A New Twist On Gift Cards: Dropost.it Lets You Leave Money For Friends At Any Location

Dropost.it is a clever little service that allows you to drop gifts for friends which are geo-tagged to specific locations. These gifts, which you can think of as virtual gift cards purchased via the Dropost.it service, can only be accessed when the recipient visits a specific location. Initially, the service works over PayPal, but the company is working towards deeper integration with mobile wallets, including NFC-based wallet systems, like Google Wallet.

Beyond facilitating the gift-giving process, Dropost.it is also working on a feature that will help you figure out what gifts to buy your friends (this piece hasn’t yet launched). To do so, Dropost.it will pull in data from Facebook, including friends’ likes and interests, but it will also work with social data from Foursquare and Twitter in the future. (And yes, haters, you will need a Facebook account to log in today).

The idea is that you’ll be able to use the service to figure out what places your friends typically visit – that is, the restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retail stores, etc. that they favorite. This is especially helpful when you’re buying for acquaintances whose personal interests you may not know too well, or when you’re buying for friends who live out of town.

After the gift is purchased (with a small fee), the recipient is emailed a message that includes an optional video greeting from the gift-giver, for a more personalized experience. The email also includes a link to download the accompanying Dropost.it mobile application (HTML5 first, then iOS and Android). To claim the gifted funds, the recipient just launches the app upon arrival at the given venue. As a service that works over PayPal, of course, this isn’t ideal, since the money isn’t instantly available in the recipient’s bank account unless they use the PayPal Debit Card. But further down the road, when mobile wallet usage is more prevalent, something like Dropost.it could be a useful way to surprise friends with instant gifts that are available immediately.

In addition to the consumer-facing angle, merchants can also participate in Dropost.it to set up their own promotions (aka “drops”) wherever they choose. They could allocate $1,000 in $5 increments to encourage foot traffic, for example, or they could use a series of drops to create a scavenger hunt-style game.

While the idea of a geo-tagged gifting platform may be a bit ahead of its time, the idea of parsing friends’ social networking profiles for recommendations is right on schedule. Even the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is just now figuring out how to use Facebook profile data to personalize offers to individual consumers. With Dropost.it’s insights into your friends real-world behavior, you have a better shot at something they’d actually like than you do when standing at the large, impersonal gift card aisle at the drug store. Even though geo-tagged gifts are a neat trick, it’s these social recommendations (when launched) that may end up being the service’s killer feature.

Dropost.it, however, doesn’t have the resources of a Walmart behind it, just a bit of  seed funding from Tampa’s TechStars Network member, Gazelle Lab, and two high-energy founders Orrett Davis and  Ty Mathen. Prior to today’s launch, Dropost.it lined up Bob Schwartz, President of Magento and Jim Bennette, CEO of VisiStat, as advisors along with a local business leader, Tampa Bay’s John Walsh, President of Walsh Solutions.

The Dropost.it site went live this morning. Considering the startup’s early stage, here’s hoping it stay up-and-running.