Friends connecting while shopping online

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Innovation doesn’t always fall into extreme categories like pizza-delivering robots or 3D-printed houses. Most of the time innovation happens because there is a problem and someone finds a solution. That is the case with the folks we’ll talk to in this occasional feature—people who saw roadblocks and innovated around them.

In this issue, we speak with Jessica Pargament, co-founder of confab, a platform that provides a way for friends to video chat, co-browse, co-style, and connect while shopping online in real time on any device. The benefit of the platform became even more obvious during the COVID shutdown.

Pargament has 15 years of experience leading large IT and digital projects and additional background in omni-channel customer/user experience in corporate retail. She has her MBA in corporate innovation from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

What was the problem that spurred the innovation?

Pargament: In January 2020, my business partner (Morgan Hinson) and I were lamenting about the lack of ways to get instant feedback from friends on online purchases and the lack of a comparable activity to online gaming for females. We thought we could come up with a solution that would solve both problems. And, last year, confab was born!

What is confab’s solution?

Pargament: We currently have two products in-market. One is a free Chrome browser extension that the end shopper can download and use to co-browse with friends on any site. The other is a Shopify app that retailers can pay to download on their Shopify sites for their end users to use.

Can you talk about the tech involved in confab?

Pargament: We leverage the Twilio audio/video streaming platform to do the heavy lifting of our basic functionality. We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel and we get the benefit of the security protocols inherent in Twilio’s functionality. Our roadmap includes the ability to invite a retail associate to confab, integration with retailers’ augmented reality tools, and sentiment analysis to help retailers understand how their products and merchandising are performing.

You are located in Cincinnati. What are the advantages of launching a business there?

Pargament:We have felt very fortunate to be part of the Cincinnati startup community. There are several resources we have taken advantage of – including Cintrifuse, HCDC, and Main Street Ventures. We are a tiny fish in a fairly small pond, which has its advantages vs. the gigantic pond of Silicon Valley. The biggest disadvantage is that there is a tendency to invest in more traditional industries.