How Blippy's founders dreamed up a Twitter for your credit card (invites)

There’s a new site called Blippy based on a pretty provocative idea — it allows users to share all the purchase information from one of their credit cards.

Once you buy a movie ticket from Fandango or a cup of coffee from Starbucks, Blippy automatically publishes those purchases in a stream of updates that other users can follow, Twitter-style. The idea is to share this information with your friends and maybe start conversations about what you’re buying.

The site has been in private testing for several months, but it’s starting to offer more invites to the public, including 100 for VentureBeat readers — just go to the Blippy site and enter the code “venturebeat2010″.

Co-founder Philip Kaplan — known for founding the Fucked Company website to mock failing companies, as well as advertising network AdBrite — told me a little more about the company’s story. The idea was incubated at venture firm Charles River Ventures, which brought Kaplan on as an entrepreneur in residence back in June. While there, Kaplan played with different startup ideas, most of them finance-related. Meanwhile, Charles River partner Saar Gur connected him to two young aspiring entrepreneurs down the hall, Ashvin Kumar and Chris Estreich, who were also trying to come up with the next big thing. (Kaplan says he already knew the pair from one of their projects, personalized song site GreetBeatz, because he’d offered to write heavy metal songs for GreetBeatz.)

The key insight that Kumar and Estreich developed was that a lot of the data from your credit card could be used socially. Kaplan says he liked the idea, and started to talk to them about it every day.

“Before long, it was all I could think about,” Kaplan says. “I basically begged and pleaded Ash and Chris to let me come on as a co-founder.”

And so Blippy was born.

The obvious question here is whether people actually want to share information from their credit card. Kaplan acknowledges that it’s a big hurdle, but he argues that most of the inhibitions people have about sharing this data are irrational — if you ask them why they don’t want to share it, they can’t come up with a good answer. And if you actually think about each time you make a credit card purchase and wonder, “Would I mind sharing this with my friends?” most of the time you’d just shrug and say no. (That’s certainly true in my case.)

You can, in fact, keep many or most of your purchases private by just using credit cards that aren’t hooked up to the Blippy site. (You don’t even have to connect a credit card — you can just follow other users.) Kaplan says that he’s kept that option open for himself, but he noticed over the last few months that he never actually uses his private cards. Other users seem to be doing the same thing, he says. They usually want to use their Blippy card, because they want to see what other people have to say about their purchases.

“When you buy things, you’ve always been sharing them with the credit card companies and the places you’re buying the stuff from,” Kaplan says. “No longer are only corporations able to benefit from this data, but [the user is] going to benefit from this data, too.”

Kaplan says he isn’t making any funding announcements yet, but Blippy is talking to a number of venture capitalists. When it does raise a round, it seems like a safe bet that Charles River will be involved.


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