The idea of promotional gifts to nurture customer relationships is not a new concept. There’s even a cottage industry of gifting-as-a-service startups that promise to streamline the task, ranging from companies like Reachdesk and &Open to Sendoso and Goody. Sellers claim their industry is profitable (a estimated $258 billion) because the evidence suggests that corporate gifts work. A study found that 66% of people who received a promotional product or gift could remember the brand that sent it, and 79% would likely do business with the company again.
But according to Rabi Gupta, the co-founder of Evabot, there is “a lot of clutter” in the corporate gift space. He argues that many suppliers don’t do much more than send swag from the company’s brand, such as T-shirts and thermoses, which doesn’t really promote loyalty. in a recent questionnairecompanies cited the inability to buy from multiple brands, manage inventory and storage, and the limited range of products as their biggest gifting challenges.
Evabot itself is a supplier. But Gupta claims the company’s AI-powered approach, which uses a chatbot to gauge potential gift recipients about their preferences, preferences and lifestyles to personalize gifts, is more effective than most.
Investors agree. Evabot announced today that it has raised $10.83 million in a funding round led by Comcast Ventures with participation from Alumni Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Precursor Ventures, Forefront Venture Partners and Silicon Valley Bank. Gupta said the proceeds will be used to scale Evabot’s business, product development and growth, as well as its investments in AI to build “fully automated” gift experiences.
“Every company wants to really ‘know’ its customers and employees in order to create thoughtful experiences and touchpoints. Every business cares about building relationships, but they need to do it on a large scale,” Gupta told londonbusinessblog.com via email. “Because most of us are now remote, companies need a better way to connect with their customers and employees.”
Gupta, along with Satwick Saxena, Ashish Kumar and Akshay Gupta, launched Evabot, formerly known as Vizzi, in 2016 shortly after they immigrated to the US. Prior to Evabot, Rabi Gupta, Kumar and Akshay Gupta worked together at India’s iCouchApp, a social app for discussing TV shows and channels.
Like other corporate gift platforms, Evabot offers a range of gift services ranging from holiday and birthday gifts to employee onboarding items. To automatically fill in details such as names and contact information, Evabot connects to customer relationship and HR systems such as Salesforce and Workday. Once the recipients have completed a questionnaire sent through the aforementioned chatbot, Evabot automatically selects and sends the gift – complete with a handwritten note.
Evabot rival Alyce also uses AI to plug into various apps and track relationships to personalize gift recommendations. But Rabi Gupta says Evabot uses AI in a variety of ways, not just for gift suggestions.
Rabi Gupta tells londonbusinessblog.com that the business model is a combination of software-as-a-service subscriptions and revenue per gift. The pricing has proven attractive: Evabot has shipped more than 125,000 unique gifts to more than 1,000 customers to date, including health giant Cigna. Most gifts come from “craft” direct-to-consumer brands and local vendors, Rabi Gupta says.
But what about future growth? The market for promotional gifts was rosy outlook as of 2020, when a poll found that 54% of companies planned to invest more in gifts in the next two years. Despite Rabi Gupta admitting that he has seen a “slowdown”, Evabot’s co-founders believe the company can perform despite the headwinds.
“There is definitely a short-term delay” [in the corporate gifting space] as companies slow down the hiring… But overall we see a very strong interest from companies that attach importance to building long term relationships,” said Rabi Gupta. “Before we increased our Series A, we were profitable. Right now we have a two-year runway and the idea is to be profitable and scale 4x within the next 18 months.”
Evabot has raised a total of $13.83 million in capital to date, including a previously undisclosed $3 million seed round. The company employs 60 people in offices in San Francisco, Dallas and cities in Canada and India. Rabi Gupta aims to grow to 70 employees by the end of the year.