Forgotten a loved one’s birthday or need to send a pick-me-up to a mate? Prsnt says it has the answer: the London-based start-up, which has just launched a £3m funding round, has ambitious plans for its gifting app. “We want to be the automatic choice for people giving presents in the future,” says co-founder and CEO Omid Moallemi. “We’ll be on the first screen of your smart phone.”
The idea is a deceptively simple one. Prsnt has built partnerships with more than 100 household brands – everyone from Starbucks to Marks & Spencer. If you want to send someone a present from one of those brands, you open the Prsnt app, choose your gift and press send. The recipient receives the gift instantly, in the form of a QR code they can cash in to get the gift, either online or in person. It might be anything from a cup of coffee to a new t-shirt.
“Every time we explain the idea to someone, they say there must be an app that already does this, but there isn’t,” adds Moallemi. Part of the appeal is that Prsnt’s partnerships mean you can choose your gift from a wide (and growing) pool of retailers, all in one place; other brands on the app include Amazon, Asos, All Bar One, Spotify, Deliveroo, Uber, Costa Coffee, Nike, Sports Direct and The Body Shop. In addition, Prsnt has created an all-round gifting experience: for example, you can send a video alongside the gift, and recipients get to unwrap their presents with a slide of their finger across their phone screens.
Moallemi is convinced that Prsnt taps into the way we live our lives today. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many people were living more remote lives, often interacting with friends and family through digital channels rather than in person. “Prsnt fulfils the momentary need to celebrate with somebody you don’t get to see as often as you would like,” argues. “You don’t want to just send someone a WhatsApp or a text message – it feels underwhelming. It doesn’t in any way represent or reflect the way you feel about them. With Prsnt, you can send them a little something instead – something a bit more thoughtful.”
The app has gained traction quickly. Moallemi and his four co-founders – David Parr, Hamish Page, Louis Wren and Dan Hamilton – launched a beta version of the app last December, initially focused on friends and family. They saw hundreds of users sign up on the first evening, with thousands more joining over the months to come.
Prsnt is aiming for a viral effect. Recipients of gifts have to install the app on their phones in order to access their presents, so they become potential users too, and are then incentivized to make gifts of their own through free offers and promotions. The company earns its money through commissions from its partner brands when people spend with them, as well as a 69p transaction charge on each gift sent. Moallemi points out that the fee is less than the cost of a first-class stamp, let alone a birthday card.
Initially funded through friends and family, Prsnt raised £300,000 of pre-send funding from venture capital firms and angel investors earlier this year. Now it is back in the market for capital, with a £3m investment round targeting similar sorts of backers. The money will support the business as it replaces the beta version of its app with an updated version later this month – and begins marketing its services in earnest.
“What we’re trying to achieve is a modern way of gifting, removing all the bottlenecks in terms of hassle, whilst also addressing sustainability,” says Moallemi. “Prsnt achieves same-second delivery, so it’s perfect for when you realise that it’s a friend’s or a family member’s birthday, or you don’t want the delay of sending something in the post.”
The company believes it is in a position to grow quickly, with new client segments accelerating its progress. In some cases, its brand partners have begun using Prsnt internally, as an easy means with which to send rewards and thank-yous to staff who have performed well. The company is also working with high-street retailers who see the opportunity to use the app to encourage increased physical footfall – through targeted offers of vouchers to spend in-store, for example.
In the meantime, Moallemi is also focused on how Prsnt can help people take the hassle out of giving. For example, the app will tell you when a friend or family member’s birthday is coming up, so that you don’t forget it, and in time it will offer present ideas. “The eventual goal is for Prsnt is to offer a personalised set of gift options for each friend,” Moallemi explains. “The idea is to take that pressure off both parties, to give in a smarter way, and to use technology to bridge the gap to remove that stress.”