another way to buy presents online in an already-crowded social gift-giving space; rather, they see it as a ‘holistic’ experience, allowing users to ‘tell the complete story of a gift’ from its beginnings as a wish to the thank you from the eventual recipient.
They have dubbed this story the ‘gift cycle’ – wishing, giving, thanking.
Co-founder Travis J. Todd said: “Toast makes wishes come true. Other social gifting services are just making eCommerce purchases more convenient. By using social mechanics and focusing on creating a great community instead of selling products we are creating the best gifting experience.”
The recent launch of Facebook Gifts is another pointer to the popularity of the social gift-giving space, and as fellow co-founder Benedikt Bingler pointed out, the market is set to be huge: “Online gifting is a huge market with great opportunities. According to eMarketer forecasts, the upcoming 2012 US holiday season will see online shopping surpass the $54 billion mark.”
The pair already have experience of this space having developed drink-gifting app Buddy Beers, and say that Facebook Gifts is actually a boon for their new service. According to a recent blog post: “Shouldn’t we be nervous (about Facebook Gifts)? Hell no, we’re stoked! This is awesome for Toast.”
Counting Down to Christmas
The reason is that Toast is not too much concerned about the actual purchase of the gift, but rather the experience of giving it – and working with Facebook as a partner, using it as a fully-formed marketplace, can actually fill in this hole for them.
But they don’t expect Gifts to be available in Europe any time soon, and their immediate concern is making use of the upcoming holiday period. A whiteboard in their office in Berlin’s new tech hub, the Factory, marks down the number of days to go until Christmas, and Travis told Silicon Allee: “Obviously, the proving ground for us is in the next couple months leading up to the holiday season. We think that a universal wishlist like Toast is a super useful thing for everyone to have in this time and this should help us grow.”
Toast is well set to build that growth, having secured an undisclosed funding round involving Christophe Maire, Peter Read, Michael Hohaus, and Dr. Rolf Johannes as well as JMES Investments, the force behind the Factory where the six-strong team is located.
Now all you have to do is be careful what you wish for, because the chances are now higher that you just might get it…