VCs Love Blippy, But Do Users?

Three-month-old Blippy, the Palo Alto-based social network that invites users to share their credit card transactions with anyone interested in seeing them, is beloved by VCs.

Late last year, before the service had registered more than a couple thousand people, it raised $1.6 million from seemingly everyone who could pile into a seed round, including Charles River Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Ron Conway and Twitter cofounder Evan Williams.

Even investors who didn’t participate think it’s a smart bet, including Jon Callaghan of True Ventures, who recently told me he thinks that Blippy is “brilliant.”

No doubt everyone is thinking about the goldmine of demographic and granular spending information off which Blippy will be somehow capitalizing– not that it has a business model just yet. In an email interview this week, cofounder Philip Kaplan told me that the five-person company has “some ideas for generating revenue, but our priority right now is serving our users with the best product we can and not making money.”

Whether the company is gaining traction as quickly as everyone had hoped is another question. Asked how many people the service has registered so far and how many it seems to be picking up each week, Kaplan responded: “Users are currently streaming more than $1 million per week in everyday purchases to Blippy, and we’re growing fast.” When I emailed again to reiterate my original question, he didn’t respond.

By the looks of things, the number of users sharing their purchases is fairly concentrated. According to the site, 3260 Blippy users have made 76,900 purchases at the iTunes store, 43 customers have made 154 purchases on StubHub; 248 customers have shared 722 purchases on Zappos, and so on.

The depth of the purchase information that users are publishing to Blippy also appears a bit thin. Though Kaplan himself welcomes anyone to see what’s in his “Blippy stream,” which you can see here, many users don’t appear comfortable revealing much about what they are buying unless it’s fairly innocuous — a song off iTunes or a film off Netflix, two of the 16 stores that currently allow Blippy users to show not only how much they’ve spent but also what they’ve specifically bought.

One of those exceptions is when Kaplan himself goes shopping. Clearly his wife and friends are using Blippy as they someday hope many others will — teasing out information about what Kaplan buys and why, and making harmless fun of him in some cases.

Blippy is a very nascent startup, of course, and the early days of Twitter weren’t so long ago that I’ve forgotten when nearly everyone underestimated its potential — that is, everyone outside the same small group that has now placed a bet on Blippy.

There’s also plenty yet to come, according to Kaplan. For one thing, “allowing outside developers to use Blippy as a platform similarly to how they use Twitter [is] something we’re considering but don’t currently offer” he wrote me. 

Blippy, which interfaces with Twitter and Facebook to make it easy for Blippy users to find friends and share purchases, is also “experimenting with other ways to use the Twitter and Facebook platforms to please our users,” he said. A third feature down the road might include providing users a way to categorize purchases, so, for example, they can see what boots people are buying.

Still, I’m beginning to wonder how interesting Blippy is to users, who have all kinds of privacy controls around their spending information — and appear to be using them.

In a story on Blippy in this week’s L.A. Times, the users who sang Blippy’s praises the loudest also happened to be investors, including Jason Calacanis, who told reporter Jessica Guynn that he likes receiving feedback about his Zappos purchases.

Meanwhile, an early adopter named Brad Wayland, who works at a T-shirt company in Kentucky, told her that while he “sees the commercial potential in one day having his customers display their T-shirt designs and group orders on Blippy…[he] started having second thoughts about the extent of his personal use of the site after seeing his family’s monthly health insurance bill show up in his Blippy stream and after having an uncomfortable encounter with strangers regarding his $50 pajamas purchase for his wife at Victoria’s Secret.”

“I started thinking about what information I really wanted people to be able to see about me,” Wayland told Guynn. “I am not sure I want the world to know that I ordered a No. 2 super-sized and two chocolate chip cookies at McDonald’s.”