Entrepreneur Profile: Timothy Bentley Founder Of Giftly

by Aidan Sakiri

Tim Bentley has many career experiences, including investment banking, technology startups, project management, group management, laboratory research, operations and eating gelato. But before starting Giftly, Tim was at Aardvark.

He was the first employee at the pioneering social search start-up that built the first social search engine. But this search engine was a way to find people, not web pages, through specific information.

Aardvark was acquired by Google in February 2010 for $50 million.

Besides working at Aardvark, Tim was the founder of 1-800-Know-Now – a mobile search company that had human operators help find information for users by either searching for the information themselves or putting them in touch with the right person.

Now Tim is the co-founder and CEO of Giftly, a SoMa-based startup just a few weeks into its public beta test. Giftly provides a way to personalize the gifting experience, leveraging social networks and location-based data so you can treat your family members and friends to places near them, like restaurants, shops and clubs.

You buy a Giftly for a person and choose up to three places in their area that they can use their credit for, and then the recipient only has to register their credit or debit card with Giftly. After that, they just use their card at the chosen venue and the credit pays for the purchase. This all works without the hassle of purchasing a gift card, especially if you live across the country.

Giftly allows you to choose among thousands of places all over the country. An email goes out to the recipient with instructions how to use the customized gift certificate, which is as easy as showing up and “paying” with your credit card — Giftly then credits the gift to your credit card bill. Says Tim:

Think of Giftly as a smarter, more sophisticated version of the traditional gift card. You can personalize it to, say, three coffee shops here in San Francisco, and the person you’re gifting can use their smartphone to access the gift, go into any of those shops, without having any new plastic card involved at all.

Where the traditional gift card originates with a merchant, Giftly “puts the connection between two people at the forefront,” says Nish Nadaraja, former Brand Director at Yelp, who serves as Marketing Director at Giftly. The market opportunity here appears seem to be huge, since roughly half of all Americans already use traditional gift cards.

We had the chance to talk to Tim, and ask him questions on his personal and professional experiences:

Was there a turning point in your life, an event that led to your current career?

Looking back and seeing the many things, big and small, that contributed toward my career has taught me to not seek out or depend on single turning points. I didn’t experience one break that caused things to work out as they have, and I don’t think many people do. There have been innumerable people, events and opportunities that contributed to the career I have now.

What is the biggest failure you have experienced in your career? What advice would you give other young people about pursuing a career in the face of failure?

Failure is too often construed as a personal phenomena: "My failure," "your failure." I think it’s helpful to not take failure personally; but rather, view it as a failure in performance. I used to swim competitively. When I lost a race I didn’t think, "I’m a failure," I’d think, "I didn’t win that race" – there was a failure to perform at the level required to win. Viewing failure as a personal phenomena causes people, understandably, to avoid failure and to take it personally. Viewing failure as a matter of performance allows you look at it, work with it and improve upon it.

What does success mean to you and your business? What is your dream accomplishment?

Professionally, success for me is being a great CEO. I know I’m succeeding if my business is doing well, if my employees are thriving both professionally and personally, and if our customers love the impact our products are having on their lives. My dream accomplishment is to be a part of creating a new way for people to connect with their families and friends, even when they are far apart. Giftly is a vehicle for this.

Everyone aspires for success, but what drives you to work so hard?

I work hard because the goals I’ve chosen to pursue require me to work hard to attain them. For me, working hard is a choice. When you aspire to reach certain goals, you need to realistically assess what it will take to attain those goals, and then choose whether you really want to put in that work or not. If not, change the goals. If so, game on.

Who’s career inspires you the most?

Abraham Lincoln.

What kind of training and preparation do you go through every day? How do you improve yourself as your business continues?

I’m constantly and eagerly seeking out training, development and learning. Over the last few years, I’ve taken a number of courses on communication, personal growth and relationships. I meditate weekly to train my mind to be calm and clear. I exercise daily to keep healthy and energetic. I ask for feedback from friends, co-workers, investors about what they see and how they think I could improve. I’m honest with myself about how I’m doing and how that measures up with how I want to be doing – I reflect on this at least once a week.

How do you plan on expanding your business, keeping it relevant in the future?

By staying in close touch with our customers, continuing to listen to them and then following our hearts, heads and intuitions about how we can continue to serve them.

With so much going on in your life right now, how do you keep yourself humble in light of your accomplishments? Do you think it is even important to be humble?

Humility is more about self-awareness. If you’re self aware and able to correctly contextualize your self in your life, humility is naturally called forth. As a leader, I think it’s important to be self aware.

Aidan Sakiri |Elite.