A Q&A with Nifti co-founder Nathan Sharp. The Boston-based startup offers a shopping service based around user ‘wish lists’. The app then enables the user to track prices on the wish list items and make purchases when the time is right. In mid-July the team both launched the app and announced the closing of an $800,000 Seed funding round. Investors include Google Ventures and Otto Capital. It was founded last year by Sharp and Greg Kimball.
SUB: Please describe Nifti and your primary innovation.
Sharp: Nifti offers one simple place on the web for you to track the prices of the things you love. You can find amazing products on Nifti or any of your favorite shopping sites, enter the amount you want to pay, and receive price updates as soon as the product drops to your price. Just as important, you can see the prices on the stuff you want fluctuate on a daily basis with Nifti’s beautiful prices graphs. This way you can be confident that you’re buying at the right time, every time.
The primary innovation is true price transparency with a beautiful, user-friendly interface. Price transparency means always knowing when a product drops in price with price alerts and how the current price is compared to past prices with price history graphs. Retailers are changing prices more and more frequently, and we’ve developed a site that makes it super easy to monitor these changes to get the best deals. Nifti is one of the best tools to store, organize, and share what you want, but it stands alone as the best way to watch whatever product you want for falling prices.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Sharp: Young, active parents.
The purchases we see being tracked most frequently tend to hit three criteria: 1.) high price—because even a 10 percent drop really matters to you; 2.) ability to plan—because you can afford to be patient while watching for savings; 3.) need to remember—because you can easily forget things, especially when you find them on unfamiliar sites.
It seems that young parents have gravitated to the platform because they are buying so many new things for their kids, homes and spouses. This means they are feeling the budget crunch while they are purchasing something for the first time—like a stroller. Nifti offers them a way to store, organize and track all the things they need to remember and want to buy at the best possible time.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Sharp: Pinterest’s secret boards and price alerts.
SUB: What differentiates Nifti from the competition?
Sharp: On paper, we offer price alerts, price graphs, and the ability to organize collections of the products you love. That may sound familiar, but it’s really the design and user experience that sets us apart from anyone else. We invested a ton of time into a simple, beautiful site that makes it super easy to scan through all of the best deals on the things that you yourself have tracked. Just try it and you’ll see the difference from Pinterest and all other price trackers.
SUB: When was Nifti founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Sharp: Greg Kimball and I founded Nifti while we were roommates at the Tuck School at Dartmouth in late 2012.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Nifti? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Sharp: The idea started as a way to connect someone who wants a certain product at a certain price with a merchant who can sell at that price. The real ‘aha’ moment came as Greg and his wife were planning for his new baby, and he saw just how much work she had to do to organize, track, and share all the things she was considering with her family and friends. After seeing her capture everything in a cumbersome Excel sheet, the Nifti team realized that the best place to start was a shopping organization tool that allows you to observe the secret life of prices behind everything you want.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story, or meaning, behind it?
Sharp: Ahhh—naming is so difficult; especially with all the domain speculators that bought every sensical name way back in 1999. We racked our brains for months, and we just couldn’t find anything that connected with people on an intellectual and emotional level. We ran into names that were too B2B, too boringly straightforward, or too ‘bottom-of-the-barrel discount’ sounding. When Nifti popped into Nathan’s head, we immediately liked it because it summed up what we are in a quirky, understated way. Even before we found the name, the one question we asked ourselves before exploring a new feature was: “Is it useful?” In other words, “Is it nifty?” Because of that, we knew the name ‘Nifti’ was a natural fit.
SUB: You recently launched and announced that you have raised $800,000 in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Sharp: This is a great time to launch Nifti because parents are just starting to plan back-to-school purchases, and it gives us a good four months to create awareness before the holiday shopping mindset sets in.
SUB: How do you plan to use the Seed funds?
Sharp: Our Seed funding allows us to improve current features and create a better mobile experience with an expanded engineering team.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Sharp: Seed funding is about proving several hypotheses about how customers will respond to improvements in online shopping. With current user engagement so high, those hypotheses are being proven. Now, the challenge is to grow awareness and introduce even more powerful ways to connect shoppers with relevant products and merchants. To do that quickly, we’ll likely raise a second round of funding in the next year.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Sharp: One of the greatest challenges we face is creating awareness around the fact that prices change so much so often, and that people can save a ton of money if they practice a little advance planning in their purchases. People are used to buying on an impulse, and it’s going to take great marketing and word-of-mouth campaigns to get people to ease off of unnecessary impulse buying.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Sharp: For now, Nifti receives a small affiliate commission when shoppers track from and complete a purchase on a select number of merchant websites.
SUB: What are your goals over the next year or so?
Sharp: Mobile. We want Nifti to fit seamlessly into the current shopping habits of our users, and that means being with them on their phones and tablets in a way that naturally complements the way they shop.
Nifti – www.nifti.com