Wrapp, a Swedish “social gifting” startup, has big backers like Reid Hoffman and Niklas Zennstrom and even bigger retail partners, including Gap and Sephora.
FORTUNE — There’s a favorite pastime these days in tech startup circles — bashing Groupon. The once-hot daily deals kingpin is being slammed for everything from accounting shenanigans to lack of internal controls and overspending to grow its business. Perhaps worst of all, critics say Groupon is a magnet for cheapskates who flock to merchants to redeem deep discounts and never return — hardly a winning model for the retailers Groupon counts on as repeat customers.
So has a company that bills itself as the anti-Groupon (GRPN) found a formula that works for both consumers and retailers? That’s the hope of Hjalmar Winbladh, a serial entrepreneur whose Swedish startup, Wrapp, is launching in the United States on Monday. “From a retailer perspective, we can send the right customer to your store and help drive more sales,” says Winbladh, who is Wrapp’s CEO.
Wrapp is not daily deals startup — there are already hundreds of those, none of them runaway successes. Wrapp is a social gifting mobile app, whose name is a mash-up of “wrap” and “app,” and is built atop of Facebook’s social graph. It encourages users to give gifts to their friends and relatives on birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. But instead of giving, say, a virtual martini, Wrapp users give each other virtual gift cards that are redeemable, via their mobile phones, at major retailers like Gap (GPS), H&M or Sephora.
Many of the cards are free and retailers can specify to whom they are available (women 18 to 24 in Chicago, for example). If you are the one doing the giving, you can add money to a card. You can also publish your gift on Facebook, where others can also add money to it. (“Hey, Joe is running a half-marathon, so lets all contribute to a his new pair of running shoes.”) Since the mobile app has access to Facebook data, it will remind you of your friend’s birthdays and other special occasions.
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