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TechCrunch 50: RackUp and Udorse

Two more presentations from TechCrunch worth mentioning. The first, a interesting gift-card auction site that aims to expand retailers market for gift cards. RackUp is an EBay-like site where shoppers can bid on gift cards. The people who bid soonest (unlike ebay) and the most get the gift card, typically for less than the actual amount on the card. (You might pay $50 for an $80 gift card.) The discount you receive depends on a few factors which I didn’t quite catch, but it has something to do with when you bid (rewarding earlier bidders first) and your ‘score’ on RackUp. It sounded like they give frequent shoppers bigger bonuses.

How do they do this? The retailers buy this as a service from RackUp, providing the gift cards at 10-20% discount to company. RackUp then gives a bonus back to the buyer, on average about 8% discount. If you don’t win, you don’t pay anything, so it’s not an auction. The CEO says: “We are actually growing the pre-paid market for retailers.”

The gift card market is 100 billion and, according to the presentation, 7-8% of that is bought online.

Finally, UDorse was one of the best received (by the judges) presentations. By now it must be clearer and clearer that on the internet eventually every square inch of possible attention is for sale – even your private photos. This visual endorsement platform aims to transform the picture you are already sharing online into a product endorsement deal that earn can you money on. No joke. As you browse over the photo, there’s a little “U” icon that you can rollover and see what the thing is – for example, the dress or clothing you are wearing in the picture.

“We call them ‘udorsements’.” co-founder Geoffrey Lewis says. “A cool new brand, a hot new spot, travel (Hotels), anything,” he continues, in reference to what can be “udorsed.”

The floating box which appears when you rollover can include a little caption of the brand, how much it costs, and how you can get it for. While the app doesn’t work direclty on Facebook, the company says they pull in media from all your social networking sites (Facebook, Flickr, etc). They have an iPhone app, plans to expand to Twitter, and build Javascript plugin for your blog.

Marissa Mayer, from Google, responded: “I’ve always thought that this was one of the primary ways social networks make money.”

Tony Hsieh: “I do think it’s a little weird that if I’m your friend, you can get paid so I can look like you, dress like you.”

UDorse is a Manhattan-based company co-founded by Geoffrey Lewis, Trevor Austin, Jonathan Hoffman.

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