If you have a smartphone, you probably use the built-in camera to take pictures of all kinds of doo-dads you want to keep on hand — special moments, important notes, ridiculous signs.
So why not coupons?
That’s what SnipSnap founder Ted Mann wants everyone to be able to do with his new coupon clipping app, which went live at Switch Philly during Philly Tech Week last week, as Technically Philly reported.
As of publication, the app had been downloaded on about 1,500 devices, SnipSnap founder Ted Mann told Technically Philly. The Android version is on track to go live in June.
Download the free iOS app here.
SnipSnap’s progressions from concept to full-fledged application has been relatively high profile, given that the startup was part of the Dreamit Ventures Fall 2011 class and is currently a member of the first class of media startups housed at Project Liberty Digital Incubator. Last week, SnipSnap won Mobile Monday, which earned Mann and team the shot to win the Switch Philly demo competition — organized by Technically Philly — all within days of gaining approval for the app from Apple.
Mann says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far.
“Perhaps the most gratifying was that a friend named Loren Brichter who developed Tweetie — which was eventually acquired by Twitter and became the Twitter iPhone app — really liked it and said his wife was excited to use it,” Mann said.
To get to this point, the app has gone through a variety of iterations, including a complete rebuild after Mann entirely replaced the team he went through Dreamit with, so it’s worth explaining what exactly this Instagram/Pennysaver hybrid can actually do.
At the most basic level, the point of SnipSnap is to be able to digitize coupon clipping by photographing coupons and storing them on your smartphone. The photograph is then processed by SnipSnap’s engine and, for the moment, by a company called Mechanical Turk, which makes sure all the important elements of the coupon — offer, expiration date, bar code, logo — are correctly coded. The coupon is then stored in a coupon library and available to be redeemed.
“What we’re doing fundamentally is making sure people don’t forget their coupons at home,” Mann said.
Mann says he got the idea for SnipSnap after his wife became frustrated that he never remembered to bring coupons with him on errand runs. He says he thought one way he could be sure his coupons would not languish in what he dubbed “the bowl of shame” would be to store pictures his coupons using Evernote.
“This was sort of my poor man’s SnipSnap,” Mann said. “So I took pictures of every conceivable coupon that I could ever need to use. I started going and pulling them up and trying to redeem them — nine times out of 10 it worked.”
Seems simple enough, but in a demo Mann offered to Technically Philly, he was excited to point out that SnipSnap will actually do much more than snap coupon glamor shots.
Users will also be able to “clip” other users’ coupons, receive alerts when you walk into a store for which you already have coupons, receive expiration alerts, share coupons with friends via social media, and see coupon success ratings organized by merchant.
Mann said that he and his team, which includes CTO Kostas Nasis and VP of Product Kyle Martin, added a lot of features after releasing a beta version of the app to a group of about 35 people who’d shown interest on the website, as well as family and friends. The merchant rating system in particular was inspired by beta user feedback, Mann told Technically Philly.
As more and more users download the app, SnipSnap will continue to update and improve the app according to feedback, Mann says.
On the business side, Mann told Technically Philly that he is actively raising about $500,000 in funding.
As of publication, Mann could confirm about $250,000 committed from family friends, advisers, a local angel investor whose name Mann could not disclose, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners. He reported a positive outlook on funding in the wake of Philly Tech Week, but could confirm no further details.
Mann says he has had conversations with funders predominantly from Philly and New York, though he says a few West Coast investors have also shown interest.
“A lot of the funders have been waiting for the app to come out,” Mann said. “They want to see what the initial uptake is.”
Mann is also building partnerships with just about anyone who might be interested in couponing, including large retailers, extreme couponers, and couponing sites, among others.
Mann pre-sold SnipSnap to a group of large packaged goods companies and retailers including, Prestige Brands, Ultimark Products, the Emerson Group, a firm in Wayne, PA, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Golf Galaxy, and Belk, who agreed to co-promote the app.
“We could have gone to more people. Everyone we presented to kind of loved it and said, ‘I would do it in a heartbeat,'” Mann said. “But really all we were doing at that stage is validating that there is something here that people will buy.”
The app will also make money through both targeted and affiliate offers, Mann told Technically Philly. Depending on your past habits and SnipSnap’s partnerships, companies, like Babies ‘R Us and Target, can push coupons that look just like any other user-clipped coupon. For every “snip” of one of these coupons that results in an actual purchase, SnipSnap will get a kickback.
“If it works the way that we expect it will, we would be monetizing on average $4.35 per user per year,” Mann said he estimates. “Assuming we get to a large number of users, it becomes a very profitable app very quickly.”
Like many applications, SnipSnap is dependent on scale for both monetization and optimized usability. Mann says he is hoping to find success in the Philadelphia market before he and his team focus hard on the national level.
One of the biggest hurdles to creating an app that can reach that scale has been incorporating manufacturers’ coupons — the one’s you can bring to any grocery store — into the app. Mann told Technically Philly that manufacturers’ coupons are a bit more complicated because middlemen are involved in their processing. But, he says, the team is working on creating a “paperless” process that automatically stores manufacturer’s coupons on your store loyalty card.
He says the plan is for users to be able to take advantage sometime early this summer.
And that’s just the start of Mann’s plans for SnipSnap in the next year. Amongst all his other plans and various ideas, he’s also hoping to create an iPad app before the year is out.
“I think we’ve built something that has the potential to be a top tier app,” Mann said.
To accomplish all of that, he’s definitely looking to hire.
“We want to hire a Chief Marketing Officer and make two engineering hires,” Mann said. “Specifically someone to work on the parsing engine.”
As SnipSnap’s tenure at the Project Liberty incubator winds down at the month’s end, the startup will also be looking for a new location. But Mann, 35, who lives in Haddonfield, says SnipSnap is definitely planning to stay in the Philadelphia area.
With so much success last week, there’s reason to believe SnipSnap has all the pieces in place for success. That is, as long as enough people can remember to use all those coupons.
“As of last Sunday we had no idea when — or possibly if — Apple would approve us. Given such uncertainty, we were fearing the worst,” Mann said. “Then, in a matter of days, we win two demo competitions, the app gets approved, early response is awesome and fundraising comes together. Amazing how quickly your fortunes can change in startup land.”-30-