‘We built an algorithm that determines your gifting personality type,’ says the Israeli startup’s founder.

 The online quiz starts out innocently enough. Enter gender and age. But soon, you’re being asked some pretty personal questions: Does the person you’re thinking about have a short temper? Like to be the center of attention? Act without thinking?

Welcome to the weird world where artificial intelligence meets online gift giving. The quiz was made by Israeli startup Findodo to help gift-givers pick the perfect present.

Findodo’s software is based on the filtering technology used by human-resources professionals to sift automatically through piles of resumes sent online.

“We took the same methodology but instead of trying to find personality fit, we look for shopping preferences,” the company’s CEO, Benny Melamed, tells ISRAEL21c. “Would a person prefer commodities or handicrafts? Bright or dull colors?”

Findodo created its algorithm based on research from Prof. Tsachi Ein-Dor, who teaches psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzilya. Ein-Dor is on Findodo’s advisory board.

The quiz initially asks you to designate for whom you want to buy a gift (friend, spouse, colleague or family member) and what the occasion is (birthday, housewarming or office party, for example).

After you check off how important the occasion is (mega, pretty, medium or “have to do”), you select general categories your recipient likes (gadgets and tech, culture and books, food or booze, among others) and how much you want to spend. You can adjust that later.

Then come the questions designed to ferret out connections. Findodo has found some intriguing ones.

For example, people who are trustworthy and empathetic have a high affinity for box games, DIY tools and recycled items.

People who are goal-driven and organized prefer physical activities, coffee and luggage.

Those who are quiet and reserved like puzzles and the color yellow.

If you’re a curious person with a vivid imagination, you’ll gravitate towards items made of glass as well as musical instruments.

“I know that our mothers told us each one of us is very unique, but we’re not as different as we’d like to think,” Melamed quips.

Play 21 questions

Findodo’s quiz is just 21 questions.

“We started with 120 questions,” Melamed says. “We were surprised – the quiz completion rate was 85%. We thought for sure people wouldn’t be willing to answer so many questions, but it was like a game for them.”

Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of Findodo website users have helped the algorithm to “learn” and whittle down the questions without losing accuracy in its predictions.

Findodo is not all fun and games, though; this is a business, after all. Once you’ve completed the quiz, you’re given a choice of presents suitable to the person you’re thinking of.

The items are sourced from 32 partner ecommerce websites, including Amazon and UncommonGoods. Findodo’s business model is simply to use ecommerce affiliate links to collect a cut of purchases.

Melamed wouldn’t say how many test users bought an item. But he says that Findodo’s conversion rate –the number of visitors converted into paying customers – is 4.6 times the 1.85% industry average for online gift giving. (The gift return rate is 17.5%, in case you were wondering.)

High-stakes gifting situations

Findodo is for occasions when “it’s considered culturally tacky to fill out a registry” as you would for a wedding or a baby shower, Melamed says.

“We deal with high-stakes gifting situations, where you don’t want to get it wrong, where your loved one expects you to show you know and love her.”

While anyone with a web browser can use Findodo, the software was trained with American users. The results will probably be accurate in much of Europe but might not be so appropriate for gift-givers and recipients in other parts of the world.

“When we make the decision to move into another market, we will train it on local users there,” Melamed says. “It’s then a question of tweaking the algorithm.”

People find Findodo through word of mouth and through ads on Facebook and Google. “They’ll write, ‘What can I buy for my girlfriend?’ and that will take them to our website,” Melamed says.

Melamed has found that most of the site’s users are men looking for a gift for a woman. Why?

“Because men are clueless, let’s face it,” he jokes.

Updated gift-giving

Melamed previously owned mefik.co.il, a website aggregating Israeli conference and trade-show companies. He sold the business and now is full-time with Findodo, which has raised $1.3 million from angels.

Findodo has a team of six in Tel Aviv, plus advisers and freelancers. Two of the company’s founders came from the advertising industry. Findodo’s CTO is a veteran of the IDF’s prestigious 8200 intelligence unit.

Findodo executives in Tel Aviv. Photo: courtesy

Melamed’s personal lightbulb moment was born more out of wonder than frustration.

“Isn’t it a bit weird that the gifting experience today is the same as it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago?” he asks.

“It seems like a lot of the data out on the web can’t be or hasn’t been used for gifting. Which makes the online gifting experience much less convenient than buying in a brick-and-mortar store where you can ask a salesperson questions to narrow down your options.”

Findodo’s mission is to help choose “gifts that are tailor-made for the gift recipient’s personality and may have been difficult to think of alone without our help,” Melamed says.

What’s next for the company? “We’ll keep improving the algorithm and add more stores and items to our inventory,” Melamed says.

Findodo may also branch out to sell the kind of purchasing insights it’s gleaned to brands, “to help them understand their consumers better.”

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