About five years ago, software engineer Ryan Sailor began talking with his coworkers at Arcweb about how hard it was to find the perfect gift for friends and family for their birthdays or during the holidays.
He wanted to feel good about the gift he was getting, and also know that it was a good fit for that person’s hobbies or interests. His coworkers shared the same challenges.
“I was struggling with finding gifts, and had been working on that,” Sailor told Technical.ly. “But really as a technologist, I thought, there must be a tech solution in this.”
They worked on something called Gifter, a recommendations tool, that made it to a prototype. But no one pursued the project seriously. Last year, as the holidays approached again, Sailor felt that same issue creep back up. He was talking to Jack Li, a product manager who he’d met at a lean agile meetup, and the pair decided to work on a tech solution more seriously.
In December 2020, the pair began developing Sprize.me, a platform that allows a user to search for gifts based on up to three “identifiers.”
If you’re looking for your mom, a big foodie who also loves her pets, the platform might pull up an animal print knife set with the link to buy off Amazon. If you’re buying for your workaholic fashionista roommate, it’ll pull up a collection of bath bombs with inspirational messages or custom earrings on Etsy as suggestions.
Li and Sailor have spent time on specific Reddit threads and other forums to see what hobbyists or folks in these different identities actually want to receive or use in their everyday life.
“We personally don’t know the best gift, but we can tap into experts that do,” Li said.
The catalogue currently contains more than 300 vetted gifts, and the pair say they’re adding to its inventory all the time. They make somewhere between 1 to 5% of the final purchase price through an affiliate marketing fee and have sponsored posts throughout.
Sailor left Arcweb at the end of February and Li left Petco in May to pursue Sprize and other projects full-time. They first launched the beta version around Mother’s and Father’s Day this year, and used feedback to inform the current version which “officially” launches on Friday, with updated tags, thumbnails, gift results and visuals. Price filtering is coming soon, and they expect to keep updating the gift selection throughout the holiday season.
The platform itself is built on Bubble.io, a no-code platform, with WordPress as the marketing page. The pair say they could have easily built it from scratch, but found the no-code option interesting to work with and quick to pull together, especially with its responsive mobile site.
For Sailor, the process has been interesting to watch evolve from the first idea five years ago, to seeing Sprize up and running today. His challenges with gift giving didn’t go away, and it’s been fun to see that solution validated over these last few months, he said.
“We sort of converged on the problem, and gave structure to this general solution,” the engineer said. “It’s interesting to see how one person sees another person and their gift as way to say sort of, ‘How do I think about my friend?'”