While it’s not as explosive as the reward and loyalty space, we’ve profiled a handful of gift registry and group gifting startups here at nibletz.com, the voice of startups everywhere else. Monday we brought you the story of a new feature from our friends at Buyvite that allows people to pay back someone on a group gift purchase, socially. This Toronto startup called CountMeIn merges all of that together.
Toronto startup CountMeIn is the next generation of wish lists and gift registries. CountMeIn’s co-founder Israel Schachter, who goes by Yummy (don’t ask), tells us that he came up with the idea for CountMeIn after getting a friend and business associate a $1500 gas grill at Home Depot as a housewarming gift.
Schachter had no plan of action, except getting a commitment from 14 of his closest friends for $100 a piece for the gift. Once he arrived at Home Depot he found the grill and decided that was the gift. Then, he needed to figure out how to get the grill to his buddy’s house in his sedan. Needless to say it was a huge headache, and two years later he’s still collecting money. He thought there had to be an easier way.
While he calls coming up with a startup to solve your own problem “selfish” most of us call it innovative.
Rather than tackling the problem of group collaboration on a gift, executing the gift and collecting on payments separately, he and his team went all out and tackled all three problems in one.
Check out our interview with Schachter below.
What is CountMeIn?
CountMeIn is an omni-channel social gifting enterprise solution which allows brands and retailers to engage consumers across all their assets (brick and mortar, web, Facebook and Pinterest) and increase sales of gifts by bridging the gap between wish lists and group collaboration, leveraging social media.
For consumers, it’s an intuitive way to organize relevant gifts they either wish for or aspire to own across multiple social media platforms, and a fun way to collaborate with friends and family on group gifts and gift registries.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
CountMeIn speaks to the needs of retailers as well as to the needs of consumers.
From the consumer end, users are able to set up a gift or gift registry for themselves or for a friend. By leveraging social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, they are able to promote the gift to friends and family who are able to make contributions towards the purchase of the gift, from anywhere in the world.
Aside for giving aspiring owners a better chance of getting the gifts they actually want, the collaboration element allows them to receive the more expensive gifts that they otherwise may have not been able to purchase or get from a friend or family member otherwise. A Pinterest board called “Wish List” doesn’t really help anybody in any way. Using CountMeIn as a foundation for the gift creation absolutely does.
Furthermore, this allows individuals who are creating gift registries, whether it be for a wedding or baby shower, the flexibility of choosing items for their registry from a variety of retailers all at once. This gives them the opportunity to get exactly what they want as opposed to the traditional form of gift registry, which limits the selection of gifts.
On the retailers side, CountMeIn’s entire platform including all of its functionality can be seamlessly embedded into the retailers existing web assets including their dot.com, Facebook and Pinterest pages.
Much like the “Add to Wish List” button which so many retailers have on their web sites, CountMeIn offers each retailer the ability to add a social plug-in button to their item pages, allowing consumers to set up gifts or registries on the fly. In essence our technology replaces the existing “Wish List” button, and provides the opportunity for the retailers to actually see that product sell. Almost all retailers report that the “Wish List” feature does not result in any real results for them. Most consumers forget that they even have things on their Wish List, and if and when they remember, they usually do not end up making the purchase anyhow.
CountMeIn also offers all retailers the ability to enter the gift registry space, which most of them are not in, due to system limitation or limited availability of financial resources. Furthermore, CountMeIn provides all of the promotional and collaborative gifting tools, instantly, and at no upfront cost to its retail clients.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
CountMeIn has four co-founders.
Ronen Lazar has been in the internet and technology space since 1998 developing various niche web platforms, e-commerce businesses and innovative media programs.
Charlie Ifrah has been consulting some of Canada’s largest corporations and law firms on their technology needs for the past 15 years through his consulting firm.
Israel Schachter has been involved in, and holds interest in, a myriad of businesses ranging from real estate, to health and wellness, travel and leisure, food establishments to retirement homes. He also is a longtime volunteer charity fundraiser responsible for building and creating numerous non-profit organizations and awareness and fundraising initiatives around the world. He has raised close to $20 million for his favorite charities through his efforts over the past 10 years or so.
Jeff Saul has been working with many national and international retailers to enhance their overall operations and consumer experience over the past 17 years. His focus within the consumer electronics, apparel, appliance, jewellery, and telecommunications industries has been pivotal in his understanding and approach to modern consumer industry needs. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Electro Federation Canada where he leads industry initiatives that help standardize and reform the ever-changing retail landscape.
Where are you based?
