Building the “Passion Graph” With Pavo

12/3/13Follow @XconomyDET

It happens to me all the time. I’m scrolling through Facebook feeds or Pinterest boards only to see an item of clothing or a plate of food (ok, usually food) that makes me think, “Must. Have. Now!”

Pavo, a new Detroit-based Internet startup, feels my pain. Its motto is “Share your passion because a ‘like’ is not enough.” With that in mind, it has created a “passion graph,” or digital marketing software that connects consumers to products, stores, and brands based on what they love.

What Pavo seeks to change is what it calls the “one-way street” of brands and retailers sharing products they want to sell on social networks, but with no component to encourage on-the-spot consumer interaction.

Last week, Pavo launched a free Android app to go along with the beta testing it’s been conducting with retailers. Pavo embeds product and purchasing information right into photos shared through the software to Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Sola Obayan, Pavo’s co-founder and CEO, says she and co-founder/CTO David Mehi have been developing the technology and building the product for the past two years.

“People post photos on social networks, but there’s no product or pricing information,” she explains. “So you end up having to ask your friends, which is time-consuming. We like to say Pavo turns your photos into a shoppable Instagram.”

Obayan’s background is in digital marketing, and she’s a self-taught programmer. Although she acknowledges there are companies doing things similar to Pavo, she says her company is the only one that embeds product information directly into the photo—a feature she felt was critically important.

“There are a lot of photo-sharing apps, but nobody has the purchasing information right in the photo as a tag,” she adds. “We’re also focused on hyperlocal merchants, which is another way we’re different.”

Although the company hopes to scale Pavo to the rest of Michigan within a year or so, right now Pavo is concentrating on a holiday campaign called #ShopDetroit featuring retailers like Pure Detroit, Aptemal, the Peacock Room, and Spielhaus Toys. Pavo is also working with several restaurants, including Mudgie’s, Great Lakes Coffee, and Slow’s Bar-B-Q.

Retailers have access to a separate, “more sophisticated” Web app that allows them to take pictures of their merchandise, tag it with product information, and upload it to the Pavo platform, where Pavo also will add photos from a merchant’s website.

The company also can send someone out to a partner retailer to take pictures and do the uploading. “We’re always accepting new merchants and we encourage Detroit retailers to contact us if they’re interested,” Obayan says.

Obayan says Pavo’s next step is to integrate payment processing into the software’s back end, which will allow the company to take a percentage of each purchase. At the moment, when users click the “buy now” button, they’re directed to a site outside of Pavo.

Obayan and Mehi are in the process of raising a seed round, and they plan to use the,money to expand the app, based on what they learn during the #ShopDetroit campaign, to allow consumers to tag and post photos themselves.

“Right now, we’re targeting merchants to take and tag their photos,” Mehi says. “The response has been fantastic so far—all of them have expressed excitement.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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