This DreamIt startup is monetizing Instagram. It just took a pivot to get there - Philly


Jan. 5, 2015 12:15 pm

This DreamIt startup is monetizing Instagram. It just took a pivot to get there

Allison Berliner ditched her initial venture for a new one, with guidance from a local master of the pivot, Curalate's Apu Gupta.

Allison Berliner, CEO of Cataluv, at DreamIt Ventures Demo Day 2014.

(Photo courtesy of DreamIt Ventures)

Something wasn’t sticking.

The team behind PopInShop, a startup that aimed to connect fashion designers with brick-and-mortar stores for popup shops, had just released a handful of product improvements in hopes of seeing more user engagement, but it didn’t work. That’s when they decided to reassess. The team sent surveys to designers and stores to figure out what their No. 1 problem was. The results were clear, if a little hard to swallow: PopInShop wasn’t solving a real problem.

“It was a tough realization,” said CEO Allison Berliner, 30, of Center City.

So what did those designers and stores want?

To monetize social media.

Berliner and her team launched a new product called Spot It Buy It right before Thanksgiving, shortly after completing the three-month DreamIt Ventures accelerator. Spot It Buy It lets designers and retailers turn Instagram into an ecommerce platform by creating a landing page that links to the brand’s website. Fifty brands are using the platform for free right now, while Spot It Buy It collects feedback. They hope to convert those free trial members into paying customers in January, Berliner said.

Spot It Buy It will charge a $20 per month subscription fee for the service, as well as a yet-to-be-determined percentage of sales.


The Spot It Buy It team. CTO Roopak Majmudar is in the white shirt. (Photo courtesy of DreamIt Ventures)

Spot It Buy It sounds a lot like another local startup’s product to monetize Instagram: Curalate’s Like2Buy, though their target market is different. Like2Buy is used by big name brands like Target, Nordstrom and Williams-Sonoma. But the startup has Curalate CEO Apu Gupta’s blessing, Berliner said. He was the team’s mentor during DreamIt Ventures.


When asked about the similarity between the products, Berliner said that this product was just the beginning for her startup. This is the minimum viable product.

“We’re not hanging a whole company on this,” she said.

The big vision is to create “an ecommerce platform that fits with the way people shop today,” she said.

Gupta turned out to be a perfect fit as a mentor for Spot It Buy It because Curalate also pivoted before landing in its present state. The Curalate lore is that the team brainstormed more than 70 startup ideas after ditching Storably, their initial venture.

Under Gupta’s direction, Spot It Buy It did the same.

They launched landing pages for their favorite ideas to gauge interest. Ideas included Votique, a Product Hunt for fashion, and BrandBox, a BirchBox for indie designers and geared toward store owners. What eventually became Spot It Buy It was the clear winner.

Spot It Buy It also resembles another startup in the recent DreamIt class called RedBerry, whose Instagram-esque mobile app wants to be a place where small- to medium-sized retailers can sell directly to customers. Both startups are trying to make it easier for small brands to sell their wares online and via mobile, with RedBerry creating its own platform inspired by Instagram and Spot It Buy It using Instagram itself.

Berliner, who got her MBA from Wharton in 2013, plans to start raising a $450,000 round in early 2015. The five-person team will also likely move to Callowhill’s Venturef0rth after leaving the Innovation Center@3401, the University City space where DreamIt startups had office space.

Though we’ve seen many fashion startups leave Philadelphia for New York City, Berliner said that’s not in the cards.

“Fashion isn’t only in New York,” she said, calling Urban Outfitters’ presence here “encouraging.”

Plus, New York is just a train ride away.

For Berliner, the most important thing is talent, not being near big brands.

“We want go where the talent is because that’s what hard to find, and so far, we’ve been able to find it here,” she said.

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