Claim, a platform that is both a rewards app and a social network, has raised $4 million in a seed funding round led by Sequoia Capital. The startup is on a mission to make shopping fun, rewarding and social. The app launched on an invite-only beta in January and is currently focused on university and college students in Boston.
With Claim, users and their friends can earn cash back, exchange rewards and even redeem them together. The platform is a social network that aims to focus on real-world value and communal experiences rather than manufactured content and reposts.
The startup was founded by CEO Sam Obletz and CTO Tap Stephenson in November 2021. The duo met when they became roommates at Yale and came up with the idea for Claim when they reunited in business school at Harvard. Obletz and Stephenson originally started out by thinking about what it means to own something digital.
“We started Claim because we were really interested in what it meant to own something online,” Stephenson told TechCrunch in an interview. “We saw this in web3 and we see this in sports, which is in collectibles. There’s always been places where you can own something online, but there was no generalized form of it. And so we started asking: What would it mean to remove all friction to actually owning something online? And that over time, led to Claim.”
The pair started off by envisioning a platform where you can earn rewards that are usable in the real world and linked to your credit card. They then decided that users should be able to use the rewards with their friends or exchange them. As they came up with these ideas, Obletz and Stephenson realized that they were embarking on a social mechanism that doesn’t widely exist today.
Claim brings consumers a new kind of experience based on value that is somewhat similar to the idea of trading cards, but for brands. The startup says it has turned consumer rewards into a multiplayer game by allowing users to have new experiences together while saving money.
If you love a brand and your friend hasn’t checked it out yet, you can send them a special reward like a free acai bowl from your favorite coffee shop or a t-shirt from your favorite streetwear brand. You can exchange rewards, try new places together and earn status from spending at brands. Claim also does a “drop” once a week where users unwrap a new reward at the same time. Users can decide to redeem the reward, gift it or trade it with friends.
Although Claim aims to be beneficial for consumers, the startup is also focused on helping marketers and brands reach new customers in a way that doesn’t involve bombarding them with ads on Google, Instagram and TikTok. On Claim, consumers discover brands via rewards from friends. The startup believes that the ability to actually try a product is more beneficial than an ad when trying to reach new customers.
“We make it so much easier for marketers,” Obletz said. “We can find customers based on where they shop and where their friends shop. If they haven’t gone before we can give them a reward to try their brand for the first time, which is super critical because we’re bringing in real new customers, and we can show them how effective that reward was based on spend. And so it’s just this insanely simple marketing tool that we’ve created.”
The startup is currently working with merchants ranging from Fortune 500 companies, like PepsiCo, and local restaurants, such as Life Alive in Boston.
Claim’s early results have been promising, as it says one partner on its platform hit 97% of their new customer goal in half the expected time, while another acquired customers with a 35% repeat rate within 30 days.
Claim is currently focused on Gen Z as its entire user base because it believes this group is interested in authenticity and is tired of advertising, especially when every other post on social media these days appears to be sponsored. The startup wants to continue testing in Boston, where it currently has more than 10,000 users, before eventually expanding nationally.
As for the new funding, the company plans to use it to hire new talent and grow its eight-person team over the next year. Claim will also use the funding to focus on testing and learning from an engineering perspective before expanding into new markets.
The startup’s seed round follows its unannounced $2 million pre-seed round led by Susa Ventures and Box Group. Claim’s funding rounds included participation from 6th Man Venture, Reflexive Capital, A* Capital, GSW Ventures, The Kraft Group and more.