A Cleverbug of a deal opens Vodafone up to potentially 450m gifters worldwide

14 Sep 2015

Pictured: Kealan Lennon

Kealan Lennon, CEO of Dublin start-up Cleverbug, is the mastermind behind a deal with Vodafone that will allow the mobile operator to allow 450m social network users to send and receive greeting cards.

The start-up has forged a strategic global partnership with Vodafone whereby a new add-on called CleverCards Complete will allow the mobile network’s users to send physical greeting cards to friends direct from their mobile phone.

With CleverCards Complete, Vodafone customers can send up to three personalised cards, including postage to anywhere in the world, plus limitless eCards that can be shared by email, SMS and on social networks, including Facebook, for just €5 per month.

The new service will be available in Ireland first on Vodafone’s network from 16 September.

Lennon explained that Cleverbug’s technology has solved a major problem in the gifting industry, understanding purchase intent on the one side, and what the recipient would like on the other.

“It’s about understanding who the buyer is and who the recipient is. Amazon does a great job in knowing all about you, but it doesn’t know about your relationship with other people such as on birthdays, friendships and more. It’s all about emotion and memory,” Lennon said.

Coining the term ‘Gifting Graph’, the company has built the largest Gifting Graph in the world – a social graph of closest friends and family for 450m people around the world.

Sentiment analysis is the key to the gifting economy


Vodafone consumer director Marcel de Groot, head of consumer products Karen Walsh and Cleverbug CEO Kealan Lennon

Cleverbug uses its technology and data to drive purchase intent for important personal occasions.  While there is immense commercial competition around the obvious, publicly-known gifting dates, the gifting market for birthdays and anniversaries, at US$50 billion annually, is larger than Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day combined.

Lennon’s vision is eventually to move beyond greeting cards to more substantial gifts like vouchers and more.

Lennon is targeting a vast US$500bn gifting market. In the US alone gifts of goods and services amount to US$220bn with birthdays the second largest gifting occasion at $50bn, after Christmas at $90bn.

CleverCards has customers in 200 countries around the world serviced from 75 different print and logistics factories around the world.

The move to sign a deal with Cleverbug is an astute one on Vodafone’s part. The world’s fourth largest mobile operator faces the same dilemma as other operators, competing in the world of over-the-top internet giants like Facebook, WhatsApp and Google, who are making vast profits from the internet without building the infrastructure. Deals like that with Cleverbug give mobile operators the chance to regain the initiative in the communications business.

“This year is the tipping point for mobile operators who are not making as much money out of voice and SMS as before. This revenue is being replaced by data and this deal with Vodafone comes on the heels of similar deals it has done with Spotify and Sky to enhance their data and content offerings.”

Lennon said that in the future there is an opportunity to enhance the entire shopping experience through services like Clevercards Complete.

“At the moment people are sending greetings cards and soon this will be gift cards where they can send value and payments to loved ones and friends. The key thing we bring to the table is data – we understand people’s likes and interests and can curate communications by mining publicly available data on Facebook and making it easier for people to send physical cards or value to loved ones.

“Players like Amazon know what you might want to buy but they don’t know your relationships with others online and when it is time to buy that birthday card. My ambition is to take on that market by mining what we understand from sentiment analysis,” Lennon said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years