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HauteDay, a Gamified Shopping Site, Launches Out of Y Combinator

Can daily competitions steal the hearts of the busy woman over 30?

Facebook's plans to pair social networking with shopping may not have worked out so well, but as startups like The Hunt have proven, there is a future in social commerce. The Hunt, a crowdsourcing site that allows users to help each other track down products in photos, succeeds in part because it targets one of the most rabid, Internet-savvy demographics: teen girls. 

Out in California, a new site called HauteDay is hoping to gamify shopping to garner enthusiastic followers from a wholly different audience, women above the age of 30 — the kind who shop at Nordstrom and look up to Kate Middleton as a style icon. After a quiet beta phase, the startup will launch Tuesday at the tech accelerator Y Combinator's demo day. 

HauteDay applies crowdsourcing to online shopping in the form of daily contests based around different themes, to which users submit products that they think fit the bill. The theme might be anything from Paris street style to animal prints, says founder Michael Witz. The HauteDay team distills the best submissions — for now, Witz's wife moderates — and users get to vote on their favorites; whomever submitted the winning product gets it for free, courtesy of HauteDay.

Having previously founded and sold the social gaming company Mob Science, Witz initially toyed around with the idea of creating a Tinder for fashion-type app, ultimately abandoning that concept because it didn't create the addictive tension that Tinder itself does. (You're never concerned that a product won't right swipe you back, Witz reasoned; no drama means little emotional investment.) He landed on HauteDay's structure because it adds a touch of competitiveness and ego to the online shopping experience. 

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This is all assuming HauteDay manages to catch on with its target demographic. The daily contest is a good move; as with flash sales, it motivates people to check the site at least once a day. But it's also trying to attract a busy group of women. To draw their attention away from work, kids and all of life's duties, it's going to have to provide enough novelty to keep them interested. Not everyone is going to be generating the content, Witz notes. He expects to see about 1 percent of the community actively seeking out products, while the rest play spectator and vote on them.

The startup's revenue streams will come from advertisements and affiliate links, Witz says. He and his team are working on bringing the checkout process onto the site itself, which would help prevent abandoned shopping carts along the way. 

As far as generating cash goes, HauteDay is going to have to communicate to its users that it's just as much a shopping site as it is a fun daily competition, which it's already aiming to do by making the buy button just as prominent as the "heart" by which they vote. Similarly, we're curious to see how well the winning product sells, since a "People's Choice" designation wouldn't seem to generate the same excitement as a celebrity endorsement or give the same reassurance as a market editor's choice. But maybe peer approval is just the ticket — we'll have to wait to see.

At the very least, HauteDay seems to have Y Combinator, a heavyweight in the growing world of startup accelerators, convinced. As a member of YC's summer class of 2014, HauteDay has taken on funding from the accelerator and is actively speaking with investors, many of whom will be at the demo day on Tuesday. We'll be looking to see who bites.

Homepage photo: Daniel Zuchnik/GettyImages