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Startup wants to help clients turn Instagram accounts into mobile e-commerce engines

SpotItBuyIt helps small retailers convert people who visit their Instagram accounts into buying customers.

 ALLISON BERLINER, 30, of Center City, is co-founder & CEO of SpotItBuyIt, which helps small retailers sell more via Instagram with a mobile app. Berliner, a 2013 Wharton MBA, co-founded the startup - which launched in a trial phase called beta in November - with chief technology officer Roopak Majmudar, 33, of University City. I spoke with Berliner.

 Q: How did you come up with the idea for SpotItBuyIt?

A: We'd been working with small retailers and kept hearing the word Instagram and they really wanted help on converting mobile traffic [on] Instagram into customers.

Q: Startup money?

A: We were in the [accelerator] DreamIt Philly 2014 class and got $25,000. We also raised money from friends and family, several Wharton institutions and the Dorm Room Fund. Participating in DreamIt was about the community and mentorship.

Q: What's the biz do?

A: Today, our goal is to help clients monetize their Instagram accounts and we do that by creating shoppable, mobile-optimized product pages that link to the brand's website.

Q: The biz model?

A: We'll have a $20-a-month subscription fee and a percentage of each sales transaction - it will probably be around 3 percent to cover transaction fees - but right now we're in beta and not charging customers. We had 50 businesses onboard in December and now we'll measure results, get feedback and then launch our subscription model.

Q: Your customers?

A: The first business we started working with is Satch & Fable, which makes handmade leather bags. They have 8,000 followers on Instagram and estimate that social media drives a lot of their sales, but it's hard for them to measure without us. We've seen a lot of activity from Shield & Honor, which makes jewelry. We have some musicians selling merchandise and artisans who sell beauty products on Etsy.

Q: Who do you compete with and what differentiates you?

A: Right now, we're the only mobile app that allows small businesses to use SpotItBuyIt the same way they use Instagram. In the future, we want to help small businesses better leverage and convert their mobile traffic coming from other social media. We have competitors but nobody is leading. If you need one targeting the same market segment there's Soldsie but their mechanism is completely different.

Q: How big a biz is this?

A: We have four employees and one intern.

Q: What's next?

A: There's a big hole in this market now. Longer term, we see bigger features that include working across social-media platforms like Facebook and Tumblr. Having them integrated under one platform will be powerful. The main thing is what our customers want. We're raising a $450,000 seed round and hope to close by spring.