Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Ivan Pardo


We caught up with the creator of Buycott to find out how he came up with the concept, and how he's coping with the overwhelming response.

When it comes to finding out exactly whose pockets are lined by the profits from certain products, consumers are often left in the dark. How can they know if the food they buy isn’t connected to Monsanto, a company with a more than controversial history? Or if the clothes they want aren’t made in sweat shops with poor workers’ conditions? 26-year-old Ivan Pardo is the creator of Buycott, an app that enables shoppers to simply scan products to reveal their connections to issues they care about. As well as being able to avoid companies whose practices go against their own, Buycott also encourages users to commit to supporting businesses who are doing good in the world.

Consumers can’t be expected to research every single product they purchase, but the success of Buycott suggests that they certainly care where their money goes. The app hit almost 100 downloads a minute upon launch, and even reached number ten in the Google Play store. We caught up with Ivan to find out how he came up with the concept, and how he’s coping with the overwhelming response.

1. Where did the idea for Buycott come from?

I know some people who used to spend a lot of time learning about what brands they want to avoid based on their political beliefs. I had a few ideas about how to automate that process and organize yourself alongside like-minded consumers.

2. Can you describe a typical working day?

We’re a very small team, so I have to handle a lot of programming tasks along with all administrative tasks. We work out of a house, so there’s no commute. The work day usually starts at about 9:30 and lasts until whatever time it takes to finish that days work. 80 per cent of the work day is spent coding. I write the iPhone app and our CTO handles the Android app.

3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Buycott?

I exercise every day to unwind. I might watch the Colbert Report if I feel like I need to relax.

4. What drove you crazy when building your business?

The original technical task that we set out to accomplish — trace every product back to its top corporate parent — seemed impossible for the first few months. What drove me crazy during this period was curiosity to know whether we were going to be able to accomplish this goal successfully or was I just wasting my time? Once it became clear that we had a path to success, the following technical obstacles weren’t as upsetting.

5. What motivates you to keep going?

I believe in the idea behind Buycott. The more people who spend their money wisely in concert with one another, the greater effect the app can have. My goal is to do everything I can to maximize this effect.

6. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have been better prepared for the launch of the app. I didn’t expect the app to hit the top of the App Store and Google Play store within a couple days of being launched, and the failure to prepare our servers for that kind of tremendous load was costly.

7. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

I want Buycott to be a global platform where millions of people can come together and reward business for good behavior or punish them for anti-social behavior. To get to this point we need to expand beyond our original concept. The Buycott app that exists in the store at the moment has been a successful prototype, but we have a whole lot more planned.

8. If you weren’t working on Buycott right now, what would you be doing?

Buycott is the 6th app that I’ve made. If Buycott hadn’t received the great response for users that it has, I’d probably be trying to make a different app.

9. Tell Springwise a secret…

I never buy any products I’ve committed to avoiding.

10. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you want to build a tech company, you should know how to program, at least on a very basic level.