Raise Interview

George Bousis, of Raise explains how you can trade in your unused gift cards for gift cards you actually want.

Transcript

Marcus
All right, please tell us your name and your company name?
George
Sure, my name is George Bousis and my company is Raise.com.
Marcus
Okay and what is Raise.com?
George
So Raise is a marketplace for gift cards. We let people sell their unwanted or unused gift cards, store credits and everything and other people can buy discount gift cards for all their favorite brands. It’s very consumer driven very much like an E-Bay stub hub kind of model. We actually work with a lot of the large brands, on their accounts from electronic gift card programs to leveraging data and analytics based on consumer behavior trends, what they’re willing to sell it at, buy it at, market data associated with everything in between.
Marcus
Cool. How large is Raise?
George
There’s 35 of us.
Marcus
Uh-huh.
George
We’ve been around for about a year and a half. Completely bootstrapped, non-funded----
Marcus
Really?
George
Started off in my apartment, kitchen, and grew the company out to where it is today.
Marcus
So what are you guys hoping to accomplish here at Launch Conference?
George
Just meeting good people, really, I’m not really in a money crunch or anything. I don’t really need any backing; I’ve been growing double and triple digits every month, so it’s been great. Just again, meeting good people, Jason Calacanis is one of our backers. So, just other good startups that have got people—we’re kind of tapping into talent, we’re going to be opening up an office here in San Francisco soon.
Marcus
Where are you located?
George
We’re in Chicago.
Marcus
Oh, Okay. So is it just you by yourself who came out here to do this?
George
No, there’s five of us. They’re all roaming around and doing what they do best, so we’re kind of networking, meeting people, some are just building some new software, some things that we’re going to be releasing her at Launch.
Marcus
Are they doing the Hack-A-Thon?
George
I think they’re not this year. They’re a little too busy doing some other things, but we’re going to----
Marcus
Work?
George
Yeah, we’re developing some cool things; launching our referral rewards platform for everybody here at Launch and we just recently built it all out and we’re making some other cool announcements.
Marcus
So you started this thing and what’s your background?
George
I come—you know, it’s funny; I actually come from the grocery business.
Marcus
Really?
George
Working in the grocery business, my family, I was doing a lot of their rewards platform in the back end so they see developing as a way that we can understand shopping habits. What are people buying, what are they doing, how much money did they spend, where do they come from, kind of a Rewards Preferred platform, I came up with the idea, I helped scale that business to about two hundred and sixty one year and now I’m doing this.
Marcus
And so what kind of usage do you guys have and what’s your revenue model?
George
So our revenue model is we basically take a commission off anything that people sell on the site but we also get paid by the brands based on what people buy so we get a commission on that end and we also get paid commissions based on data and stuff, matching behavior and serial numbers.
Marcus
Okay, so if I sell you a Home Depot gift card----
George
But you’re not selling it to me you’re selling it to another user. So you’re listing your hundred dollar----
Marcus
So let’s pretend you’re another user.
George
Sure.
Marcus
So I put it up there and you agree to buy it for some price?
George
Yeah, I buy it. So, you’re saying I want ninety dollars for a hundred dollar gift card.
Marcus
Okay.
George
I’d go on there and now I’m saving 10% at Home Depot. I purchase the gift card, it gets electronically transferred into the person’s My Account page.
Marcus
And then how does Raise.com make money from that?
George
And we get—we make 10% on the seller, it’s moving to 15% now, because the traction has been so large I might as well take advantage of 50% more revenue.
Marcus
Sure.
George
But we’re working with a lot of offline partners now from Cash America and EZ Corp and a lot of people that are taking our business to about 1500 locations nation wide.
Marcus
Cool. What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this startup?
George
Probably another startup. [Laughing.]
Marcus
Yeah. So you’ve been bitten by the bug?
George
Yeah, you know for me, it’s just kind of being an entrepreneur and working hard, I mean I started off really young, my dad put us to work at a really early age and we were pushing carts and bagging groceries and doing things because he always wanted us to kind of be, you know, find the entrepreneur in us, and I think he inspired a lot more, so I went out and recruited a business partner, and he’s here and our CTO is here and it’s been great. We’re basically on boarding about one person a week now.
Marcus
Nice. That’s phenomenal.
George
Yep.
Marcus
So if Raise was a Super Hero, what would be its super power?
George
What would be its super power? Tough question, you put me on the ball. Well, we always say, give yourself a raise, so try to give people a raise and help them out and earn more for your money and improve life. If you’re not familiar with the gift card space, a hundred and fifteen billion were purchased in 2012, 20% go unused every year, so that’s 63 million a day that’s lost. We’re trying to solve a bigger problem so I think the real thing is helping people out and trying to do something more.
Marcus
I get a lot of gift cards that go in the drawer.
George
Well, $300 on average per family in the US----
Marcus
Wow.
George
So, we’re trying to solve a bigger problem. I think there’s a better use for that money and we’re really trying to give people control with what they do with their money.
Marcus
Excellent, excellent. Well thank you very much.
George
Thank you guys for stopping by.