The University of Southampton

Former student entrepreneur invents AI-powered gift service

Published: 6 September 2018
Illustration
Electronic Engineering graduate Dylan Grey is pursuing his online gift service startup

Electronic Engineering graduate Dylan Grey is using AI to help people find their perfect gift, as he pursues a startup idea he devised during his studies at the University of Southampton.

The student entrepreneur is preparing to launch BOON, an online service that uses cutting-edge machine learning algorithms to offer visitors personalised sets of gift recommendations.

He developed the new approach to online search with support from the University’s Future Worlds startup accelerator and will base his business in the programme’s new accelerator space when it opens this autumn.

“We all struggle to think of exciting gifts to get for our friends, acquaintances and loved ones,” Dylan explains. “It’s a frustrating and time consuming problem, but our new website BOON is here to help. We use a set of around 10 dynamically generated questions to understand the likes, dislikes and personality of the person you’re buying for. Behind the scenes all of this data allows our AI to select the most compelling set of 50 gifts for the recipient."

Dylan plans for the service to access a virtual catalogue of over 100 million products, including online marketplaces and high street brands. “That’s the beauty of BOON; instead of trawling through tens of websites, searching endlessly for the perfect gift, BOON does all this for you,” he adds.

The global online gift market is estimated to be worth more than £170 billion, with over 1,000 gifts bought every minute in the UK alone. BOON will enter this lucrative market by collecting commission on the sale of gifts it recommends.

“Our vision is that BOON will become a household name, used as a verb, known for helping people find exciting gifts, and enthralling their recipients,” Dylan says. “By offering this ability in a clean and elegant user interface, we will offer a service unlike anything currently available, allowing us to disrupt the gifting industry.”

Dylan completed his four-year MEng Electronic Engineering degree this summer and is now focussing on a first beta of his service, which he aims to have ready for testing and feedback in the coming months.

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