Guusto: Digital Gift Cards With a Social Mission

Startup Spotlight is an ongoing series which profiles Canadian wireless and mobile technology startups.

This month, we spoke with Joe Facciolo, the Co-Founder of Guusto. The company is an online and mobile gifting platform that allows businesses and individuals to send instant thoughtful gifts to others to show appreciation for business, referrals, efforts as employees or any other reason.

What’s the inspiration behind Guusto? What was the path that lead to where the company is today?  

We saw a recurring trend where people wanted to do nice things for their friends, family, colleagues or others in restaurants – like pay for a bottle of wine or send dessert to their table. However, this was never as easy as we felt it should be, so we designed a mobile app to allow a person to send someone a dinner out, a dessert or a round of drinks. However, unlike a gift card that is locked to a specific location, with Guusto we provide a flexible option that can be redeemed at any of our 10,000 participating merchant locations.

We found early on that the people who loved Guusto were sales professionals looking for easy but thoughtful ways to nurture client relationships or they were companies who were looking for ways to recognize their teams and give them something they would value. It was working with these early customers that we built what has become our main focus – Guusto for Biz. We help businesses that want employee recognition tools but can’t afford the existing software solutions. Our company provides a way for these employers to recognize their teams without the expensive set up fees or lengthy roll out times that are typical of most programs.

After nailing down our product, we ultimately launched Guusto for Biz in Fall of 2015. We’re scrappy guys and in the early days we bootstrapped.  We’ve grown to six employees and have big growth plans in place for next year. 

guusto demo

Can you explain the essence of your product and what benefits it provides?

We believe it shouldn’t have to be complicated to do something nice for someone. So we created a tool to address this.

The mobile app is great for sending one off gifts while on-the-go. The business web platform offers more functionality and is well suited for clients sending lots of gifts.

A wide array of people and businesses are finding this is a very handy tool – if there’s a poor customer experience you can instantly turn that around or if you just want to stay top of mind with a client its very good for that as well. We’ve also built in some tools for generating new leads through your existing client base.

What role has Wavefront played in your journey to date?

They’ve played an integral role in the formation of our company. Neither my co-founder, Skai Dalziel, nor my background was in technology when we got into this space. As such, getting into Wavefront’s VAP program was invaluable for us. We found a lot of value in going through the market validation training. Overall the mentorship we’ve received along the way has been great. We’ve also loved being tenants at Wavefront, the affordable office space has been crucial. We’ve found being connected to Wavefront has allowed us to really plug into the technology scene in Vancouver. We didn’t know anyone here in the tech scene a few years ago and now we feel like we have a strong network – we can attribute a lot of that to our involvement with Wavefront.

Getting into Wavefront’s VAP program was invaluable for us. We found a lot of value in going through the market validation training, and overall the mentorship we’ve received along the way has been great.

From where you stand now, what developments do you see in the next 5-10 years?

In the last year we’ve seen remarkable growth in the number of brands and companies that are partnering with us and we foresee that continuing as mobile payments become more ubiquitous. We anticipate more companies embracing mobile payment options and in turn the size and scope of Guusto’s merchant offerings will grow. This should also open up new markets for us that are currently less sophisticated with current gift card technologies.

From your time leading the company, is there any advice you would share in the face of challenge? 

One thing my business partner and I learned early on is that starting a business always takes longer than you anticipate. I’d advise any up and coming entrepreneurs to keep this in mind – be patient and trust in the process. I’d also caution entrepreneurs to be mindful of how growing your business is impacting your relationships and wellbeing. There will inevitably be good days and bad, don’t let yourself get too high or low based on the day-to-day development of your company.

Why did you select BC for the home of your company?

My co-founder and I are both from Toronto and we originally made the move out here to start our first company in the tourism space in Whistler. When we decided to start Guusto, we knew Vancouver would be a great place for us. The booming tech industry here was a major draw. Additionally, Vancouver’s position on the West Coast is great and the relative proximity to Silicon Valley and venture capital dollars south of the border is also a positive.

Joe and his team are regularly bringing on new merchants and are excited to have recently partnered with Amazon and Tim Hortons. The company will be expanding into the United States in early 2017. 

Guusto pitched on the hit show Dragons’ Den in 2016, check it out here!

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