Sift Adds $540K, Turns Marketing Emails Into a Visual iPad Shopping Catalog

Today, Burlingame, CA-based Sift, an iPad app that goes through a user’s inbox to aggregate marketing emails to create an in-app shopping experience, officially announced that it closed a $540,000 seed round funding led by Tandem, a mobile accelerator fund, in addition to individual investors. Founded in early 2012 as part of Tandem’s mobile acceleration program, co-founder Saurin Shah had confirmed the seed round when he spoke with BetaKit for the launch of the app, and said it will be used to grow the team and build out the product.

“Users love Sift, not only do we have a 5-star rating from our users in the App Store, we have some pretty fantastic engagement retention metrics. They’re coming back, they like it, they use it,” said Shah in an interview. “We’re pretty thrilled and excited about having a fantastic list of investors…we’re basically using the funding to develop the product and roll out new features and partnerships and bring on key hires.”

Though Shah did not disclose any stats around users or engagement, he did say that from his past experience running mobile social gaming at Digital Chocolate, Sift’s engagement metrics are close to that of top games he worked on in the past. The app creates a deals catalog by mining users’ email inboxes for promotions, sales, and coupon emails, in addition to personalization features that take note of brand sites visited and deals clicked. It also connects directly with retailer sites like Best Buy, and daily deal sites like LivingSocial, to make the app appealing even to those who may not necessarily subscribe individually to multiple retailers’ emails.

The company currently makes money through affiliate revenue sharing and in-app product promotion and advertising, however, Shah said those are just one piece of the equation. Currently, the company is in talks with big box retailers to form partnerships by allowing them to leverage Sift as a means for highly targeted deals and promotions.

Despite personalized iPad shopping apps being on the rise, and a handful of startups like Note Social, Mine and Slice looking to help customers clear or use their inbox to get shopping recommendations and incentives, Sift’s outlook is that email was never built for marketing purposes. “We take a widespread problem that almost every user faces, which is an inbox full of shopping emails that these users have opted into. So they’re not junk, they’re sort of ‘am I in the mood for it today or at the moment’ kind of messages going to a platform that was never designed for it in the first place,” Shah added.

He also made reference to the company’s ability to use an individual’s shopping fingerprint and offer a more personalized experience. With the company looking to do to email marketing what Facebook did to sharing photos by email, Sift will have to convince both brands and consumers why email is a less than optimal medium through which to incentivize shopping – after all, consumers are more likely to see a deal in their inbox than in a third-party app they may or may not remember to open.


Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan is a Senior Writer and Analyst at BetaKit. A marketing graduate with honors, Humayun's work experience spans the fields of consumer behaviour with noted contributions in an academic paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and market research consulting having coordinated projects for a major financial services client at Decode Inc. More recently he was involved in business strategy as a Business Analyst for an equipment rental outlet and prior in the National Marketing Department at Ernst & Young LLP. He is passionate about emerging and disrupting technology and its ability to transform and create entirely new industries.

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