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A web tool for cheapskates: Boston-based DealGator collects digital coupon offers in one place

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 23, 2010 01:58 PM

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Only the most compulsive bargain hounds have been keeping tabs on every new digital delivery mechanism for deals in Boston: there's Gilt City, Tippr, LivingSocial, GetSugar, and BuyWithMe, among others.

Earlier this month, Google reportedly tried to buy one of the more successful peddlers of online discounts, Chicago-based Groupon, for $6 billion. Groupon walked away from the offer, betting that it'll be worth more in the long run. Also in December, Amazon invested $175 million in Washington, DC-based LivingSocial.

Clearly, there's a sense that the sites are changing the way some of us buy products and services locally, from restaurant meals to hair coloring to Pilates classes to prescription glasses. Most invite you to purchase a certificate good for a product or service in advance, at a steeply-discounted price ($28 for a complete dental exam and cleaning, for instance). The offers are only available for a day or so, and they're often only for customers who haven't patronized the business before.

A new start-up based in Boston, DealGator, aims to make it easier to sift through all of the local deals in a city, and to manage the coupons you've purchased so they don't expire before you use them. The company lets you see all the deals being offered at a given moment — there were nearly 70 on the site yesterday for Bostonians — and eliminate categories of deals that you're not interested in, like spa/beauty if you are a non-waxing male. DealGator also displays each business' Yelp rating, since you might not want to patronize a restaurant no one likes, even if it is offering two filet mignons for $10. The site also sends out a daily e-mail digest of deals.

DealGator was launched earlier this month by two brothers, Casey and Jesse Rankin, and it currently serves 21 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The Rankins, who grew up in Worcester, also run Newbury-St.com, South-End-Boston.com, and several other business directory sites.

Casey Rankin tells me that none of the daily deal services have asked to be removed from DealGator's listings, and in fact, new services contact him regularly to ask to be included. As for DealGator's business model, many of the coupon sites offer an affiliate fee to anyone who refers customers to them, which can range from 2 percent to 10 percent of the eventual purchase amount. And while there's no advertising on DealGator's site or its e-mails, that's a possibility in the future.

DealGator plans to add another 50 cities to its service in early 2011. It's in competition with other sites that aggregate deals, including Yipit, Urban Spoils, and Dealery.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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