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Ex-Klaviyo engineer launches startup to personalize retail, events

Andrew Smith (left) and Trevor Brown, the founders of Boston-based Swapt.Greg Klee

Walk into Trillium in the Seaport District, and the bartender probably doesn’t know if you’re a regular, you’re visiting from out of town, or you prefer IPAs or pale ales.

That’s a problem, according to Andrew Smith, who spent nearly four years working in sales at Boston-based marketing tech firm Klaviyo. Now he’s founded a company, backed by the chief executive of his former employer, to solve it.

Smith came up with the idea for Swapt while selling Klaviyo’s software to large brands like Nike and Lord and Taylor. He realized that companies are pretty bad at using the data they collect about their customers online to engage with them in person.


Brands send personalized e-mails and coupons and tweak their websites to show customers products they know they’ll be interested in. But it’s much harder to make in-person shopping, dining, or events personal, since brands don’t know much about people when they walk through their doors.

Smith and his cofounder Trevor Brown set out to change how companies collect data, making it more of a two-way street that incentivizes people to voluntarily share it. The goal is for customers to “swap” their personal data for a more personalized experience via a QR code.

High spenders could access a VIP section, for example. First-time guests might receive a special discount. Audience members at a concert could vote on which song an artist plays next. In exchange, the restaurant, retail store, or artist gets to know more about their customers and how they spend money.

“I love Trillium, I’m there all the time,” Smith said. “If they knew how much I went there... there are some really cool opportunities.”

One challenge is getting customers to participate, though Smith expects the rise of QR codes to help.

Swapt has raised more than $500,000 in a deal led by Perkins Cove Partners, a new Boston-based VC firm. It was founded this year by Stephen Wietrecki, former chief revenue officer at Klaviyo; Sean Marshall, the former senior vice president of global sales at Klaviyo; and Lou Orfanos, who has worked in senior-level roles at HubSpot and Toast.


Other investors include Boston-based Asymmetric Capital Partners and Klaviyo founders Andrew Bialecki and Ed Hallen.

Swapt is beta-testing with about 20 brands, including the band We Came As Romans, which used the tech on tour this summer to learn more about its audience. During a recent pop-up event for surfer Kelly Slater’s clothing brand Outknown, Smith said, Swapt helped drive daily sales from $2,500 to $30,000.

Ultimately, Swapt wants to upend in-person experiences and help companies collect better data. It’s riding a wave of new feelings around data ownership, which has powered much of the “web3″ movement to rethink the Internet. Smith thinks consumers increasingly want to have more control over how companies use their information.

Any information companies collect on their customers through Swapt, he said, gets deleted if a user decides to delete their Swapt profile.

Companies “want as much data as possible about you... then bam, bam, bam, hit you with advertisement and hope that something sticks,” he said. “It works, but at the end of the day, it’s making people uncomfortable.”

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.