There’s a $100 billion market in the US for pre-paid gift cards. Every year, up to 11% of those go completely unredeemed. Last-minute gifting is the place where gift cards hold their strongest position, and a new app called Karma is looking to change not only what you buy but also how you buy it.
Karma is an app, launching first thing Tuesday morning, which will allow you to quickly and easily buy last-minute gifts for your friends, family and all others in between. It’s designed for for mobile first, but has a web-based version to work from your desktop as well.
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Once you’ve logged in, via Facebook or Twitter, you can quickly scroll through your contacts, then choose from over 50 (at present) different partners from whom you’d like to purchase a gift. You’ll have options like Jawbone, 23andme, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify and many more, so that there’s a wide selection of digital gifts, as well as physical ones. There are message options for birthdays, special occasions, congratulations or even something as simple as “tough day”.
Once your gift is sent, you can then notify the recipient. They’ll get a message, within 60 seconds, with your customized greeting. Once they go through the message, they have the option to customize the delivery (for physical gifts) or even choose something different, based on the dollar amount spent.
As you might expect, there are social sharing options inside of Karma, so that you can publicly tell someone if you’ve bought them something. They can also publicly thank you. If you’re a bit more modest, you can choose to keep the gifting completely private.
Karma is founded by Lee Linden and Ben Lewis, along with a team that features a pedigree that includes Amazon, Google, Kraft, Microsoft, Nestle, OpenFeint, Palm, Skype and TripIt. Needless to say, these guys know a broad scope of the technology business. The company has raised around $4.5 million from folks like Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and Obvious (the Biz and Ev fund), so there’s a lot riding on its ability to turn out a great product.
It’s a unique twist to gift-giving, and it’s one that I can actually see myself using. I’m the freaking worst when it comes to remembering to snag something, so Karma should help to alleviate the consequences of my forgetful nature.
As I noted before, it will be available in the various app marketplaces first thing tomorrow, but a blog post on the Karma website dropped the news tonight so we wanted to make sure you’re in the know.
Once it’s live, give it a download and let us know your thoughts.