With 200+ deal-a-day sites and vendors, the only way to carve out a niche is to find dramatically different takes on group buying (i.e., focusing on verticals or integrating with other content). How about making your buys visible to your entire social network, and going deeper on the game mechanisms?
That’s the approach being taken by HomeRun, a 25-person San Francisco start-up launched by AdRoll cofounder Jared Kopf, who recently recruited former Intuit and GoDaddy exec Bob Olson as senior VP of sales. Using HomeRun, which launched in October 2009, members of your social network can see what you bought and when you bought it.
The site was financed in part by Catalyst Media’s John Durham for an amount that Kopf says would make it No. 4 in deal-a-day raises, following Groupon, Living Social andBuyWithMe, which has raised $21.5 million. It currently serves seven cities, including New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Diego. It also has a limited presence in 19 additional markets. In its core markets, the site has a mixture of feet on the street and telemarketing.
Kopf, a social vet via an early tenure with Slide, says the transparency will add depth to user profiles and also provide participating advertisers with a better market sense of what worked. “It is a friend graph in the same way that Facebook is,” he said. “This is true social buying.”
Like Facebook, users can decide the level of privacy they wish to invoke. For instance, they may want to make a restaurant deal public in hopes that their friends will join them, while keeping offline any buys of retail goods or elective medical treatments.
In addition to public viewing of acquired “Daily Steals,” HomeRun seeks to differentiate via “Avalanches,” which trigger progressively reduced prices for all bidders when certain thresholds are reached, and The Private Reserve, an affinity type program for top point earners, such as special VIP tours that cannot be purchased. Says that Private Reserve offers “early access and preferred access to what a city has to offer.”
Another program, Beginner’s Luck, is described as a welcome wagon type program that provide free or discounted offers for new members, such as a free latte or hot cocoa. The deals don’t require any buying thresholds.