Why My Kitchen Cabinets Could Solve Jet’s Cold Start Problem

receipts_2076021bI want to try Jet, the new commerce site which promises to be even cheaper than Amazon. What prevents me? The idea of having to rebuild my “list” – the things I order frequently from Amazon or pick from the shelves as I shop physical retail stores.

How could they solve this cold start problem? One way would be to let me submit a picture of my store receipt, or photos of my cabinets, freezer and refrigerator contents. Some OCR + Mechanical Turk and they’d be able to return me a digital list for my next order. Allow me to forward my Amazon Subscribe & Save email receipts (or just comb my inbox for Amazon receipts a la how Tripit can extract travel-related messages) and you’ve essentially got all the personal information you need.

Dropbox previously acquihired Endorse, a team that was working on receipt-based coupon redemption and market intelligence. Basically you could submit photos of your receipts and get rebates from CPG companies for buying their products. They were also obviously assembling a large taste graph for what consumers purchase, since that SKU level data is usually unavailable outside of the specific store’s databases. Having been part of the Endorse beta it was a bit too challenging to collect receipts every time and they were never able to reach the scale needed to prove to brands that it was a compelling channel to support.

Are my suggestions good ideas for Jet? Maybe, maybe not, but many types of businesses face cold start problems and you need to be creative in figuring out how to build new habits. There’s lots of information value in my cupboards and receipts (not to mention inbox) which today goes unused.