Keynoir launches innovative members-only group buying model

A new take on the group-buying bandwagon launches today, but this one will attempt to address the information overload about offers, known as “voucher fatigue”, while incentivising local businesses. Keynoir is described as a “private buying club meets Woot”, in reference to the tech site which made its name by having just one offer on one decent product a day. The startup even includes aspects of the old

But this is not a trivial play. Keynoir has already secured £1.3m of investment from PROFounders Capital, investor Jan Riem and Index Ventures (including Dominique Vidal). Serial entrepreneurs Paul Birch and Andrej Henkler participated. Vidal and Sean Seton-Rogers from PROfounders will be joining the board.

The founders are Philip Wilkinson (founder of the UK’s first price comparison engine which later became Kelkoo), Glen Drury (ex-MD Kelkoo Europe and VP Yahoo), and Jan Riem (technology deal maker). It launches in London this week , and plans to exand across the rest of the UK and Europe by the end of the year.

Here’s how it will work. Users will buy lifestyle experiences (such as hotels, restaurant bookings and spa days) and more “unusual and secret things” they say. There will be one such offer a day (called a Keypass) with a limited time window and limited quantity available, driving adoption.

As with other group buying sites, a minimum number of people are required to confirm a purchase before the offer is unlocked to the rest of the member base. But the founders emphasise that since not everyone who arrives at the site will be accepted as a member, Keynoir will be very targetted.

“People are becoming increasing weary and cynical of the whole discount marketplace and are looking for something more fulfilling,” says Wilkinson. It’s targeting 23 – 35 year old professionals and is looking to have a strict selection process for deals across the travel, food, retail and entertainment sectors.

His view is that that local businesses will like Keynoir since the business only pays if it gets enough people to buy on that day, thus filling capacity in the downturn without heavy advertising costs.

Hoberman is equally enthusiastic. He calls it the start of a “a new generation of social buying which will effectively connect the offline and online worlds.”

My view is that the walled garden approach is smart. In fact it’s already been tried by Wahanda, not through creating a barrier to entry before you can get in, but by targeting a niche. This is the one thing that most group buying sites have missed, thus leading to offer fatigue.

However the model is of course replicable, so watch as other sites spring up to copy its approach.

Especially for TechCrunch readers, this link will automatically get you around the invite selection process and let you create an account to see the first launch deal.