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Local startup Scratch promises to be your personal shopper

Head shopper Megan Cohen, founder Matt Zisow, and software engineer Mark Soper gathered at Scratch, a Boston startup,Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Some people really get into shopping: the coupon-cutters, Amazon Primers, or painstakingly thoughtful types who spend months searching for the perfect anniversary present.

But for the rest of us, the act of finding a lamp, or shirt, or birthday gift can evoke a feeling of dread. That’s what the new Boston-based company, Scratch, which is scheduled to launch its service in beta mode Thursday, is counting on.

The Scratch concept is simple: People know what they want to buy but often don’t have the time or patience to find what they need. Scratch acts as a 24/7 go-between that curates their choices for products and services like home decor goods, clothing, gifts, and travel bookings.


Subscribers using the Scratch app can message a team of personal shoppers when they need, say, a graduation gift for a niece who lives in Miami and is obsessed with Taylor Swift, tennis, and detective novels. A Scratch shopper will get in touch to verify the amount the person would like to spend, and then send along several potential picks within 48 hours. Users pay $5 per search, or can sign up for unlimited requests for $8 a month or $60 a year. When they receive the selected picks, they can buy them with one simple click.

The idea for Scratch came from founder and chief executive Matt Zisow’s own problems with online shopping. As the father of three young children, he struggled to find time to buy the things he needed.

“Everyone wants to give nice gifts, and everyone wants their house to look good, and everyone wants nice clothes,” he said. “I was noticing those 1,000 little paper cuts of frustration, as I didn’t have the time to do that stuff as well as I would like to.”


Prior to launching Scratch, Zisow served as the chief operating officer at CustomMade, the online marketplace that connects shoppers with artisans that craft jewelry, furniture, and other items to buyers’ specifications. He said working there provided him with an education on the impact that unlimited choices have on consumers.

“Too much choice is paralyzing,” he said.

Zisow said that’s why subscription services like Birchbox, Blue Apron, and Trunk Club are so popular. Such sites use a subscriber’s personal preferences (such as a fondness for organic snacks) to send out a selection of goods, eliminating the need for the customer to make specific choices.

Scratch, he said, aims to go one step further and personalize the experience. One major perk of the service is that users can create gift lists for people. His shoppers will not only remember your mother’s birthday, but offer a few suggestions on gifts based on information you provide, thus securing your place in the family as the favorite child.

So far, Scratch has raised $600,000 in a seed round from Bessemer Venture Partners.

The company, has just nine employees, but plans to partner with specialists in fields such as travel and tech to help find products and services.

Janelle Nanos can be reached at janelle.nanos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos and on betaboston.com.