Online registry tool SimpleRegistry announced a $150,000 round of seed funding this week from CincyTech. The Cincinnati, OH-based tool allows engaged couples, expectant parents and anyone else registering for gifts to raise money online. Rather than having to register through one store with a traditional registry, users can register for gifts anywhere online and in-store, and collect monetary gifts to put towards them. “We want to scale faster,” co-founder Tony Alexander said about why they raised funding for the tool, which launched in January 2011.
Co-founders Brandon Warner, Chris Kolik and Alexander built SimpleRegistry for anyone looking to collect gifts online. Users create a free account and are set up with a custom registry page, and can register for gifts by adding a physical product (by scanning the barcode on the mobile app or taking a photo of the item), or using the bookmarklet to click and add items on any website. Users can also add items manually, and this week they will be adding an InstantRegistry tool that will allow people to add generic descriptions (blender, coffeemaker) if they don’t have time to find the specific item they want. Unlike other registry tools, gift-givers don’t buy specific items from the registry, rather they contribute an amount of their choosing via credit card or PayPal. The recipients can then redeem the funds for gifts as they come in, or get the funds all at once via bank transfer, check or PayPal.
Registry owners pay a one-time $35 setup fee (or 3.5 percent of the gift’s value if they’d rather not opt for the flat rate), and SimpleRegistry takes 3.5 percent of each transaction. Alexander said this fee covers hosting, credit card fees, as well as their customer service reps (people can choose to process a gift over the phone rather than doing it online). He admits that while people can create their own registry website and hook it up to PayPal for a lower fee per transaction, the tool is aimed at the couples who aren’t tech savvy and just want a solution that they don’t have to think about. “Basically what our service says is hey, for all those people who don’t know how to build a website, who want a quick, easy registry and they want the cool tools that we have to build it, for $35 we’ll take care of it all for them,” Alexander said.
Alexander got the idea for SimpleRegistry from his previous company, Traveler’s Joy, a tool for creating honeymoon registries (the company is still active, though he’s not involved day-to-day). He said people started registering for things that weren’t honeymoon-related, and he realized that the platform might have other applications. He also said they wanted to solve the problem of people having several online registries with different retailers, and not being able to use a wedding-specific registry tool for other life events. “SimpleRegistry was built to solve both of those issues, the first being that if you use it for your wedding, it’s supposed to be your only wedding registry, and the second thing is that you can use it for other life events as well. Get them for their wedding, keep them for their baby shower, and when they need to do fundraising they can do that too,” Alexander said.
Alexander said they didn’t consider raising funding for Traveler’s Joy when they started it in 2004, and it took them three or four years before they were making enough money that they could live off of it. They realized that although they had many more connections in the wedding industry when starting SimpleRegistry, they could scale faster with seed funding. The funding will primarily go to marketing, and the rest to development projects – they currently have an iPhone application and are looking to add an Android app this year.
SimpleRegistry doesn’t allow people to buy physical gifts that they can bring to a couple, though they have a tool for the baby shower registry that allows people to mark off gifts as purchased without actually buying them through the system. “I don’t think our system is necessarily for everybody,” Alexander said about people who want to buy physical gifts. “We offer that on the baby but not on the wedding side right now, because we don’t necessarily think that people want that.”
With online retailers like Target offering their own online registry services for weddings and babies, and companies like registry aggregator WeddingChannel already targeting the space, it may be hard for SimpleRegistry to stand out. But their general approach and multiple target audiences means that while they may not own the online wedding registry space, they only need to to find a solid base of expectant parents, fundraisers, and others looking to raise money for gifts. Though Alexander wouldn’t share how many registries have been created on the site since it launched, or how much money has been contributed, he said the site has grown 500 percent since last year, and they are on track for 10,000 registries created in 2012.