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Helping restaurants attract traffic from a mobile audience

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A Hackettstown startup aims to connect mobile technology and social media with that most ancient of universal appetites: food.

Photopon has launched an app allowing users to create coupons based on their own photos taken via smartphone. CEO Brad McEvilly said the photo-coupons can be generated from a variety of businesses, though restaurants and bars make ideal partners, since patrons often share images of their favorite dishes through social media anyway.

Here's an example: A customer visits a restaurant offering a discount on a meal. Through the Photopon app, the merchant authorizes a coupon that the user can activate through his or her smartphone. The customer snaps a photo and adds their opinion to the template of the advertisement created by the business.

The customer then receives an increased discount at terms specified by the merchant and becomes eligible for customer rewards and loyalty points based on how many social media friends take up their recommendation, while the business gains exposure. The app is free; Photopon derives its revenue from participating merchants.

McEvilly said Photopon bases its confidence on the belief that recommendations from friends are less invasive and more credible than typical ads crowding social media.

"You trust your friend's promotion more than you trust a business who hires a marketing company to do their promotion for them," McEvilly said. "It's more powerful."

McEvilly also believes Photopon's commercial strategy is viable because it feeds on social media activity already happening. In this case, the receiving friend gets an incentive to cash in on a discount rather than simply staring at a mouth-watering photo of a steak. The same user-generated ads can also be submitted via email or text.

"It solves a bunch of problems at once," McEvilly said.

The app is available on Apple's iOS, with further enhancements scheduling in the coming weeks, McEvilly said. Photopon hopes to introduce an Android version in about six months.

Photopon, a prerevenue startup formed last year, aims to attract 1 million users before it begins a capital-raising company with investors, McEvilly said. The business has about 2,000 users now, though McEvilly said some of those are inactive.

"Photopon hopes to introduce an Android version in about six months."


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