Madeline Puckette

Chief Creative Officer at Pungle

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In this interview with Madeline Puckette from pungle we will explore how a startup leveraged existing affiliate networks to allow you doing something good for the world by simply shopping.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I'm Madeline Puckette, 27 year old visual designer and bootstrapper for startup pungle.org. Pungle started with three pals: a developer, designer and a marketer. Before pungle existed we'd sort of wandered along aimlessly through life. Ben, our marketer, was a corporate desk-jockey who avoided working by playing online video games. Justin, our developer, worked as a networking specialist in the garage of a paranoid inventor. I was also a corporate slut at Gannett corporation (USA Today etc) who laid me off in 2008 when they outsourced my entire department to Bangalore, India. In 2010, we hit a breaking point, sold all our possessions on Craigslist and drove up to Seattle on a whim with our adopt-a-cat, Nubs.

What is pungle and how did it start?

Pungle.org was the bathroom born brain fodder of Justin Hammack, who scribbled down the initial idea of the site on a sheet of paper. Pungle is an ad-free, login-free web application that combines a savvy shopping tool with social good. In just 3 weeks we had built the site and on Nov. 3rd, 2010 pungle.org had a soft release. On that same day the Merriam-Webster's word of the day was the old english word: "pungle."

How does it work? Do you have partnership with those stores?

We have agreements with a majority of the stores on pungle.org, however, in order to better serve the community we even have stores that aren't yet part of the affiliate program. When a pungler visits the site and clicks-through to an online shopping destination, that store gives back a percentage of the sale (if they are partnered to us), which in turn goes towards the user's selected social good organization. Our job is to collect the best possible deals and coupons for our community. Additionally, we create individualized incentives for our community on Facebook, throw parties and try insane and silly things to celebrate the people who make the pungle-machine work.

What has the response been from listed charities and stores?

The predominant trend is that both stores and causes are happy so far. Businesses and NPOs both like making money, they just don't want their brands tarnished in any way, so constant communication is key.

Can you share any numbers (or estimates) on how much money pungle users already have contributed to charity?

Stores who are affiliated with pungle have individual agreements ranging from around 0.5% - 8% of purchases made through our site. The money goes towards 7 causes on the site. We only offer a limited number or social good organizations of because we don't want to dilute the power of pungling.

Talking about money, does pungle generate any revenue for itself?

Pungle.org is a for-profit business. This is just more flexible.

Are you guys working full-time on pungle? If not, are you planning to turn it into a full-time business?

Ben & Justin work on pungle.org full time. As a visual designer, I have a little more flexibility, I put in about 50 hours a week at pungle.org and work part-time as a server/wine sommelier in a steakhouse. I like to think of myself as pungle's sugar momma.

What's the next step for pungle?

  1. Making/adding features to pungle.org that better serve punglers (better deal-awareness, community connectivity) that don't overwhelm them (i.e. feature creep).
  2. Making new contacts and maintaining relationships with organizations, stores & getting better deals.
  3. Finding out new interesting ways to market our unique tool.
  4. Getting new stores on board to offer a greater variety of highly specialized online shopping.

Lastly, and I'm sure everybody is dying to know, how did you get Stewie Griffin to voice-over your how-to video? I wasn't aware he had any charitable interests.

Haha. Thank Chris Hardy at fiverr.com who is a great voice-over talent available to anyone with $5. We think he deserves much more.

Thanks for sharing your story Madeline. Keep up the good work!

Want to take pungle for spin? http://pungle.org/