When the CEO of Wrapp told us last week that the social gifts company was speeding up its expansion plans in order to combat the threat from a Samwer brothers clone, he wasn’t joking: today the business is announcing that it is launching in the U.K., with an American rollout due in the near future.
Previously only available in its home market of Sweden, Wrapp essentially turns the already-popular idea of virtual gifts into real-world items.
Using the service’s mobile app (currently it’s available for iPhone and Android) you can send a gift card from a participating retailer — of whatever value you choose — to one of your Facebook friends. Other people can also add to the card to increase its value, while some retailers offer free gifts. When you’ve sent it, the recipient can then redeem that card either online or in-store. It’s a straightforward proposition that the company thinks can be a big deal for retailers and disrupt the multi-billion dollar gift card industry.
Partners at the British launch include fashion retailer ASOS, gym giant Fitness First and the popular restaurant chain Pizza Express — as well as a selection of other smaller brands. And while the number of initial partners is relatively small, the company said its hand was forced in part by the arrival of Dropgifts, a clone from Germany’s Rocket Internet, the controversial incubator run by the three Samwer brothers.
“Our initial idea was to launch in the U.S. first,” co-founder Hjalmar Winbladh told me. “But that will come soon.”
He added that there were also plans for a substantial international presence, with salespeople already on the case building relationships with retailers in a number of territories.
“We’ve already got staff in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Italy,” he said. “We are looking possibly at partnerships in China, Japan, Brazil and we are in discussions for Eastern Europe.”
The company, which has already seen $10.5 million of investment from Niklas Zennstrom’s Atomico, Greylock’s Reid Hoffman and Nordic VC Creandum, thinks it’s onto something —
That’s in no small part because of the track record of the team, which includes not only Winbladh, the former CEO of internet telephony service Rebtel and mobile internet firm Sendit; but also Andreas Ehn, the founding CTO at Spotify, and Fabian Mansson, the former CEO of Swedish fashion retailer H&M and Seattle sales Eddie Bauer.
Given those connections, isn’t there a big gap in Wrapp’s portfolio of partners. What about Sweden’s biggest retail names, I asked Winbladh: where are Ikea and H&M?
He was coy about relationship with those household names, but suggested there may be something coming in the future. Perhaps a deal is being worked on for the American launch — which, he hinted, is likely to happen sooner rather than later.