Pirq Pivots For Second Chance As SMB Loyalty Specialist

Fueled by buzz generated from a savvy early partnerships with Apple and Microsoft, and a loyal customer base willing to delay purchases to cash in on promotions, Kirkland, Washington-based startup Pirq enjoyed a rash of success in early 2012 as a viable competitor to Groupon and LivingSocial in the then burgeoning daily deals space.

Investors took notice, pumping $1.2 million into Pirq in September of 2012. And Pirq showed it was capable of forward-thinking moves, keeping it simple and bucking white-hot near-field communication (NFC) technology for SMS deals delivery (Jump to 1:23). A move that recent analysis validates.

But, the daily deals space retracted just as quickly as it expanded. CEO James Sun recalls that when the change came, it came fast. Sun had to make aggressive moves to save his company, rebranding it as an SMB loyalty platform and cutting its entire sales staff of daily deal specialists (Jump to 5:20).

“At the end of the day, the merchant realizes it’s about keeping their customers, building their customers and deepening that relationship, so that’s the pivot that we took,” Sun said (Jump to 3:10). “It was a good one, because if we stayed in the daily deals space, I think that we would not have much of a chance right now.”

Pirq has since launched its digital loyalty platform nationwide, and Sun believes that today his company is offering a solution that will prove integral to SMBs. Sun told that he is confident Pirq can compete in a new competitive set that includes burgeoning players such as Chicago-based Belly and San Francisco-based FiveStars Loyalty (Jump to 7:34) .

“Even a company like Belly, as the market leader per se, they only have 6,000 to 7,000 merchants, and so, there’s over 800,000 merchants to go get in this market, just in the U.S. alone, so the market is huge, and it’s fragmented and so I think it does offer a lot of opportunities to companies like Pirq,” Sun said (Jump to 7:56) .

For more on why Sun believes one-on-one relationship building is the future of loyalty (Jump to 9:27) and what Sun has learned from Pirq’s ups and downs (Jump to 10:54) , listen to our inaugural Startup Followup podcast here.


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James Sun, CEO of Pirq

James Sun is the CEO of Pirq where he sets and leads the overall business strategy, communication, and execution. Previous to Pirq, he was the Founder and CEO of where he led the company in building a scalable location-based platform for industry specific commercial and retail applications. James also has Fortune 500 experience where he served as a database programmer at Intel and management consultant at Deloitte Consulting. As an active angel investor and strategic advisor, he’s helped several startups with strategic business planning, capital investment, international partnerships, and acquisitions.



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