The Big Idea: Local mobile gifting app picks up steam (and the tab)

Whistler is becoming a notable tech hub, home to a growing number of startup entrepreneurs.

This makes sense — a work hard, play hard philosophy is fuelled when world-class recreation awaits just outside the office. Entrepreneurs and longtime friends Joe Facciolo and Skai Dalziel, joined this Whistler tech trend when they stepped into the startup space with their new mobile gifting app, Guusto.

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Co-founding Guusto created a scalable business with a goal to replace plastic gift cards. The Guusto app makes it easy to instantly gift a thoughtful product like a drink, dinner or even a dessert at restaurants across Canada.

“We are taking the idea of picking up the tab at lunch for a client or buying a friend a drink on their birthday and allowing you to do it when you can’t be there in person,” explained co-founder Joe Facciolo.

The giver uses their phone to choose the gift (and the value), add a message and then send it off via email or text message. Recipients redeem the gift on any smartphone and choose a venue to redeem the gift value.  

The win/win/win formula

Many in Whistler will know Facciolo and Dalziel as the culinary enthusiasts who co-founded Whistler Tasting Tours in 2008. The operation was their first venture together and taught them the value of collaborating with restaurants to deliver a service that elevates customer experiences and delivers value to merchants.

“In any relationship, it’s great when everybody wins. The Whistler Tasting Tours model was built to be mutually beneficial (good for customers, restaurants and us). It aligns well with our values and it’s the same approach we have taken with Guusto,” said Facciolo.

Working closely with restaurant brands as well as consumers through Whistler Tasting Tours, the duo developed a unique perspective on some pain points in the industry and the opportunity to solve some of them with a flexible gifting tool that eliminates inconveniences like lost gift cards and expiry dates.  

In the spirit of doing good with good eats, there is an additional party that benefits from their business model. Through One Drop, an initiative by Guy Laliberte (the founder of Cirque Du Soleil), Guusto donates one day of clean drinking water for every app download and for every gift sent.

Finding a gifting gap

With years of restaurant marketing experience and partnerships, Facciolo and Dalziel noticed a unique gap in the marketplace. They saw a desire for people to strengthen relationships and aimed to create a convenient, meaningful way to fill this gap with gifting at your fingertips on your phone.

“If you have friends and family that live far away or you’re a busy professional that needs to create touch points with clients, there are often limits on time or distance and it’s impossible to always be there in person. Guusto solves this and allows you to offer a thoughtful gesture, when you need to, in real time,” explained Facciolo.

Accelerating growth

Guusto’s growth has been rapid, with partner restaurants in over 1,000 locations in 250 cities.

Their first venture taught them the value of establishing a reputation as honest hard workers. Being hard-wired for hard work accelerated restaurant partnerships when growing Guusto, but they harnessed additional horsepower with acceptance into the Wavefront Venture Acceleration program last spring.

The program, with its head office in Vancouver, helps early-stage wireless companies in Canada accelerate growth through connections to experts, space, training, funding and technical resources. This startup, credits their accelerated success to the mentorship, education and vast network that the program offers.

Joe Facciolo on the entrepreneurial roller coaster:

“It’s been important for us not to get too high or low during the process. Staying humble and hungry has been our mantra and helps us keep our eye on the big picture. Fear can often creep in, but I’ve found it’s important to stay mindful and not to let that affect decisions or impede progress.”

Make business easy — tune in to The Big Idea, a bi-weekly column from the Whistler Chamber of Commerce showcasing a Whistler business innovating in
their sector.

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