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What if you could send a non-virtual cupcake to your Facebook friends?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  April 8, 2010 12:20 PM

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Launched last week by former Googler (and current Harvard Business School student) Subha Townsend is the new gifting service DashGift. Rather than allowing you to send virtual gifts to your Facebook friends on special occasions really just nifty little icons that show up on your Facebook profile DashGift aims to make it simple to send along real goodies like a free movie ticket ($10) or a cupcake from Sweet ($3.25), the Boston bakeshop.

"The whole notion of virtual gifts is an interesting phenomenon," says Townsend, who built the service with her husband Rick, who is also a Harvard grad student. "But I started thinking that rather than just sending along a graphic, if I was actually with my friend in California when I found out she'd gotten engaged, I'd want to take her out for a drink or for dessert. Yes, you can send them flowers or a gift in the mail, but in this time and age, so many of your relationships are digital no one has everyone's address. Sending flowers would mean calling them, asking for the address, and ruining the element of surprise."

There are other gift-related apps on Facebook that let you input the recipient's address and send something real in the mail, Townsend acknowledges, "but this is an innovative model, because the recipient gets a code, and they can go to the store or the Web site to redeem the gift. And everyone on Facebook can see that I sent you a cupcake." The message that accompanies the gift can either be made private or public.

For now, the gifting options are limited. If the recipient is in Boston, you can buy them a cupcake from Sweet or a cake from Finale; eventually, you'll be able to buy them a beer from Tommy Doyle's Irish Pub. If the recipient lives somewhere else, you can make a $10 donation in their name through GlobalGiving, or buy them a $10 movie ticket they can redeem through Fandango.

Townsend says the idea price point for this kind of "micro-gift" is between $3 and $10. "After $10, there's a huge drop in people's willingness to pay." 

Townsend is just wrapping up her first year at HBS, and she plans to spend part of the summer working at the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. But she adds that her husband and other team members "will be working full-time over the summer on DashGift."

Townsend says they're not really out trying to raise funding at present. To build awareness, they've been doing some advertising on Facebook, primarily to students in the Boston area. They're also hoping that by expanding the number of retailers who participate in the service, they'll be able to get some signage or promotion in their stores and restaurants.

What do you think?

(Another Cambridge start-up in the non-virtual gifting space is KangoGift, which lets you send real gifts from local shops using your mobile phone.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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