Swag has a long and uneven history in the business world. For every pair of trendy plaid socks, there are five t-shirts you might never wear, an itchy scarf, a notepad your kids could use, and an ugly mug; and most importantly, probably thousands of dollars and a lot of time invested in making these gifts a reality. Now, a start-up that has built a service to rethink the concept of corporate gifts and make them more effective today announces a round of funding to continue growing its business – and a sign that it could be on some thing is its progress so far.
Alyce, a Boston startup that has built an AI platform that connects to various other apps you could use to interact and track your relationships with others in your professional life – sales prospects, business partners, colleagues – then uses the information to personalize the gift recommendations for these people, raised $ 30 million, a Series B that he will use to continue to grow his platform, recruit more users, and hire more people for his team.
This round is led by General Catalyst, with participation from Boston Seed Capital, Golden Ventures, Manifest, Morningside and Victress Captial – all previous funders.
Alyce says it grew 300% year-over-year between 2019 and 2020, tackling a corporate gifts and promotional items industry that ASI Market Research says is worth around 24.7 billion dollars a year. Its customers today include Adobe Marketo, G2, Lenovo, Wex, Invision, DialPad, GrubHub and 6Sense.
As with so many other apps and services that aim at productivity and people management, Alyce notes that this year of working remotely – which has tested many relationships and professional functions, has led to massive inbound digital activity and outgoing (the screen is where it all happens). played now), and frankly burned a lot of us – also gave it a new kind of relevance.
“As everyone was inundated with spam last year, opt-out skyrocketed,” Greg Segall, founder and CEO of Alyce, said in a statement. “When a prospect retires, it’s forever. It’s clear that brands and customers want the same – a much more focused and reliable way to engage. “
Alyce’s contribution to more quality engagement comes in the form of AI-powered personalization.
Linked to the other tools that people typically use to track their communications with people – they include Marketo, Salesforce, Vidyard, and Google’s messaging and calendar apps – the system was built with algorithms that read the details of these apps to build details about the preferences and tastes of the gift recipient. He then uses it to create a list of articles that might appeal to that person from a larger list he has compiled, with about 10,000 articles in all. (And yes, these can also include more traditional corporate loot items like these socks or mugs.) Then instead of sending an actual giveaway, “Swag Select,” like Alyce’s service is called, sends a gift code that allows the person to redeem with their own choice from a personalized and smaller list of items.
Alyce herself does not own or distribute the freebies – she connects with third parties who send them. (It prices its service based on how it is used and how many additional tools a user might want to have for personalizing and sending gifts.)
Yes, you could say that a lot of these things actually seem very impersonal – the donor is not at all directly involved in selecting or sending a gift, which is rather “selected” through AI. . It is basically a variation of personalization and recommendation technology designed to serve ads, suggest products to you on ecommerce sites, and more.
But on the other hand, it’s an interesting solution to the problem of trying to figure out what to find, which can be a challenge when you really know a person, and even more difficult when you don’t. , while helping at the same time. create and perform a gesture which, in the end, is about thinking about them, not really about the gift itself.
(You can also argue, I think, that since the gift lists are based on a person’s observations of the recipient, there are actually some personal touches here, even though they were executed in an algorithmic mill before reach you.)
And at the end of the day, the point of these giveaways is to say ‘thank you for this working relationship, which I enjoy’, or ‘please buy me more printer paper’ – not ‘I sorry for being rude to you at dinner last night. . Although… if this works as it should, there might be an opportunity to extend the model to more use cases, for example brands looking for ways to change their direct mail marketing campaigns. , or yes, people who want to patch things up after a spit the night before.
Notably, for General Catalyst, it is indeed looking at the larger category of giveaways, highlighting the potential of how this service could be scaled up in the future.
“At General Catalyst, we are proud to lead the latest round of fundraising for Alyce as the company redesigned the gift category with technology and impact. The ability to deliver products and experiences that appeal to both giver and recipient is incredibly powerful, ”Larry Bohn, CEO of General Catalyst, said in a statement.