Swipely Aims to (Politely) Turn Purchases Into Conversations

The new service Swipely wants to make shopping social, but not in an oversharing, soul-baring kind of way. Is that even possible? We’ll have to see, as the site is launching into private beta today. (If you jet over now and use the code GIGAOM you should be able to get in ASAP.)

Swipely comes from Tellme co-founder Angus Davis, who is reapplying some of the speech recognition principles he capitalized on at his last company to make sense of the garbled mess of digital shopping data. The Swipely team has figured out how to intake transaction records — whether through direct connection to a credit card account or emailed receipts — and match them to product catalogs and restaurant menus. The result is an easy way to tell other people what you bought. Today Swipely might just start a conversation in a comment thread, but later it might connect you more closely with the retailer to take advantage of deals, find you nearby stores that your friends or people like you recommend, or inspire savvy shopping through competition with friends.

Providence, R.I.-based Swipely will naturally draw comparison with Blippy, the automated purchase-sharing service that has already launched (and already had one major user privacy slip-up). These sites also harken back to Facebook’s ill-fated Beacon activity-sharing project of a few years ago.

But Swipely is taking a more conservative approach. Users must approve each purchase they share from the online interface (though they can opt-in to automated sharing). The amount they spend is never shared. Users don’t give Swipely the logins to their retailer accounts (though they can give the site their Gmail (S goog) credentials and indicate which stores’ emailed receipts to pull). And there are lots of assurances of “bank-grade encryption” for all personal information.

“We want to let people nudge themselves into auto-sharing,” said Davis. “We could turn off a lot of mainstream people if the lever starts out at that end of the spectrum.”

Swipely has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures and including Greylock Ventures and First Round Capital with Chris Sacca, Keith Rabois, Ron Conway, Anton Commissaris (from Mint.com), Lee Hower, Charles Moldow and Emil Michael. The company previously raised $1 million from Davis, First Round and Conway.

Davis’ plans for Swipely’s future include mobile apps (along with filtering purchases by location), sharing on social networks (that will come after the site launches to the public, which is supposed to be this summer), improved transaction analysis (the match rate is currently 50 percent, but the system should learn as people start using it) and retailer participation.

Ultimately, the site should save users money while also inspiring demand for new purchases (a push-pull relationship, to be sure!). For instance, Davis said, the site could introduce a game with a leaderboard for who found the cheapest gas each week. But that’s the thing — you can’t exactly have a gas price leaderboard without sharing transaction amounts. For the service to become more useful, I’d bet it will become less private and less conservative.

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