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HESS Industries Ltd. at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield - Photo Bob Perkoski
HESS Industries Ltd. at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield - Photo Bob Perkoski | Show Photo

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Columbus native sells Pushpins app to retail giant for millions

Peter Michailidis co-creator of Pushpins.
Peter Michailidis co-creator of Pushpins. - Photo Submitted
Columbus-born and raised entrepreneur Peter Michailidis has sold Pushpins to retail giant Performance Marketing Brands -- reportedly for somewhere between $10 and $15 million.

Pushpins is an innovative take on coupons co-created by Michailidis and Jason Gurwin in 2009 while students at the Harvard Business School. The mobile shopping app allows shoppers to build a grocery list, share it with family, and save money by automatically scanning for coupons on over 200,000 products in 55,000 stores nationwide. Six thousand stores, including Giant Eagle and Rite Aid, currently offer digital coupons.
 
Michailidis, a graduate of The Ohio State University (OSU), says the idea came to them during their first semester at Harvard. “We quickly did some market analysis to find out where consumer spending was the greatest and frequency to shop was at a max,” he explains. “That’s how we landed on grocery stores. At the time of founding Pushpins, consumer packaged goods manufacturers distributed $480 billion in coupons per year, and that number had been growing at 10 percent per year.”
 
With an idea in mind, Michailidis and Gurwin began a “streak of luck” by winning the MIT executive summary competition, leading to their first bit of capital and an opportunity to expand Pushpins. Next, they received a call from John Vrionis, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, who offered the opportunity to move to Palo Alto and build Pushpins in their summer incubator.

“I remember John telling us that he thought we were over ambitious, and that he didn’t think we could build what we claimed,” Michailidis recalls. “But he saw an opportunity to help some smart students and wanted to offer us admission to the program.”

Pushpins was given a $50,000 grant from Lightspeed that included mentorship while building the app. The investment allowed Michailidis and Gurwin to build a prototype of the app and integrate it into over 2,000 stores across the country. By the time they finished their MBAs in the spring of 2011, the Pushpins duo were well on their way to impressing Performance Marketing Brands (PMB), owner of rebate shopping programs like Ebates and AnyCoupons. PMG acquired Pushpins in December of 2012, and Michailidis continues to work with Pushpins, expanding their capabilities to the web and Android.
 
Looking back, Michailidis attributes a great deal of his success to his time at Ohio State University, where he worked on his first startup, Substruct Systems – a retail technology company with an office in Worthington. Since graduating in 2007, Michailidis has kept in touch with Dan Ogelvee, a lecturer at OSU who allowed him to sit in on his financial modeling class while preparing to begin studies at HBS.
 
“I have been guest lecturing for the past couple years in Dan’s class where I talk with current undergrads and graduate students about entrepreneurial finance and what it’s like to found a venture-backed company,” says Michailidis. “I’ve appreciated the opportunity to share my experiences with his students and hope to continue having this tie with OSU.”
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