March 8 is International Women’s Day. To celebrate, TNW ran a series of profiles highlighting innovative companies led or founded by inspirational women.
Have you ever received a terrible gift before? Socks for Christmas? Socks for birthdays? Just… socks? One startup taking aim at the scourge of crap presents is Gift Wink, which was co-founded by UK-based serial entrepreneur Alex Farrell.
“Our mission at Gift Wink is help our customers buy the perfect gift at exactly the right time,” Farrel explained. “Right now, traditional online retailers make customers do all the work. Customer browse from long lists of generic products and self select. It can be very time consuming and customers can spend a lot of time looking at gifts that aren’t the right match at all.”
So, what’s Gift Wink’s solution? A bespoke recommendation engine that looks at the tastes of both the recipient and the giver.
“We ask our customers to tell us a bit about themselves and who they are buying for and we use this unique blend of data to match the customer to the right gift. Our algorithm recognizes that there are two people in the transaction,” Farrel explained.
Of course, it does so much more than that. You can tell Gift Wink about the people closest to you. Their likes and, of course, their birthday. When it comes around, the site reminds users, and brings up some helpful recommendations.
The inspiration for the service came from Farrell’s own admitted struggles with giftgiving. “I can never remember my niece’s birthday – and she is my identical twin sister’s only child so there is no excuse,” she said.
It didn’t help that as an adult woman, she wasn’t exactly down with the kids. “I never knew what to get her,” she said. “Who can keep up with what is cool for an eight year old!”
Gifts are a massive market, but that didn’t make the company’s earliest days particularly easy. Although Farrell has a proven track-record as a founder (her last company, The IT Job Board, was sold to Dice.com in 2013), she particularly struggled when it came to fundraising.
“Women just don’t get access to the same capital as men and all the data backs that point up,” she told me. “I’m lucky to have a background that gives me credibility when raising money, but it’s still not a level playing field.”
Despite that, Farrell is eager to see more women launch their own tech companies, saying that “there’s never been a better time to start a tech business.”
“Tech is relatively cheap and accessible compared to a few years back and so you can build a prototype or MVP on relatively little investment. So, just go for it.”
The next generation of women tech engineers will start off as engineers, coders, and designers. To help bring more women into the tech world, consider making a donation to Girls Who Code, which funds summer programs and after-school clubs for teen girls.