Innovation Spotlight

Web app takes stress out of gifting

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From the April 2014 issue of Columbus CEO
  • Photo by Tim Johnson

Jifiti, a locally based web application company, has harnessed the power of gift cards and put joy back into giftgiving.

Although the current version of Jifiti only launched for public download in the middle of last year, more than 100,000 mobile users have downloaded the free gift-giving platform.

Co-founder and CEO Yaacov Martin is not surprised. After all, Jifiti offers a solution to a very common problem.  

“We are out to fix gifting,” Martin said. “Gifting is supposed to be an act of generosity and bringing people together, but we’ve found that it is ridden with stress and anxiety.”

Through Jifiti, gifters peruse items available from more than 50 brands (including Brookstone, Barnes and Noble and Sephora). They hand-select a specific gift, pay for it and “teleport” it immediately to the giftee via platforms like text message or email. Giftees can then use the code on their screen to pick up their gift online or in the store.

Jifiti provides all the thoughtfulness of traditional gift giving and the speed and flexibility of a gift card—recipients get the money for the gift immediately and can swap out the value for something else at the store if they do not like the particular gift given. The mobile checkout-type technology that powers Jifiti is also opening doors for gift registries and international expansion.

“Most of the relevant retailers have a digital gift card,” Martin, 34, said. “And we discovered that if we’re able to plug into the gift card rails but offer our layer of experience and product, then we can actually facilitate this whole thing without integration.”

Once the Jifiti team developed a way to use the brands’ already established gift card numbers as the transaction method—or, better put, a way that allowed the brands to sign up for the service and do little else—retailers came knocking.

“In the company we call integration the I-word,” Martin said. “If you want to end a meeting early with a retailer, just say integration. Nobody wants you to integrate with their system. It’s expensive. It’s a huge hassle. Usually their IT department is backed up until 2017 and giving them another project is the biggest headache in the world.”

As far as headaches for team Jifiti went, location was a relatively easy one to conquer. Last year, the design, marketing and business development side of things moved to Columbus while its tech development department stayed at the company’s homebase in Modi’in, Israel.

John Sydnor, an SVP for TechColumbus, which has provided a lot of networking support for Jifiti, said the company’s international move to central Ohio is “absolutely validation of the attractiveness of Columbus to people around the world. One of the things I think we in Columbus don’t understand is our world profile.”

Jifiti, Martin agreed, moved to Columbus because it is “the Silicon Valley of retail.” In February the team transferred from its downtown office to a space in New Albany.

“New Albany,” said Jennifer Chrysler, executive director of Inc8000, a New Albany tech business incubator, “can now offer them connections to people in their industry. We have a robust retail cluster in our community.”

Fashion retailers are a big market for Jifiti because the app has made fashion giftable. Worry no more about size or color. Just gift the jacket, for example, and the giftee can select the details.

“We say ‘Pick a (size) small; be a hero,’” Martin laughed.

Future opportunities for the company abound in other venues, too. A new deal with Mastercard allows Jifiti to use its technology to plug in and issue prepaid Mastercards; this lets the company apply its platform to big brands that do not have gift card or registry systems. For example, on Jan. 15, IKEA launched its first ever in-store registry in its Portland store using Jifiti’s tech.

And in March, Jifiti met with UK retailers as part of the prestigious TeXchange, offering the start-up valuable brand connections.

“Jifiti is a company with a great business plan, lots of energy and robust talent,” Chrysler said. “They really listen to their customer and try to develop an application that meets their needs.” 

Jacqueline Mantey is a freelance writer.