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Behind the app: Drowning in deals? Ruthie can help

July 23, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • A new app called Ruthie helps put some order in the email chaos of online deals.
A new app called Ruthie helps put some order in the email chaos of online deals. (Ruthie )

Last night, a DJ saved my life -- or at least saved me a little more time.

How? I downloaded an app called Ruthie, co-developed by a former fixture on L.A. radio, that aims to help you organize and actually see the deals passing through the ether.

First off, it must be stated that nobody is more dedicated to the search for a good deal than Kaleb Khu. The co-developer of the app is a fashion photographer, restaurateur and skilled discount stalker.

In not-so-unusual fashion, Khu had been juggling a LivingSocial deal on his iPhone with a Gilt City deal on his iPad while shaving. That's when it hit him -- there's got to be a better way to save money. He called his pal Christian Burkholder, a DJ and music producer, and Ruthie was born.

"In the morning, I have only a certain, limited amount of time," he told The Times. "I thought to myself, woudn't it be nice for me and anyone else having the same problem to combine everything in one."

While I'm nowhere near as dedicated about seeking out savings, lately, I have been drowning in deals and missing them as they pile on top of one another. The emails come daily for every savings site from AppShopper to Groupon to Mamasource to Woot.

Ruthie currently culls deals from five different online coupon sites -- Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City, Daily Hookup and KGB. The guys said there are deals on tap with Daily Candy and Lifebooker.

Ultimately, they are looking toward adding a half dozen more savings sites to the mix over the next few months, with a cap of about 20 max, Christian said.

Deals are integrated for 60 major metropolitan cities nationwide, with possible sights on international expansion. The app is out for iPhone only at this point, but the Android version is set for release next month, they said.

The interface is clean and meticuloulsy designed, including fonts and the subtlety of the wallpaper, to favor a virtual concierge desk, with categories of deals neatly designated. When you tap the "Close By" tab, it gives you an at-a-glance list of deals nearby, breaking down the savings.

So who is Ruthie? The app's iconic namesake is a cross between "Sex and the City" gal pals Carrie and Samantha, the guys told me.

"When I picture this app, I pictured a girl in New York City who is a socialite -- loves going out with friends, loves trying new things," Christian said. "But with the economy, she needs to save money."

(Truth be told, though, Carrie was never one to save money. Every high-end shoe in Manhattan seemed to call to her. And Samantha had fairly pricey tastes, too. Remember the Birkin? But maybe Ruthie was their frugal but stylish friend -- the one who never got camera time.)

Along those fashion-forward lines, "We plan on changing [Ruthie's] look every season," Khu said. And who knows, maybe Ruthie will get a friend once in a while.

But you have to look quickly; she's on the screen only for a few seconds at the beginning and occasionally when you take too long pondering a deal.

The guys said they have pulled together a little more than $50,000 in friends-and-family financing and have tapped their cadre of artists to assist in the app's design. They plan to do a more formal round of financing in the near future.

"Really, we did it as a passion project," Burkholder said. "Our goal is to save some people a little time, money and have fun shopping."


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