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Cincinnati, OH 45208

Michael Wohlschlaeger of Pingage

Meet Michael Wohlschlaeger, founder of Pingage, a Pinterest marketing optimization platform.
What is Pingage?
Pingage is a pay-for-performance Pinterest marketing optimization platform that helps businesses grow results on Pinterest while reducing the brands effort, time, and resources typically required for social media marketing. Its proprietary technology and continually improving algorithms maximize the likelihood of consumers viewing content, following a brand and converting to revenue. Because Pingage is only paid for delivering media-like results, it is constantly innovating to help its clients grow.
How did you come up with the idea?
Pingage is a pivot from my original startup, a B2C fashion discovery site called StyleZEN. The site was up and performing well, but my biggest challenge was to drive user growth. I started using Pinterest and by trial and error – and out of desperation as my funding was running low – I started to develop tools and rules that drove amazing growth in followers and traffic. While this was helping improve StyleZEN, it looked like a much bigger opportunity to use the system I developed to drive marketing results on Pinterest for thousands of other companies that are struggling to crack the code.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
Much of the advice you don’t want to believe actually turns out to be true. For example, landing investors is often driven by showing real momentum. Product and team is important, but success seems to come from getting in the market and showing progress. Everyone gives this advice, but founders don’t want to accept it until they experience it first hand.
Where did you find your first employee?
I was fortunate to find my first employee, and co-founder, from CincyTech, the company that first invested in my previous startup. Bob Gilbreath is a successful entrepreneur who launched new products at Procter & Gamble and sold his digital advertising agency to WPP. Bob was an Entrepreneur in Residence at CincyTech and was on my board. He helped me see the opportunity to bring the Pinterest solution that I developed for StyleZEN to countless other marketers. It was a natural fit for us to build out Pingage and he joined me as co-founder and President.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
I spend my time equally between three different areas. First, there’s work on improving the core Pingage product. Things like testing changes, monitoring performance, and inventing what’s next. Second is working with the technology team. We are onboarding new hires, continuing to recruit, and I spend a lot of time supporting the current team. Finally, I spend a good chunk of time working with external partners, investors and customers.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
My wife and I specifically chose to come to Cincinnati, Ohio to be part of The Brandery. We were drawn by, and continue to enjoy, the access to great talent in design and marketing, a lower cost of living that helps startups do more with less, and an ecosystem of investors, partners and startups that are working together to support each other. Perhaps most important for a marketing services startup like Pingage is our access to leading marketers. We have direct access to Procter & Gamble, Macy’s, Kao Brands, Luxottica and Kroger.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The Brandery helped us get off to a great start with concentrating coaching and mentoring. CincyTech was our first investor and provided additional coaching. We received our largest amount of funding from the North Coast Angel Fund in Cleveland. Finally, Cintrifuse gave us our first home and continues to provide support to our business.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
After developing our Pinterest solution for StyleZEN and seeing amazing results, we needed another client to make sure we could repeat the success. So we approached Brooke Griffin, CEO of Skinny Mom, an up and coming content startup that was also in the CincyTech portfolio of investments. Skinny Mom went from about 4,000 Pinterest followers to over 80,000 today. Brooke and her team are seeing amazing growth through Pinterest and the business is taking off as a result. This represents what we aim to do – help thousands of companies like Brooke’s grow and succeed by sharing content that improves people’s lives.
What inspires you?
We are inspired by seeing clients smile and succeed when we make their lives easier, grow their businesses dramatically, and become true partners. We proudly hang their logos on our wall when they sign on, and we closely monitor their performance and continuously think about what we can do next.
What founders do you admire and why?
It might sound self-serving, but I admire Ben Silbermann and his team that founded Pinterest. They followed their vision despite lots of naysayers and hype around other social media. Ben in particular is genuine and not afraid to talk about his shortcomings or struggles in a real, down-to-earth manner. Ben and the Pinterest team have enjoyed amazing success but are not arrogant, flashy or cocky despite just raising money at a $2.5 billion valuation.
What’s next for you?
We look forward to continued growth for Pingage and plan to roll out new offerings over the next two months. The first brands to utilize our platform have achieved amazing results in a very short time, often doubling followers and traffic within a few weeks. As we get more brands signed up, we’ll continue to fine tune our offerings and listen to our customers so that we can finally start alleviating the “social fatigue” that brand marketers are feeling today.  We also see some exciting growth opportunities for small businesses and bloggers on our platform to tap into the power of brand reach.
Interview by Joe Baur

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