The Developer: Sola Obayan’s Mobile App May Boost Detroit’s Economy

Sola Obayan’s passion-powered mobile app is like a ‘shop-able Instagram’ aimed at boosting local business in Detroit.

The Developer: Sola Obayan’s Mobile App May Boost Detroit’s Economy

Have you ever loved a brunch so much that you felt the need to take a photo and share it with your entire network? Well, Sola Obayan’s Detroit-made app, Pavo, saves you the hassle of typing up post-brunch responses to: ‘That looks amazing, where are you?’ and ‘Was it worth Manhattan brunch prices?’ Pavo is a Pinterest-like platform where you can share that delectable eggs benedict as well as the info that your friends, family, and even frenemies need in order to get their mits on that hollandaise-slathered plate of joy.


“Rather than a social graph like Facebook has built, we’re building a passion graph,” says the 29 year old Michigan native, “you never forget how a product, brand, or store that you love makes you feel.” Obayan aims to monetize that fundamental human connection by allowing consumers, stores, and brands to take a photo of something, make it pretty (crop it and add a filter or caption), tag it with relevant sales information, and then share it on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

“Why Detroit? Why stay local?”

“Detroit is home,” explains Obayan. “We’re at the tail end of a recession right now and we really see tech as a powerful way to turn a negative into a positive,” she says of the Detroit start up scene. In a story about his mobile app development firm Detroit Labs, Dan Ward said, “There’s kind of a renaissance going on in Detroit. Any single person can have a massive impact on the larger outcome. It pushes people to do great things.”

Obayan is one of many business-tech oriented idealists trying to revive the struggling Michigan metropolis. The impetus behind launching Pavo in Detroit comes in some part from the idea that, “it may help that corner store that’s been open for fifty years stay open for another fifty years,” explains the techie turned entrepreneur.

Pavo is actually a side project that combines Obayan’s background in computer programming with her passion for social good. She is actually the principle consultant at her digital consulting firm BTO Solutions and she the Executive Director of the Social Media Association of Michigan . (She probably gets to the gym every day too).

Here’s what you can learn from digital marketing strategist and mobile app developer Sola Obayan.


Use mobile to create a better real world user experience

As Cameron Clayton of the Weather Company explains, “big data and mobile enable our world to be more personal, local, and social.

Pavo combines the benefits of social and mobile tech with the personalized, real-world connection that is provided by the ‘brick and mortar’ businesses, stores, and brands that you love. If you’re passionate about being vegan and you post photos of cruelty-free delicacies, Pavo will suggest nearby veggie-friendly restaurants, photos of their dishes, and even give you the option to order from their menu.

Think about how you can use mobile tools to collect data such as consumer preferences, behaviors, and even locations, and then use that information to offer contextual solutions that makes your users’ lives easier.

Pavo’s hyper local social format changes the game for competitors.

Long term Obayan envisions Pavo being of value to small businesses, large enterprise brands, “and most of all to passionate consumers.”


Small businesses can benefit tremendously from Pavo because it levels the playing field. Essentially the mom-and-pop fashion shop can be on the same level as big enterprise fashion brands. Big brands may still have the big budget advantage of being able to produce super refined images, but a small business can still take a photo that “really captures their brand,” explains Obayan. A shot of your friend sipping the best cup of coffee they’ve ever had may be just as appealing as the sleek image produced by a big brand’s creative team.

“If it’s broken, fix it quickly.”

Fast Company has written about how to make tough decisions, how to make them faster, and even asked readers for advice on the subject. So it was right up our alley when Obayan emphasized how just important it is that developers not to stall on the decision-making process.

“Figuring out what processes need to be removed to make your app development more agile. Asking how quickly can you release that MVP? What’s slowing it down, what features are too heavy, what features need to be pushed to a future date? Make those types of decisions rather quickly.”

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The Pavo team uses a mix between lean and agile methodology that focuses on consistent execution. The lean part of the plan involves multiple research phases. It started with an idea which they tested by collecting feedback from droves of social and digital experts at the SXSW conference in 2012. They then built a prototype based on that data.


That’s where the agile part of their developmental approach comes in. Since that original prototype, the team has improved the product by quickly collecting and iterating upon user feedback in a cycle that constantly brings them closer to their goals. This spring Pavo will launch the MVP for stores and brands, and after a collecting more user feedback, it will release the public beta this summer.

Obayan’s final tip for mobile app development, ‘get comfortable with uncertainty and be willing to experiment and implement new ideas rapidly.’

As a part of the Mobilizing series, we will be hosting Twitter chats (next one to be held next Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm EST), networking in our Facebook group and continuing the conversation at live salon events in New York City. Join in the conversation! And, if you know a woman who is mobilizing we would like to hear from you. Tell us about her here.


About the author

Cecelia Bittner is a journalist, gardener, and graduate of NYU's Studio 20 program. She produced Fast Company's "Mobilizing" series, which aims to build a network of millennial women who are using mobile to innovate in their fields