Innovation trumps timeliness: the best ever list of belated gift ideas

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on December 23, 2013

From The News Desk

There's a lot of benefits from living and working in startup land. You get to try all the super convenient new services before anyone back home has ever heard of them.

You know the best place to get a price on home repair stuff (Thumbtack),  the service that will pick up, do, and return your laundry on the same day (Prim), and the companies that make and deliver cheapish, delicious, healthy, fresh meals (Sprig, Chefler, and Munchery).

Basically your whole world is a hell of a lot more efficient because you're tapped into startup land.

But 'tis the holiday season, and therefore a perfect time for you to share said blessings with all the members of your world who are not plugged into Silicon Valley-ness via a social catheter.

Since arriving in the Bay, I've been keeping a running list of "best ever gift ideas." I've never excelled at gift-giving. I can't count how many holiday seasons I spent googling "best gifts for moms" or "best gifts for dads." I'd comb through terrible options, destined to be re-gifted for New Year's white elephant, like "monogrammed leather wallet" or "scalloped serving bowl," eventually copping out and getting them tickets to the movies.

But since coming to San Francisco and interviewing founder after founder, I've been astounded how many disruptive startup ideas make great gifts. These products are not yet popular the country over, although they will be soon. And they have the possibility to change someone's lifestyle, or at least delight them.

Granted, I totally failed by putting this list together a full three days before Christmas. What's even sadder is I've been planning this post since I joined Pando, with a list of "startup gift ideas" on my cell phone.

In my head I thought, "Hey, what a great holiday themed post to do the week of Christmas." It wasn't till I sat down to write it that I realized most of you out there probably finished buying your presents weeks ago.

So, consider this post my gift to all you dickwads out there like me, the masters of the horribly belated gifting season. Since it's too late to buy (most of) them now, I'm sure they'll come in handy during future birthdays.

Here's my rundown on the best gifts for everyone on your list:

The ladies:

Stitch Fix: It's a subscription clothing company backed by the likes of Bill Gurley and Benchmark. Users fill out a fashion taste profile online, link to their Pinterest if they've got one, and once a month receive a personalized box of clothes picked for them by a stylist. Whatever they don't like they can send back, with free shipping both ways. Get a gift card for your fashionista here. Cost: $20 would cover the stylist fee for the first month of fixes.

True&Co: Bra shopping sucks, and women with unique body shapes struggle to find ones that fit perfectly. Enter True&Co, a company that helps women find their perfect size via an online quiz that feeds into an algorithm powered by millions of data points. Once the size is nailed, True&Co tell women what bra brand might be best for them and helps them shop online to get it. I haven't tried the service yet, but I have a non-techie friend who swears by it. You can give a True&Co giftcard through the (terribly designed) app Wrapped. Cost: $50 would be a good starting price for someone to buy a bra through the site.

The fellas:

Mack Weldon: It's a men's underwear startup that claims it has mastered the perfect briefs for guys. Supposedly the fit, performance (how long it stands the test of time), comfort, and fabric texture will make any man answer "Mack Weldon" when asked "boxers or briefs?" Price: The Mack Weldon starter kit gift is $48.

Birchbox for Men: The popular subscription beauty product company also does a monthly box for the menfolk, where they ship samples of high-end male products like Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream Bowl every month for them to test out. Price: A three month subscription giftcard is $60.

The fanatical fitness gurus:

Up or Fitbit: Duh. These wristband wearables that track your steps might seem like an obvious gift option for the techies among us, but your friends who live elsewhere might never have heard of these magical devices. Price: It ranges. $100-$130.

The anxious homemaker:

Dropcam: This smart surveillance camera is easy to set up and looks discreet. Consumers can just hook it up to the Internet and use it to keep an eye on the house from their smart phones when they're not home. Surprisingly though, most Dropcam users prefer to use it to check in on their kittens, turtles, and kids, when they're not home. Since the device has two way sound, it's ideal. Cost: $199.

Lockitron: This smart home lock isn't for sale yet, but it's going to make such an awesome present for the anxious homemaker in your life that it's worth being on the list early. It will allow people to lock and unlock their front door remotely from a smart phone app. I can't wait to buy it for my father, who has perpetual heart palpitations about whether someone (i.e. me) forgot to lock the front door. Cost: $179

The grandparents:

Minted is classic gift giving with a twist. The startup crowdsources artist designs for cards, wall hangings, stationary, and other home goods. It manufactures the chosen work, which has a hip artisan flair to what's otherwise an old person gift. Cost: The company has a list of gift ideas under $50.

The dog:

BarkBox: Another duh. It's a subscription service where monthly boxes arrive filled with goodies for your pup, ranging from flavored bones to pet gadgets. As Erin Griffith covered, despite its ridiculous premise -- do we really need subscription box services for our animals? -- this startup is doing surprisingly well. Your dog will approve. Cost: There are different plans, the lowest starting at $19 a month.


Seamless Toy Company: This startup's first toy for children, smart building blocks ATOMS, allow kids to learn the basics of development with building blocks that they can turn into moving figures and control through an app.

For the bespectacled hipster:

Made Eyewear: Glasses now cost under $100, so why not give your bespectacled love one another pair of frames to rock? Since you're paying, they'll be more likely to experiment with their ocular tastes. Made Eyewear even sends people a box of at-home try on glasses with prescription lenses included -- whatever they like they keep, and they send the rest back. Cost: $84.

For the forgetful:

hipKey: This tag can be attached to any pair of keys and then tracked via an iPhone app, sending off beeps when hit the "locate" button on the app. Voila: The perfect gift for your totally scatterbrained mother (yes Mom, I'm looking at you). Cost: $89.95

For the failed cook:

Blue Apron: Blue Apron sends boxes of pre-measured ingredients with a recipe list to people who want to cook but don't want to do all the hard preparation work like fighting the Trader Joe's lines. It's a fun gift that will seem unique to anyone who doesn't know that restaurants are passé and food startups are the new hot thing. Cost: You can get a gift card for 3 meals for two people that costs $59.94.

Illustration by Brad Jonas