In the heart of Toronto Canada.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
Toronto has for a long time been considered silicon valley north. Like in the arts, media and entertainment Toronto’s tech start-ups continue to challenge the best of class. The beauty about being based in Toronto, aside for the quality of life, is that there is so much untapped investor money up here and so much less competition to access investor funds.
How did you come up with the idea for CountMeIn?
One of our business partners moved into a new house and a bunch of us (I) decided to get him a house-warming gift. I emailed a bunch of friends and we all agreed to chip in $100 each. I went to Home Depot, spent a good hour looking around, and picked up a beautiful $1500 gas BBQ grill for him. Getting it over to his house was a whole other story which is not for this discussion. All you need to know, I guess, is that I’m a business guy with a wife and two kids and do not rip around town in a pickup truck. Call me an idiot, but till I paid and checked out, I never actually took the time to figure out how on earth I’m going to get it over to his place.
Anyhow, it is two years later and I think 3 of the 15 guys have paid me back. I KNOW that things like this always end up happening to the one who organized a dinner party or a gift.
How great would it be, if I KNEW exactly what my business partner wanted as a gift, if I didn’t have to spend hours at the store and “schlepping” gifts to his house, and how awesome would it be if I not only would be spared from chasing my friends down for the money they owed me, but if I actually didn’t have to lay it out to begin with … I thought.
CountMeIn was born. Call our group selfish, but we like building solutions that solve real problems that we encounter.
How did you come up with the name?
It was the most natural fit as our solution mirrors the true nature and breadth of the meaning. In almost every dialogue where individuals come together within modern day conversation, whether it’s when a group of friends are going out to dinner, or if they are chipping in to buy a gift for a friend or co-worker, you will hear people respond with “Count Me In”. It also reinforces our company’s attitude towards partnerships. You will never hear anyone from our group say that anything is too complicated or impossible. If there is something that needs to get done, or anything that a client or partner needs to see happen, you can be sure to count us in!
What problem does CountMeIn solve?
The wish lists we find on many e-commerce sites are useless. In effect, they’re a long term parking zone for products people like but there are no tools built in that allow to do anything with those products. Count Me In enable promotion of those products to friends and family on Facebook, Twitter an Pinterest who can then chip in toward the purchase of those items.
As an enterprise solution we provide brands, and retailers an omni-channel solution to expand their social media strategy and further monetize their audience.
For brick and mortar retailers, we provide a low-risk alternative to enter the social commerce arena as many top tier companies cannot budget or plan these high level investments without our technology. Many who have tried, have failed and retreated from the space altogether, without recognizing how much they are leaving on the table. With CMI, retailers can monetize their products with our social solution of Facebook & Pinterest commerce, utilize existing print mediums with QR technology, or implement a collaborative wish list into their current e-commerce environment, all of which drives consumer engagement and an opportunity to increase conversion rates.
for e-tailers, our solution offers a direct and low cost alternative to enter the brick and mortar space. Using mobile QR technology, any e-tailer can enter into the brick and mortar mall space. This can be done by displaying featured products in strategic areas or covering off entire storefronts while under construction. The best part, it has a high ROI as this medium is extremely cost efficient.
What’s your secret sauce?
Proprietary white label multi-channel solutions, unparalleled implementation times and efficient inventory management tools.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
CountMeIn has been funded to date by Integreated Solutions, an accelerator with primary focus and expertise in the e-commerce space, with specific focus on multi-channel solutions leveraging social media. We are now driving to raise significant capital to scale as we enter the international marketplace.
What is your go to market strategy?
Since Count Me In is an enterprise solution, our implementation strategy is to work with every brand and retailer with e-commerce presence to enable group gifts and gift registries leveraging advanced social media tools. This will give CountMeIn point of sale presence on millions of product pages.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The biggest challenge most starts-ups seem to face is identifying, accessing, pitching and securing investors. For us, our biggest challenge to date has been sifting through and juggling the various investor groups who expressed interest in funding our company, to identify the group that would be able to bring the most added value, over and above the funding itself, to our group.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Danny Hourigan, President of NEW Asurion International
Jeff Pulver, Internet entrepreneur known for his work as founder and chief executive of pulver.com and co-founder in Vonage.
Jim Horvath, Partner, Business Valuations at Deloitte & Touche
Robert L. Johnson, Co-Founder & President of RLJ Companies, Founder and former Chairman & CEO of Black Entertainment Television.
What’s next for CountMeIn?
We are very much looking forward to implementing a more seamless integration in Pinterest as it is the most synergistic social media platform from a brand and retailer perspective.