Sramana Mitra: What about your co-founders? How did the three of you come together?
Shall Weisband: One co-founder, who’s now the CEO, comes from the retail space. Similar to me, he was born in the United States and moved to Israel. We went to school together a long time ago but lost touch. I happened to run into him in a shopping mall. I told him about this idea. He said, “Shaul, you won’t believe it. I had something so similar. I even have a business plan for it.”
He came to my house that night. We jumped into it full time. Our third business partner was born and raised in Israel. He’s the tech guy. He’s your classic tech entrepreneur story. He barely finished high school, never went to college, started a database company in Israel, and became world-renowned for it. Microsoft MVP became the largest database service company in Israel. He joined us as the technical co-founder.
Sramana Mitra: The B2C concept with which you launched, did it work?
Shall Weisband: It absolutely did not. Like any entrepreneur where you’re building and you have great dreams, and especially when you have the money and strategic partners, you launch your app and then next day you realize that it’s not working. It really didn’t. The back story to it is that many people told us that there was no way that we would be able to pull this off mainly because we would have to start integrating with the point of sale of every single retailer in the mall so people can redeem their gifts.
We saw that as a challenge and we were able to solve that by basically riding on the retailer’s existing rails. We were running on their gift card rails. That solved our problem. It just wasn’t used. There was no traction. We had incredible marketing and support from Simon Malls. They gave us all the marketing we needed. Each store had a banner on the store. We were in the malls when we launched holiday season. People simply didn’t download it and didn’t use it. We were actually in the malls to find out if people saw it and why they didn’t download it. It just didn’t take off.
One of the main lessons that we took from there is that physical doesn’t translate to digital. Even though we had all the ads, people will read it. But the gap from reading a banner to downloading an app is just too large. It wasn’t effective. Number two is when we gave giveaways, the number feedback was, “The concept makes sense. We think it’s a little bit crass to say what you want.” They wanted that same exact flow to be able to send a gift but in terms of coming from the other side where we ask them to put it on a wish list and share it with friends and family. We noticed a big gap between the starting point all the way to conversion. The gap was just too big.