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How do you wrap a digital gift? MIT startup Delightfully has a clever answer

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 6, 2012 09:13 AM

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Every time I send a digital gift certificate — usually from Amazon — I'm filled with conflict.

I know the odds are good that the recipient will use it to buy something fun or useful, but I always feel like I've taken some crass shortcut by not sending a box wrapped up in a bow, or even a paper gift certificate in the mail.

A new MIT startup called Delightfully is addressing that conflict head-on. The three-person company wants to add a layer of personalized experience to digital gift-giving. And they've raised about $100,000 in angel funding, led by Avid Technology founder Bill Warner.

DelightfullyTeam.jpg"Gift-giving is intended to be about a relationship between two people — not a vendor and a recipient," says co-founder Jason Shin, an MBA student at MIT's Sloan School of Management. "When we talk about digital gift-wrapping, what we mean is showing some effort, the same way you do when you do a great job wrapping a physical gift." Instead of simply opening an e-mail, the recipient of a gift sent with Delightfully might encounter a collage of photos chosen by the sender, and have to move them around to find out what's underneath. (Perhaps an iTunes gift code, for instance.)

Shin also talks about developing videogames — think "Angry Birds" with the faces of family members — that must be played before unlocking a gift, or augmented reality "scavenger hunts" that might require the recipient to take their mobile phone to a series of locations before receiving their gift.

As for the business model, Shin says that consumers may be willing to pay a premium to have their digital gifts delivered with a bit more panache — and it's possible that e-commerce sites might be willing to license Delightfully's technology to differentiate their e-certificates.

You can sign up now to be notified when Delightfully launches later this month. Initially, you'll be able to use the technology to send someone a gift code that you purchase, as part of a separate transaction, from just about any e-commerce site.

The company spent this summer as part of MIT's new Beehive Cooperative, and will be demoing this Saturday at a free event on campus as part of the t=0 innovation event.

What do you think? Would Delightfully make you feel better about giving — and receiving — digital gift certificates? (And would you take the time to create one?)

(Shin is on the right in the photo, with co-founders Gina Luciano and James Barabas. An example of a photo collage from Delightfully is below.)

delightfullycollage.jpg

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About Scott Kirsner

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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