Pittsburgh Technical Council

Gifting Gets Easy

Gifting Gets Easy

Article Published: May 5, 2014

By Jonathan Kersting, Associate Publisher

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Anyone looking to disrupt the $300 billion gifting industry?

Lily&Strum—a startup nestled in East Liberty—is looking to do just that. And yes, that’s billion with a “B.”

The company is a web and mobile platform that reminds, recommends and delivers the right gift at the right time. Traci Lipple and her husband, Joe, founded Lily&Strum in 2013 with one simple mission—to make everyone a better gifter. And there are a lot of gifters out there!

“At Lily&Strum, giving great gifts is not just a transaction, but a true emotional experience,” said Lipple, who besides co-founding Lily&Strum is also Vice President of Marketing.

CEO Stephan Mueller explained that much of the consumer Internet innovation has been about creating scale and efficiencies for transactions, giving people direct access to almost an infinite inventory of items for sale—think Amazon.

“However, at its heart, giving great gifts is not a transaction!” exclaimed Mueller.

“With Lily&Strum, we were bridging the gap between efficient web technology and true emotional connections. Keeping our focus on the gifter and their intentions for each occasion helps us ensure that our users can relax and create meaningful moments.”

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As a subscription-based service, Lipple pointed out that Lily&Strum is not forced to align with particular retailers or products. “This allows us to put the focus on the user and finding the right gift for that user,” she said.

Besides scouring large retailers for great gifts, Lily&Strum also hopes to positively impact small retailers, too. The company scours the Internet for small shops that sell unique gifts. The typical gifter cannot easily find many of these small and niche retailers. Lipple noted that Lily&Strum can become a platform for small retailers to reach a much larger audience.

Launching a startup is never easy, said Mueller, who is a serial entrepreneur in Pittsburgh who has been part of such notable companies as Apangea Learning and Just Between Friends.

“There were two main hurdles to launching the company,” he said. “The first is the obvious one—raising money. Being a consumer-based Internet play has added to that challenge, as this is not an area where Pittsburgh’s startup community has a ton of experience.

“Finding those early strategic investors was key and certainly helps take the risk for follow-up investors. The second was building the core team. Getting the right people in the right roles is probably the most important contributor to success.”

Lily&Strum’s team consists of Mueller and Lipple along with CTO Richard Romero and Lauren Urbschat serving as Director of Curation. The “fifth Beatle” of the team has been Thinktiv, according to Mueller and Lipple.

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“Partnering with Thinktiv was a huge advantage for us,” said Lipple. “Not only do they have tremendous design capabilities, but they have a proven track record of helping companies get to market. For a consumer-driven company like us, brand means everything. They have exceeded our expectations with our brand.”

Lily&Strum is coming off of a private beta launch and is set for a public beta and plans a full launch by the end of Summer. Become a thoughtful gifter by visiting www.lilyandstrum.com

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