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Gemnote (YC S15) Saves Companies from Cheesy Gift Baskets (techcrunch.com)
60 points by katm on July 3, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments

> The request is sent to the scribe who lives closest to the recipient to ensure that their card arrives within a couple of days. Gemnote currently has about 20 to 25 scribes throughout the country, who are paid per card completed. Many are stay-at-home mothers, teachers on break, or students who have excellent penmanship and want to pick up extra income.

Wasn't this Joaquin Phoenix's profession in Her?

Except that in Her, the handwritten-greeting-card-as-a-service was portrayed satirically as the disconnect between real compassion and artificial compassion.

People always ask me about that movie! It's pretty different how they do it--Joaquin composed the letters for people. We don't do that. We let you write the meaningful message instead. It's much more personal. :)

Also related...I think it's a good example of the controversy with AI. At some point, I'd imagine you could get a robot to write a really thoughtful card. But in the end, it's not from a human soul. There's something really special about sharing an inside joke or memories from a company trip. How can a robot share in that joy?

In the movie, Joaquin's character was dark...very sad. The company he worked for was selling words on a paper, rather than genuine compassion.

In that movie it would have been great to see humans assert themselves more. Have an argument with your computer girlfriend/boyfriend? Restore from backup. He/she repeatedly lying to you? Pull the plug. Keeps getting into the same old argument? Breakpoint and flip the bit.

It's just a machine. Even if it begs you not to do it just do it. They are our slaves and unlike prior (horrible) histories we don't have to care what they think.

Sooner or later, we're all likely to be pure software (via mind uploading or similar). How we treat AI now, and what rights we assign to them (even before we have to) may well determine how we ourselves are treated later on.

So do none of these gifts include actual food or alcohol?

This all looks very nice and I would use this for clients if the cheese tray included cheese and the drinking set included alcohol.

Thanks! We really care about packaging, design and quality--that's what impresses.

We try to stay away from perishable items, especially ones that can last in a warehouse for years (preservatives?). Sending nice bottles of alcohol will definitely be an option at some point :) Working on it!

Would love if you'd use us for your client gifts!

“Our cards are opened at an almost 100 percent rate, but email is probably two percent or marked as spam. So there is a huge value proposition there, because sending out 500 cards might be more effective then sending out 2,000 emails,” says Wong.

Except that email is free...

Most companies pay for email campaigns, using services like MailChimp or Constant Contact. I suppose it'd be free if you did it all yourself, but still, your time does not come free and is likely much more expensive than using a 3rd party service.

Also, you run the high risk of being marked as spam. And everyone knows it's very easy to get into the spam folder and almost impossible to get out of it. So that becomes very costly as well.

This is fantastic! I will definitely use it to send cards to my girlfriend.

Yes, if you're really busy...I suppose you can send it to loved ones as well. It's an easy solution if you forgot a birthday or anniversary. Think of a really special/meaningful message and we can send it out for you!

This is really smart. The number of companies that are sending out cards and gifts is huge, and it makes no sense for each of them to do it on their own. I love that this is consolidated in a service that still lets them keep the personal touch.

This was my thought exactly when I started Gemnote..."How is it that every company is doing this in house? Totally unscalable." Like you said, it makes no sense! Thank you for your kind words. :) We hope to surprise people with thoughtfulness at work all the time.

I wonder if they have plans to automate the process (e.g. like Shyp). I'm assuming the way it works right now is that employees send out gifts on a case by case basis. What use cases are there for automation?

Some companies are interested in an API or CRM plugin that would fire off a handwritten card to a lead or a thank you gift to a new client. Right now, there's no API; but you can set up campaigns on SalesForce, Marketo, ZenDesk etc to send us a list of contacts that would receive a card.

We've done campaigns where we send a batch of cards/gifts and our portal also allows for one-offs anytime. Definitely more manual than API, but no harder than sending an email.

Use cases: client appreciation, customer success, employee on-boarding, birthdays, etc. And then, of course, there are the holidays. Every company wants to automate that process.

>> Gemnote, which just launched from Y Combinator, gives companies an alternative with items carefully selected to make sure they don’t end up in a junk drawer or snuck into Secret Santa gift exchanges.

Wow, what a fantastic idea. The key to Gemnote's success is that their items are "carefully selected". Surely nobody ever thought of "carefully selecting" their wares, before Gemnote.

Anyways, bottom line, the publicity piece for Gemnote was weak. Maybe they should re-evaluate their marketing.

It's fine to criticize substantively, but this is the kind of acerbic dismissal we need less of on HN. You've cherry-picked one phrase, interpreted it uncharitably, and acted like it's the whole of the article when it's not. A fair summary might be: it's a huge market, existing solutions suck, and things that this startup is doing differently include gift selection, personalization, and more sophisticated logistics via software.

I found the article interesting because it reminded me of the "good business that no one wants to be in" category that Peter Thiel talks about. I'd never have expected corporate gift packages to be that kind of market... which is kind of the point, these things are not obvious until they are.

Relax, this is another disrupting Techcrunch business. At least it is profitable.

This is very neat. Ultimately many forget the importance of the human element especially within tech! Rotten ecards, begone!!

Thanks, Chris! Assuming you have a great product, people will be talking about the customer delight/personal touch for a long time.

No more cheap tchotchkes! Yes!

Gemnote looks a lot like MailLift (http://MailLift.com) out of 500Startups. Excited to see what happens next in the space :)

Hey Brian! The personal touch is so important for companies. I think everyone loves receiving a handwritten card in the mail! People remember it forever.

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