Greg Segall, CEO of Alyce, is using artificial intelligence to send heartfelt corporate gifts.
Alyce is an online gifting service that companies can use to give customers, prospects and employees a choice from over 30,000 presents to show they are appreciated and to build goodwill.
The person giving the gift provides the Alyce site with the recipient’s name, their email address and how much they would like to spend.
The AI platform scours all publicly available information, including social media sites of the recipients, to come up with something they are likely to enjoy. Recipients then receive an email, a card, or a box with a code inside and plug into the Alyce site and choose to keep the present, donate its value to charity or exchange the gift for another in the same price range. Gifts go up to $5,000, including trips, artwork and expensive furniture.
“It’s such a fun company to build,” Segall told FierceCEO. “It’s all about gifting and creativity.”
Needing 'a better way'
Segall got the idea for Alyce—which is named to have an AI connotation—after receiving a misguided holiday gift. A former partner gave him a Patagonia jacket whose pockets were filled with chocolate that had melted and a gift card that said Merry Christmas. “I’m Jewish,” Segall said. “I thought, ‘There has to be a better way.’”
The first bare-bones version of Alyce was developed in six weeks in 2015, with Segall working with a developer. From there it has continued to be built on so that it now serves 300 customers, including Verizon, DHL and Lenovo. The company serves corporate clients, but some users purchase gifts for friends through Alyce.
Customers are pretty happy with the service, with testimonials on the company's site attesting to its effectiveness. "With Alyce, I see that surprising and delighting with gifts they want is a far better way to develop stronger business relationships," said Verizon Digital Sales VP Craig Kaplan on Alyce's website.
"With Alyce, I'm able to send a gift that my client will truly appreciate," wrote Andrew Sobel, vice president at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.
Expansion may be in the offing, given $5.3 million in venture capital the company secured in October.
Segall said he designed Alyce with the kicker of allowing gift givers to see their return on investment. They are able to track the money they spend and also see the outcome of the spend, he said.
Some 35% of the company’s business comes during the holidays, but it is generally steady throughout the year, Segall said.
As he builds the business, Segall has made some mistakes. The biggest, he said, was in hiring. He learned to “Hire slow and fire fast,” he said. “We want the right people with the right experience for the right stage of the business.”
In being an effective leader Segall prioritizes “listening, empathy and the ability to build a solid accountability structure.”
The company’s values are to be better, move fast, be open, take risks and deliver results.