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The Pao App during COVID-19

By: Katie Stone


For many of us, the rapid spread of COVID-19 has meant complete upheaval of life as we knew it. Schools are closed, the hospitals are flooded and business in America is no longer booming as usual. The pandemic has hit small businesses especially hard as their financial foundations are not strong enough to support decreased consumption and outreach to new clientele has come to a screeching halt. According to a recent survey by Goldman Sachs, about half of small businesses speculate that they will not be able to stay open in the coming weeks.


While some businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, others are maintaining growth and adapting their services to meet consumers’ current needs. One of these companies is Pao.

Pao, a social media traveling app, has continued to create globally inspired content as usual. Pao’s purpose is to act as a combination of Instagram, Yelp and Tripadvisor to put user-generated travel advice in one location. This way, users can spend less time deciding where to travel to on social media, and more time off their phones and experiencing life. In a time where getting off your couch and into the real world is highly discouraged, business as usual isn’t so easy for Pao.


Anna Zervos, Pao’s 24-year-old founder and CEO, says that their numbers are looking relatively normal and content is still being generated. “People are bored and sharing their past travels on Pao as a way to relive them,” said Zervos. For media platforms like Pao, the increase in time at home has benefitted the companies. Although there hasn’t been a significant uptick in new downloads, those who are already on the app are spending more time on it than before. Zervos predicts that this forced isolation will lend itself well to an increase in travel afterwards, as she believes “this time has put a lot of time in perspective for people… we anticipate many people booking trips and taking full advantage of life once it is safe to.” Now that people are left to reconsider the things in life that truly matter, travel rises to the top of many peoples’ lists.


In terms of content, travel information isn’t useful right now as spontaneous exploration of our surroundings is forbidden in most places. Although daydreaming about future adventures still exists, Pao has decided to pivot some of the app’s features to better suit social-distancing guidelines. Recently, Pao has launched a website called “Keep Local Alive,” an effort to highlight small businesses to support while staying at home. Also, the team at Pao has decided to change the narrative to “future travels”, hoping to grab the attention of those people who are ready to explore their surroundings once the pandemic comes to an end.

As far as money goes, Zervos says that Pao is holding up well given the current circumstances. “We were planning on raising money again in June,” she told me, thinking back to a time before Covid. “We know it is unlikely that investors will be willing and able… so we’re going to push that off until the end of this year.” However, they still have a nice cushion of funding to support them for the time being. Zervos admits that the founding time has “massive Type A personalities” so they always give themselves a lot of wiggle room when it comes to finances.


As many small businesses find themselves struggling to make ends meet, Pao seems to be using their entrepreneurial tendencies to adapt to the current health crisis, and actually use it to their advantage.


To learn more about Pao: https://www.thepaoapp.com/

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