A Q&A with HashTip CEO Rohit Vashisht. The Edison, New Jersey–based startup was founded in March of this year and launched to the public in mid-August.
SUB: Please describe HashTip, and the value proposition you offer to Moms.
Vashisht: HashTip is a social commerce application for mothers to find and share great tips on kids’ products, activities and deals. Numerous product options, a deluge of information and redundant deals make buying decision difficult. HashTip simplifies this by providing three key elements of the buying decision in one place—narrow options via user curated tips, specific reviews and ratings for research, and the best bargain prices.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Vashisht: HashTip is targeted towards mothers of children 10 years old and younger. Mothers are an online shopping powerhouse who are always looking for great products and bargains for their kids. There are 86 million mothers in the U.S. and 60 percent of them are online. Mothers are 50 percent more likely than an average American to buy online. In our market research we found that more than 90 percent of moms look for bargains and more than 80 percent read reviews before they buy anything online. There are many blogs, websites and social networks that have this information but it is highly fragmented and confusing for mothers. HashTip was built to plug this gap and provide moms a great online platform to find relevant information for buying decisions in one place.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Vashisht: Specialized blogs on deals and coupons, social commerce sites like Fab, and ETSY, and Pinterest can be considered competitors. However, none of them are focused on kids’ products, activities and deals like HashTip.
SUB: What differentiates HashTip from the competition?
Vashisht: Here are our key differentiators:
1. our unique technology brings a myriad of data together for easy decision making. For example, we bring reviews and ratings from Yelp and the app store, product details, and pricing from Amazon, and bargains from deal aggregator sites in one context to provide comprehensive information to our users;
2. we have built a sophisticated parsing engine that collects and parses Facebook messages and tweets to find out product info. and bring all additional information on them. It allows our users to share their experiences on Facebook or Twitter and send it to our platform;
3. our deal engine scans the web 24/7 to find the best deals on tips shared on our platform. It eliminates deal deluge and brings only relevant deals to our users; and
4. no other social commerce sites focus entirely on moms for kids’ products, activities and deals.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Vashisht: HashTip started with an idea and a cute little mobile app in October, 2011. The company was formally incorporated in Delaware in March, 2012 and we released the first version of HashTip in beta on March 15th, 2012.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Vashisht: We realized that people didn’t want to go to yet another social network and wanted to share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. We built a technology by which we could bring their Facebook statuses and tweets, and parse them to find product, location and price information to tag on our service. The idea was for people to add ‘#tip’ tag in their Facebook status or tweets to send them to our service. We decided to name our service HashTip for the high recall value of our tag. The best part was HashTip was a short name and the domain name was available too.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Vashisht: A new business is full of challenges and it is even more difficult if you are trying to build a social commerce business. The most pressing challenges for us have been:
Finding great talent. It is never easy for a young startup to attract great people because of the abundance of opportunities offered by both established companies and late stage startups. We are fortunate to get some awesome people to join our team, but it is always a challenge to expand a team of superstars.
Another key challenge has been to avoid distractions. A startup can do a million things but can only succeed if it focuses on key things. We have been laser-focused on our users’ needs and think really hard before taking on any new feature or idea.
Last but not least is to keep the team motivated. A startup’s ecosystem is always fragile and volatile. It is important to keep everyone—employees, investors, partners and community excited about your young business.
SUB: You recently had your official launch. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Vashisht: HashTip was built to provide great tips on kids’ products, activities and deals to mothers. There couldn’t have been a better time than back-to-school to launch our service, when mothers are expected to make decisions on $80 billion+ worth of back to school supplies. It also gave us an opportunity to warm up our service for going into busy holiday season.
SUB: Do you plan to raise outside funding in the near future?
Vashisht: We raised $200K in Angel money in the early summer and planning to do another round in the Fall.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Vashisht: We are a social commerce service, where mothers make buying decisions on products, activities and deals. We have two revenue streams—affiliate model and subscriptions for small businesses. Our affiliate model has kicked in and we have sold tens of thousands worth of products in a short duration. We plan to bring in our subscription model in a few months.
SUB: What are your goals for HashTip over the next year or so?
Vashisht: We are completely focused on building our community and plan to bring more mothers on our platform. We are also working on our mobile application and will be releasing it soon. There are some interesting revenue streams in the pipe, which might come to fruition next year.
HashTip – www.hashtip.com