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Social shopping site Swipely unveils new features, talks strategy

July 1, 2010 |  6:00 am

After high school Angus Davis skipped college for Silicon Valley, where he signed on at Netscape as the Web browser’s youngest employee.

He and his former boss, Mike McCue, bailed Netscape in 1999 to start Tellme, which helped users search for information using phones. They sold the company to Microsoft in 2007 for $800 million.

Last year when Davis left the world’s largest software maker he was searching for another big idea. He found it in his wallet.

Swipely Davis runs Swipely, one of two start-ups that let users link their credit or debit cards to their sites and share information about what they buy with their friends or the wider Web. 

Each swipe, whether a user is going to a concert, buying a new outfit or trying a new restaurant, has the potential to start a conversation, yet that information was buried in credit card and bank statements, sometimes in indecipherable line items, Davis said.

“This piece of plastic can be such a powerful communication tool to tell your friends what you care about,” Davis, 32, said.

Swipely and rival are betting that the surging popularity of social networking – connecting with friends and family online -- will transform commerce the same way it has communication and content. His reasoning: Already people are sharing their thoughts, photos and whereabouts, so why not their purchases? It's not about how much money you spend (Swipely, unlike, does not include transaction amounts), but where you are spending it and what you are buying, he said.

The payoff is in giving and getting personal recommendations for products and places, saving money and having more fun, Davis said. Businesses can reach out directly to consumers and reward loyal customers, he added.

Swipely recently raised $7.5 million from the venture capital firms Greylock Partners and First Round Capital, as well as well-known angel investors including Valley veterans Ron Conway, Reid Hoffman, Keith Rabois and Chris Sacca. The company based in Providence, R.I., has 12 employees, some former TellMe colleagues.

Swipely2 The site, which Davis says has thousands of users in its private testing phase, won’t launch to the public until later this summer. The real test will be if it can persuade mainstream consumers to sign up. Right now users are mostly technology buffs who tend to be more experimental and less concerned with privacy and security.

Swipely on Thursday is unveiling some new features. It has integrated with Facebook and Twitter. It has created VIP lists and scoreboards so that consumers can compete to have the most swipes at their favorite hangouts. Another feature steers consumers to the cheapest gas stations. One feature in particular seems handy: Called Spending Search, it matches swipes to specific business locations.

Social shopping is getting a lot interest these days from investors and entrepreneurs. Has its time come?

"It remains to be seen," Davis said.

-- Jessica Guynn