Monday, June 1, 2009
Interview with Eden Jarrin, eDivvy
For this morning's interview, we caught up with Eden Jarrin, the President of Los Angeles-based eDivvy (www.edivvy.com). Eden told us a bit about the firm, how people are using it, as well as her own experience and what she learned from her prior startup, BeJane.
Let's start with eDivvy. How did you end up here?
Eden Jarrin: The company was founded by Steven Ng, and was started about a year and a half ago. I was speaking on a conference and panel about branding and experience with my last company, we got along, and chatted. They were looking for a President or CEo to get them to the next level. The second we started talking, I said -- wow, they've really got something here, have a great base, a very good team, and good technology, and the pieces were all in place. As you know, there are lots of puzzle pieces to building a business, and they had everything going for it.
How do people use the site?
Eden Jarrin: The whole idea is around group gifting. I'm sure you've done this before, when it's someone's birthday, like a family members, and you want to go in on a gift together. This happens all the time in the offline world. Instead of everyone getting someone a $50 gift, you go in together for a $200 or $300 gift, so they get a better gift. It's popular for birthdays, baby showers, and weddings, especially among women. the process, from an offline standpoint, can be socially awkward. If you are the one who has to front the money for the gift, you have to go to the store, and then you have to keep on calling your brother, sister, friends to get them to give you the $50 they owe you. It can get awkward having to keep asking for that money. So, there has to be an easier way to do this, is how we created eDivvy. We've created a service around group gifting online, in a fun and easy formal. eDivvy is just that, a website where you can come together and create what we call an event--a group gifting event. Someone comes in, and does this in four steps. The organizer might have a friend's birthday, and have five or six people who might want to go in on a gift like a Wii or and iPod, and you can custom pick a card--just like an Evite--custom card invitations which you can make look realy cool and where you can pick a theme--and you put in the information.
For example, it's Jessica's birthday, we're buying her an iPod--and you can send a custom messages to guests. You then pick a gift, where we have partners---all of the top merchants, like Amazon, REI, Apple, Macy's eBaygs, etc--we're adding merchants on a weekly basis. Really soon you'll see we'll be editorializing products and helping people to choose gifts in a category an dhow to pick the right gifts. So you'll pick something a pink iPod 80G, add that product to your card. You'll set a minimize amount you want to raise--say, $200--and the tool automatically divides among your five people. It also allows you to customize the amount--for example, if you know your friend Jessica can only afford to spend $25, but others might have more wealth and might spend $100, we leave that up to you as the organizer.
Finally, you can finalize payment details and make the event public or private. If it's a public event, anyone can invite others to contribute to the gift; if it's private, it's just those you invite. A customized email then goes out, and you're done. It's a very, simple, and quick process.
How does the payment work?Eden Jarrin: As a recipient, you put in your credit card. We take the standard cards--Amex, Visa, Mastercard--and we will be adding PayPal soon. What's great about PayPal is the international orders, right now we can't take international credit cards. PayPal will enable that. You put in your credit card, how much you're going to contribute, and participants can also sign a virtual gift card. There's also a message board so you can talk a back and forth. The organizer can also customize when you want reminders to go out, whether that's in a week or a couple of days. At the end of the time, there are three potential outcomes. First, the amount is reach--ie, we bought a iPod for $200--and everyone is notified. At eDivvy, we then purchase the product, and ship it to the recipient, or we can also send it to you to give to the person directly. The second, is that the amount is overfunded, and the third is that the amount is underfunded. In both cases--if an event is overfunded and people contributed more than they actually need, the product is purchased, and we put the remaining amount on a Visa gift card sent directly to the recipient. That gift card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. If it's underfunded--say, you had a goal of $200, but only $160 was raised. It allows you as an organizer to either send out a notification that you haven't reach the amount, and extend the date to allow for more contributions; or, you can close it, and we'll automatically send what money was raised on a Visa gift card to the recipient. We've been doing case studies, and we've found that people don't want to be stuck with money and nothing to give. With a Visa gift card, they can buy their own gift.
How long has the site been available?
Eden Jarrin: We officially launched in fall, though the site has been up for a year. For the first six months, it was in testing and under radar, just among friends and family.
How is this company backed?
Eden Jarrin: We're privately funded, at this time not by venture capital. We're well funded, however, by an angel/private investor.
The last time we talked, you were at Be Jane. Can you talk a bit about what you learned from that experience?
Eden Jarrin: I was CEO and founder of Be Jane for the first four and a half years. It's now under different management, and going a different direction. I learned quite a bit. Be Jane was so close to my heart, and was my passion--like eDivvy is now as well. From a branding and marketing standpoint, we had tremendous success. We were constantly on the Today Show, CNN, Entrepreneur, Time Magazine. It was really about fine tuning our brand, and figuring out what resonated with our audience and our core market. It's really knowing what the heart is of what you're doing. It's not just having a consumer friendly brand, it's figuring out what will make people passionate about your brand. That's what companies like Apple speak to, and does very well--which is to create die hard followers, and have a core uniqueness to people so that people want to have it, and have real passion for the brand.
The other lesson I learned was with funding. Like any entrepreneur, so much of your time is spend raising money. One of the biggest lessons I learned, especially as CEO, is that if you take up half or more of your time dealing with investors, and raising money, and dealing with your board, or otherwise managing the fundraising process--you take your eyes off the ball. No matter how good you are, your focus gets too split. Even if you're well funded, you're constantly thinking about that new funding round. Fortunately with eDivvy, we have a great investors, and are well funded, and are not having to work out that. We're also being very cautious about what we spend, which was one good lesson. I'm keeping on eye on the budget, and managing with what you do have. I'm keeping my eye completely on building the company, and not fundraising.
Finally, back to eDivvy, where are you trying to take it next?
Eden Jarrin: Right now we're building the brand, getting together partnerships. We've done some great partnerships which we can't talk about now, with content sites and merchant partners, plus we're expanding into the B2B area. At the end of the day, we're a payment technology with a consumer facing brand, something like PayPal. We've got some partnerships in the B2B area where we are the payment technology, and where we're growing out the business.