Toronto Entrepreneur Brings Holiday Gifting and Video Greeting App to Canada

With the holidays just around the corner, Canadian shoppers are in luck: there’s a new app out there to help consumers with the gift-giving process.

Vello, an app that allow users to send e-gift cards along with personalized video greetings, recently launched its service in Canada.

“Vello was born out of the current need for a more personalized and modernized way of sending gifts and greetings to celebrate any occasion,” explains Frances Ho, founder and CEO of Vello.

Ho, a Toronto-based entrepreneur, is no stranger to the gift card market. In 2011, she launched her first startup, CardSwap, which allows users to exchange unused gift cards instead of leaving them to waste away in their wallets.

Now, with the rise of e-gift cards, Ho identified a gap—and another opportunity—in the gift card industry. “I know that gift cards are great because they’re convenient,” she says. “But for the person receiving them, they lack a personal touch.”

With the abundance of short-form video on platforms such as Vine and Instagram, she found a way to make sending gift cards more personal for recipients.

Ho launched Vello earlier this year as an iOS app. While it was initially available only for American consumers, she reports that the app is now available in the Canadian app store as well.

Here’s how it works: upon downloading the Vello app, users can record a six-second video greeting to their recipient. They can invite others to join and record their own greetings, and the app stitches the segments together into one long video. To accompany the greeting, the original creator can purchase an e-gift card through retailers, who give Vello a cut.

Currently, there are more options for American consumers. The startup has partnered with thousands of American brands, such as Gap, Best Buy, Adidas and Zappos. In terms of Canadian brands, Ho reports that the startup has recently partnered with CARA—the company that owns restaurants such as Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and Kelsey’s—so far.

“We’re in the process of talking to more [Canadian] brands,” she adds.

While the US has about a $110 billion gift card market, Ho says, the Canadian gift card market is catching up at about $7 billion.

And the gift card industry is seeing two emerging trends: e-gift cards as a replacement for physical cards and mobile storage of the value of a gift card (e-gift or traditional card) with apps.

In addition to offering its service to Canadian customers and building a Canadian presence, Vello has also added web capabilities to the app. What this means, Ho explains, is that “if I send you a Vello and you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll get it on the web as a link.”

Furthermore, the app allows anyone who contributes to the greeting to invite his or her friends to participate as well. Essentially, it’s a group of friends banding together to send digital gift cards and greetings to a single person. Ho explains it’s all about making things personal.

“Suppose it’s your birthday. You’ll get a couple of Facebook messages, text messages and maybe an e-card,” she says. “But we want to make things personal again. We thought people really enjoy videos, and want to see people’s faces and people’s smiles.”