Marketing is expensive so Ali Abdullah wants to cut out the middlemen.
His app, Claim it!, relaunched this week with the goal of connecting people with companies or individuals looking to give stuff away for free.
“Our concept is they can promote whatever they love by just giving people something,” said founder and CEO Ali Abdullah. He previously worked as a software engineer at Google but later ended up homeless for a few months. That’s how the idea for Claim it! came to fruition.
Digital ad budgets reach into the billions of dollars and are still rising, but there’s still doubt on whether it works. Brands don’t know whether or not they’re really selling anything, and more importantly to some, are they creating fans?
This is what Claim it! hopes to address. The app is a social network based around a marketplace for free stuff, with no ads between posts from friends and media outlets. Individuals and brands can give and claim offers instantly or enter for a chance to win anything from product samples to show tickets.
Users can discover local offers, geo-targeted nearby or they can search by zip code. They also can see a list of national offers, available to anyone, anywhere. The free products or deals are available to claim instantly, or they can be set as a chance to win, which is also told to the user immediately.
Claim it! launched with brands aboard, including The Honest Company, Blue Apron, Pair of Thieves, Happy Socks, Ruby Tuesday, Skurt, and Spartan Race.
Abdullah and Claim it! were featured on this week’s finale of Apple’s original series Planet of the Apps. While participating venture capital firm Lightspeed chose not to invest, his mentor on the show Jessica Alba has continued to serve as an adviser.
The app isn’t just for big brands. Similar to Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Letgo, anyone can post an offer. Unlike the competitors, there’s no money changing hands. Everything is free.
It takes just a few minutes to post an offer. Users take a picture, set whether they want it to be local or national, and choose claim or chance. All of it is done via a smartphone. Before the offer goes live, the user receives an email verification to help prevent any spamming or scamming.
Claim it! isn’t brand new. In 2015, Abdullah and his company gained attention in New York City with their pink truck that traveled around the five boroughs every week. Back then, Claim it! users could only redeem offers from the physical truck.
Now, it’s less about the truck—which is in Los Angeles—and instead, the business has gone virtual.
“David [Pham] is our physical human-being truck,” Abdullah joked about Claim It’s community marketing manager. “He’s on college campuses where people say, ‘I would use this for a house party, for tickets.’ He’s getting brands on board.”
“We’re driven by a community of people, driven by local businesses and brands.”
Pham said he’s heard from some brands that they could use it get rid of excess inventory. New restaurants have told him they see potential for introducing themselves to the community with discounts.
“We’re driven by a community of people, driven by local businesses and brands. You can share your content, whether it’s by sampling or by giving it,” Abdullah said.
Claim it! had more than 400,000 app downloads from the first iteration. Abdullah said they saw a lot of attention during that time with more than 20 percent of the community using it every day. The majority of them were in New York.
The app is now available anywhere in the United States—and they’re not taking a cut of anything. The company, based in Newark, is supported by $2.5 million in seed funding. The round, which closed in June, was led by Newark Venture Partners with participation from Infor, former chairman and CEO of Saks Inc. Stephen Sadove, and NBA stars Thaddeus Young and Al Harrington.
For making money in the future, Abdullah said they didn’t plan on anything that would require charging customers. Instead, they could take a fee for offers having higher placement.
“We’re confident that this marketplace is going to catch on fire,” Abdullah said.