About Dominic | About Vivek | About Emi | E-mail Us E-mail |  On Twitter Follow |  On Facebook Fan |  RSS RSS Feed
Posted at 10:05 AM ET, 05/09/2012

SWAG: Stuff we (at) Apple get

A screenshot of the mobile app Pirq. (Pirq)
If you haven’t heard, a new mobile application is curating restaurant deals exclusively for Apple employees.

If this sounds oddly like SWAG (the acronym for “stuff we all get” where the “we” often refers to celebrities), you’re right ... sort of. Think of it as SWAG with a twist.

Apple’s Pirq perk

The app in question is called Pirq, and it offers anywhere between 20 to 50 percent off at eating establishments in a particular area to a particular group. You want in? Too bad. Right now, it’s only available to Apple employees, culling deals expressly for them in the Cupertino area. The offering makes you wonder: Is this the next generation of SWAG?

“I think, for us, the main objective is to procure the best restaurants and vendors for Apple employees. And when you have a group like that — the restaurants really want that business,” said Pirq founder and CEO James Sun during a phone interview Tuesday. The exclusive deal with Apple will go on for at least the next 90 days, says Sun. After that, other companies will get the chance to sign up to make Pirq available for their employees.

Pirq CEO and founder James Sun, left, and chairman Roger Blier. (Courtesy of Pirq)
“We’ve got a pipeline of about another 20 companies, which are all Fortune 500 companies,” continued Sun. The company is also planning to work with the AAA and alumni associations. “What we care about is the cross section of ‘do they live in this area’ and ‘do they work in this area.’” These questions are important since Pirq, which was beta-tested in Seattle, is attempting to create a “deep” daily deals experience with a select group of users as opposed to, as Sun terms it, a “shallow” one with a larger set.

Pirq users don’t have to pre-pay for deals, says Sun, and all deals apply to sale totals (including alcohol, in some cases and depending on state laws). Also, users don’t have to print out a deal to redeem it. Instead, the app offers a straight deal, independent of other users’ interest, and will take a deal out of the inventory after a critical mass has actually used it. But the daily deals space is crowded, and exclusivity goes a long way toward generating much-coveted buzz and creating a loyal user base.

Enter the SWAG deal with Apple, an agreement the company had to compete for. When asked for details about the competition and how many employees had signed up to use Pirq, Sun was mum – a silence typical of vendors to the highly secretive company.

The new age of SWAG

Rapper Jay-Z,left, puts his arm around Kanye West. (Lucas Jackson)
Apple’s Pirq perk is a variation on an old theme. Social media platforms and apps have been launching on an invite-only basis for quite some time, allowing apps to scale while heightening the potential for buzz. Meanwhile, influence ratings sites, such as Klout and Kred, have been leveraging the SWAG model to appeal to otherwise average people with active social graphs. While celebrity attendees at an exclusive, red-carpet event may get a free basket of designer goodies for being famous, Klout users, for example, can receive perks from companies such as Gilt Group, Warby Parker, and Red Bull just for tweeting.

Influence ratings apps have their fair share of detractors, many of whom question whether the ratings are, indeed, an accurate reflection of influence. For example, media mogul Rupert Murdoch has a Klout score of 74, while Justin Bieber (who doesn’t even own a record label) trounces him with a perfect 100. Then there’s Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg coming it at a measly score of 62, trumped by Twitter and real-life celebrity Ashton Kutcher at 78 and mega pop-star Lady Gaga at 94. And then there’s Apple CEO Tim Cook at 0, since he doesn’t have a Twitter, Klout or Kred account (at least not one that we know of).

When it comes to traditional SWAG, fear not, celebrities, the pendulum hasn’t swung too far. That’s helped, in part, by the fact that Silicon Valley’s most recognizable personalities, including Zuckerberg, aren’t really known for their wardrobe choices. But the Pirq development highlights the rising importance of the Silicon Valley set as not only arbiters of our digital social lives, but as the desired beta testers of the next, cool [insert product here]. How long before everyone’s looking to Sean Parker over Jay-Z or Kanye West for the latest must-be-seen-drinking night club beverage?  If the Bravo reality show “Silicon Valley” takes off, it may be sooner than you think.

Celebrities, you’ve been warned.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Vivek Wadhwa | The gangsters of Silicon Valley

Not your parents’ storytelling

The danger of social profiling

By  |  10:05 AM ET, 05/09/2012

Categories:  Business, Morning Read, Technology

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company