August 6, 2012
Finally, the robot we’ve all been waiting for: one that buys gifts for us. If you’re part of a group buying a gift for someone, everyone can just feed the Mystery Gift Machine with money and suggestions. It ships out an algorithmically awesome gift through the mail – and no one knows what it is until it arrives.
Below, founder Adam Stober explains how the Mystery Gift Machine came alive.
Tech Cocktail: How do you differentiate yourself?
Adam Stober: For the time being, three reasons we are the best way to give gifts are:
1. We are the only gift giving service with an expert gift-giving Machine. It’s earned a PhD in Giftology and his gift-picking algorithm gets smarter with every purchase. We’re the only firm that approaches gift giving systematically, and our gifts will continue to be the best gifts possible as long as we continue to build out the science of gift giving.
2. We tell how much we collected and when we ship…but not what we bought. We know this is different than what most people are used to, but this is the only way to ensure the recipient gets a genuine surprise, and it also has a wonderful side effect – gift givers get a surprise for themselves when they find out what gift they gave.
3. We guarantee every gift that we ship. Our superhuman service is designed to make gift givers feel comfortable trusting The Machine. If the recipient doesn’t like a gift for any reason, we’ll process returns or exchanges until we make it right.
Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind the Mystery Gift Machine?
Stober: When I wanted to get a great gift for my friend’s birthday, I didn’t know what to get or how much it might cost…so I collected money and ideas from his friends and family and told everyone I would figure out what to buy based on what everyone put in.
I pulled together over $200 from seven people, which was more than double the amount any of us would have contributed as individuals. As word spread that a group gift was being organized, I ended up collecting contributions from friends and family who didn’t even know each other. I unleashed broad participation since I wasn’t imposing the usual constraints to gift giving – anyone was welcome to invest whatever they wanted with just a few clicks – and I realized then that gift organizers could be much more efficient if they could just share an easy opportunity to contribute.
I had stumbled upon a unique process that unequivocally led to bigger, better gifts than what would happen otherwise, and my inspiration to start Mystery Gift Machine was to share my group gift solution as widely as possible. In launching this company, I set out to make gift giving more efficient by saving organizers the frustration of figuring out who might commit, trying to collect money, spending time shopping, weighing different ideas, signing a card, shipping a gift, and worrying whether the gift would be good.
What I enjoy most about this startup is how many people are having fun along with us. By giving gifts through the Mystery Gift Machine, customers send bigger, bolder gifts than they ever dreamed possible, and they’re converted to a better way of giving gifts. What’s not to love?
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you, your team, or your office culture?
Stober: We’re the ultimate variety team, with hobbies ranging from waterskiing to hiking to record collecting and everything in between. However, if I had to pick one fun fact among us, I’d have to single out engineer Jon Barton for flying biplanes!
Our culture is still evolving but we encourage helping each other learn, applying lean startup methodologies, and having fun with our work. I smile every time I look at the Mystery Gift Machine itself, and I have yet to see anyone watch the video on our home page without laughing.
Mystery Gift Machine was a showcased startup at our Tech Cocktail Boston mixer.
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