Whenever Erin O'Halloran bought someone a gift online, she couldn't wait to see their reaction. She’d get so excited, she would send recipients a photo of the gift in advance. Her joy in gift-giving led her to create Newpy, a social network app for posting photos of products hidden inside digital packaging.

The app allows users to send each other gift ideas, save them from their laptop or phone, and then order by wrapping the gift image. Senders can set a date when the digital gift can be opened so they can see the recipient’s reaction.

“Usually, when it comes to gifting, you have to wait to make someone feel special—it’s all about a date,” said O’Halloran, who is based in Saint John. “You have to order on time and you have to give the gift on the date for the person to feel appreciated.

“With Newpy, you can make any day and more days special…By showing someone a gift they will be receiving, they will look forward to getting it.”

O’Halloran said Newpy has competitors, but they focus on selling their own products on their apps, and when someone buys a product, the receiver is notified by text.

“With Newpy, users can send any gift from any website digitally wrapped as we do not directly sell products on our app,” she said.

“Instead of notifying the gift receiver by text that you got them a gift, our app allows you to send a digital gift on Newpy. The other person opens it like they would a regular gift and then you can see their reaction. We are all about re-creating the gifting experience virtually.”

In February, Newpy will launch its first beta web app. The development follows the creation of two prototypes and interviews with users.

It’s a big step for Newpy, which garnered attention in March, 2017, when it won more than $300,000 In the Breakthru contest run by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.

At the time, O’Halloran was still a business student at the University of PEI. It was a big win for the young entrepreneur who had brought her sister Alana into the business, with responsibility for refining the digital design.

NBIF Funding Rose 8.8% to $6.2M in 2017-18.

The sisters have recently altered their business plan.

“From Breakthru in 2017 with Newpy, our goal was to try and get as many people as possible to give gifts digitally and charge $1.99 per digital gift sent,” O’Halloran said.

She said their research has revealed that people invest time and effort in finding the right gift before making a purchase. Now, Newpy is free for users to send as many digital gifts as they like. The new revenue model involves charging companies.

“Once we prove people are saving gift ideas, we’re going to create a way for companies to track who saves their gift idea and be able to offer those potential customers a discount to encourage purchase,” she said.

“We will charge companies a monthly subscription fee based off of how many saved gifts they track.”

She said the total addressable market is huge: 140 million gifts were ordered online in the U.S. during the 2016 holiday season, 35 million of these were ordered with same-day delivery and one-third were given to people who did not live with the buyer.

O’Halloran’s father, John, a vet and businessman, is also a factor in the creation of Newpy.

“My dad told me he read that if you try to write down one business idea per day, once you reach 100, ten will be really good and one will be your million-dollar idea. So, I was looking for an idea to pursue and Newpy was in the seventies on my list,” she said.