Taking A Swipe At Location-Based Social Buying
Swipe is a location-based social buying application that allows you to tell your friends what you intend to buy, have bought, or find out what others are buying in the area around you.
“Swipe builds social conversations around purchases and helps you shop street smart by giving you access to prices and product reviews recommended by your friends and other people whom you trust,” says co-founder Omair Aasim. “You can share the inside scoop on countless everyday purchases such as food, clothes, gadgets etc.”
Omair says that one of the biggest challenges today is finding real-time local shopping information. “There is no easy way to find out which stores in your city are having discounts and clearance sales. Currently this information is walled in and contained between the shopper and a few close friends.”
“Swipe disrupts this structure by providing free, completely transparent up-to-date shopping information in your area.”
To call Swipe a small startup is somewhat of an understatement – there’s just two persons on the team. Other than Omair, who oversees development, there is co-founder Binny Mathews who is in charge of building the product. Swipe was recently launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, where they emerged as one of its semi-finalists. Amazingly, the team actually built and got the product to market in a record three weeks.
Swipe is not their first foray into the world of startups. Omair developed and executed several startup ideas while in college, building, for example, a marketplace for developer to buy and sell codes, a platform for music lovers to showcase their talent, and also developed and maintained vertical search engines for clients. The computer science graduate from the University of Houston paid for most of his college from money generated from these sites. He later worked at JP Morgan Chase handling payment mechanisms and security gateways.
Like Omair, Kerala, India-born Binny was entrepreneurial since young. When he was just 12, he made money by selling stickers to his school mates. He paid through all of his college by doing part-time and summer jobs selling kids clothes, doing market research and writing technology content, and started his first company at 18 years of age. He was doing technology investment banking at Credit Suisse, and most recently the computer science graduate from Washington University in St. Louis was at online marketing services and technology company QuinStreet.
Location-Based Information That Helps You Shop Even More
Both co-founders had been active users of location-based service Foursquare, but got bored of winning badges and mayorships after a few months. “We felt that what location a person is at, is not very interesting. Rather, what is more interesting is what is the person doing once they get there,” explains Omair. “We then discovered that almost everyone checking in on Foursquare is doing so at a place where they are spending money – restaurants, pubs, gas stations, clubs, shows, grocery, apparel shops etc.”
“We felt that we could get a lot of value if people shared what they were buying at a location and how much they were spending on it.” After all, Omair says, most people check in with one another about their past, present and potential purchases so Swipe just provides them with an easier way to do what they are already doing.
Social buying as a concept is not new, of course – Palo Alto, California-based Blippy was one of the first startups to introduce social buying. But Dubai-born Omair believes Swipe has an edge over its competitor. “After speaking to hundreds of users, all of them said they would never give their credit card information to share with others what they bought, but they are willing to type in the same information,” says Omair. “(Also) they have no use of feedback after the purchase. On Swipe, users can tell ‘what they want to buy’ so other users in the city can give them tips on where the discounts are.”
Top contributors on Swipe each week get featured on its home page according to their purchases, and get street cred as “Fashion Divas”, “Gadget Gurus” and “Food Lovers”. Adoption will prove to be a key challenge – Omair admits they need to get users to share more of their shopping information on the site.
Omair reveals that Swipe‘s business model will mainly revolve around lead generation for local merchants, supported by affiliate marketing, mobile marketing through coupons, and loyalty programs. It is also looking at providing analytics services to businesses that want to tap on its consumer shopping data. To date, the startup has raised angel investment from a serial entrepreneur as well as a senior executive at Yahoo!, but declines to reveal further detail.
“Entrepreneurship is a great path to improve the quality of life of our users and make significant value to society. Such a mission is very fulfilling to us and drives us,” insists Omair.
An important they’ve learnt about being an entrepreneur, Omair and Binny say, is not to get discouraged. “As an entrepreneur you are hammered with challenges and it’s very easy to get discouraged and lose focus when things don’t go your way.”
Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.