You’ve learned all about product testing and whether it was from school or the Internet you know that based on who is testing the product and how it is framed can give you completely different results. Well a new startup, one that was once a college student care packaging company (AKA your future customers), is doing product testing as good as anyone else. With Pijon, care packages are sent to highly curated customers as well out to colleges across America and you get sincere real life analytics and feedbacks from their testing. With already a Seed round under their belt they are looking to expand the already great Pijon brand that serves brands such as Coca-Cola, Uber, and St. Ives.
AlleyWatch got in touch with CEO and cofounder Rob Caucci, and spoke about their success thus far and how they plan to continue it moving forward.
Tell us about the product or service.
The Pijon Marketplace is the ad network for product sampling. We help consumer brands literally get their product into the hands of their target consumers through our intelligent distribution network.
How is it different?
Digital and traditional advertising are increasingly ineffective and ignored by today’s consumer. We have brought a set of modern capabilities to product sampling, and we’re leveraging an underutilized asset, the shipping volume of digital retailers, that enables our brand partners to physically reach consumers most likely to convert and become loyal customers.
Traditionally, sampling has been filled with waste, as brand marketers would have to deploy field marketing teams to densely populated areas (i.e. events, grocery stores, etc.), where they proceed to distribute samples to irrelevant consumers. Further, these types of traditional sampling programs lack modern capabilities (i.e. surveys).
The Pijon Marketplace boosts efficiencies, cost-effectiveness, and scale by streamlining targeting, the transaction process, campaign execution and management, and transparent reporting. A brand is able to easily market to a specific target consumer, the consumer is able to conveniently assess the quality and experience of that product or service, and the distribution partner (i.e. retail partner) is able to increase profitability on existing shipments, while enhancing their customer experience by providing free, relevant samples to their customers.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
We are a disruptive technology company in the product sampling industry, which is valued in excess of $10B and growing. The Pijon Marketplace is the only online self-service platform for product sampling, which makes executing and managing a sampling campaign equivalent to running an Adwords campaign.
Further, our mission is to meaningfully grow our market by evangelizing the efficacy of product sampling programs enhanced by modern capabilities.
Brands will waste $7BB+ this year for digital ads to be served to robots… I think reallocating $3B of that to product sampling campaigns sounds like a worthwhile endeavor.
What is the business model?
We make money the same way any other vertical media marketplace (i.e. ad network) does. Most of the media passes through to our “publishers” (i.e. retail partners), and we hold on to a small percentage
What inspired the business?
Pijon started as a college care package subscription service in 2013. We have sent more than 34,000 monthly care packages to over 1400 campuses in all 50 states, typically ordered by the parents of college students. Each box contains an assortment of healthy snacks, personal care items, dorm room essentials and fun gifts.
We’ve always thought of PijonBox as a marketing platform for the brands we work with. And in early-2015 we began developing a way to quantify the value of the experiences we create for our brand partners—similar to CPM as a unit of value for digital media.
For us, it’s all about the contextual relevance of the experiences we help our brand partners create with their target consumer. We call it CPX, Cost-Per-eXperience.
At the same time, we looked to augment the reach Pijon offered brand partners beyond the subscribers of our PijonBox service, offering great scale to our brand partners’ campaigns.
Thus, the Pijon Marketplace was born in q4 2015. We were able to quickly develop relationships with other retail channels reaching targeted consumers, which has since expanded the Pijon Marketplace’s reach to over 18M unique American consumers.
You went through 500Startups, tell us about that experience?
500 Startups was really great. We gained several benefits, the least of which was a network, a family, on the west coast that we didn’t have before. As an NYC-based company, we knew almost nobody out there, and now we have a huge group of friends and champions rooting for us and advising us from the Bay.
Perhaps our favorite thing about participating in 500 Startups was joining the most open and diverse accelerator we know of. Dave, Christine, and the rest of the team heavily invest in the diversity and inclusion of the #500strong community, which makes for a beautiful thing.
It’s also worth mentioning we’ve had a great time working with Providence-based Betaspring/RevUp, and Plug and Play in Sunnyvale in one capacity or another.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
By the end of the summer we’ll have reach to 50M+ consumers. That said, we’re really excited to run larger, follow-on campaigns for existing brand partners, and fill the pipeline with relevant brands we can begin working with.
We’ve already on-boarded brands from four CPG companies in the Fortune 500.
Growing transaction volume, accelerating transaction velocity, and increasing ad spend per campaign, are all things we’re keen on tracking.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Manage your expectations in understanding that most of the time, things will always take longer to materialize than you want to expect.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
As someone who jumped into the NYC tech scene in 2009, by default I have an appreciation for companies that grow the NYC early-stage ecosystem.
In that vein, I think it would be pretty cool to connect with Brian O’Kelley, the
CEO/co-founder of AppNexus. Given the parallels between digital and physical
media, I think there’s a-lot that could be learned.
Why did you launch in New York?
This is where the founding team was based, and the center of our support network. As a tech-based media company, Pijon is well positioned to connect with consumer brands and their agencies on the east coast, and here in NYC. Additionally, New York is a model of diversity, especially in the startup space – you’re more likely to find t-shaped folks out here in comparison to the Bay. These are just a few reasons why building Pijon in New York City was an easy decision for us.
What’s your favorite rooftop bar in NYC to unwind?
As a Brooklynite, due to convenience and quality, I’ve got to go with the rooftop at the Wythe Hotel.