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Ann Arbor, MI 48104

MyFab5 hits key milestones without reinventing social media wheel

New ideas meant to reinvent social media are a dime a dozen. Many people believe that they have the next big, disruptive idea to create their own social media network, the vast majority of which never catch on.

Omeid Seirafi-Pour and his team of four found success with a social media startup not by disrupting a major tech firm's business model, but improving it.

"They won't leave the other product, but they will start using your platform," says Seirafi-Pour, co-founder & CEO of MyFab5.

The downtown Ann Arbor-based startup launched with the idea of creating its own Yelp-like social media network based on customer reviews. However, instead of users grading businesses with a star ranking they could rank their top-five favorite businesses in that area. The gimmick enables users to cut through the review clutter to find real diamonds in the retail rough.

While clever MyFab5's platform didn’t catch fire the way its co-founders hoped it would, so they pivoted. The 2-year-old startup is now used primarily as an add-on for Instagram, the popular mobile app for online photos. MyFab5's users take pictures of their meals at restaurants and use them to rank their experience.

"Most users find MyFab5 through Instagram," Seirafi-Pour says. "We give them value through our ability to introduce people to new options. You will find some awesome restaurants by following us."

The pivot worked. MyFab5's usership spiked over the last year. It had a monthly audience of 31,000 in March of 2014. It hit 110,000 by October of last year. Today it's more than 300,000. MyFab5 users have shared more than 1 million pictures since its inception.

"We're laying the foundation to accelerate our growth," Seirafi-Pour says. "We're trying to get restaurants involved in our platform as well. Early next year you will see our growth really accelerate from what we’re doing today."

Of course Seirafi-Pour and his team aren’t doing this alone. The startup has leveraged a number of local entrepreneurial resources from southeast Michigan, including Ann Arbor SPARK, TechTown's Launch Detroit program, and the First Step Fund.

"All of these programs have been fantastic to work with," Seirafi-Pour says.

MyFab5 also has a handful of prominent local investors backing them. David Fry, of e-commerce firm Fry Inc and Fry Communications; Charlie Morett, president of Invest Michigan; and Mark Symonds of PeachWorks are all early investors in the startup. MyFab5 also received one of the top awards worth $100,000 from the Innovation Fund Macomb Community College, Powered by JPMorgan Chase & Co. The investment is focused on helping push startups like MyFab5 toward large-scale funding.

All of those resources are playing a significant part in helping Seirafi-Pour and his team raise a six-figure pre-seed round this year.

"They have been very active in our growth," Seirafi-Pour says.

Welcome to the Year of the Gazelle, an exploration of the fastest-growing startups in southeast Michigan by the Startup team and the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI). Not only will we identify the local gazelle companies that are perfecting innovative new products, creating jobs, and generating lots of revenue, we will give you a full accounting of each one. The stories behind the entrepreneurs that build these businesses. The investors that back them. The resources they leverage. How they have all worked together to build Metro Detroit's new economy, and how they plan to do it in the future. In return we will only ask you to do one thing: keep up.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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