Inspiration comes in many forms, and in the case of James Everingham, it appeared as a pair of knockoff Christian Dior shoes.
Everingham's vision ultimately became Pixazza, an online advertising startup that converts photos on Web sites into interactive advertisements.
Mouse over an image, and tiny price tags appear over handbags, dresses and other items. Hover on top of one, and a balloon pops up with images and links to similar items you can buy online. Move your mouse away, and the balloon disappears.
Even Google Inc. is interested: The online advertising and search leader, through its new venture-capital fund, is among those that have recently invested a combined $5.8 million in the company.
Everingham came up with the idea after his wife spent hours figuring out what shoes Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing in a photo ($1,000 Christian Diors) and hours more looking for a similar, cheaper version.
When the shoes arrived in the mail, the two sifted through a number of blogs and spotted comments from consumers who also wanted to know where they could get celebrities’ looks.
Everingham figured he’d hit on an online void. If all those people were spending that much time seeking out products they could buy, why not find a way to bring the products to them, without coming across as an obnoxious intrusion?
Pixazza was born out of that inspiration last August and has since added a number of Web site publishers, merchant advertisers and investors to its stable.
"Unlike other means of monetising their sites, which come at the expense of the user's satisfaction, Pixazza increases the user's satisfaction while increasing (the site's) incremental revenue," chief executive Bob Lisbonne said.
Pixazza currently works with about 10 sites, including the celebrity gossip and fashion blog I'm Not Obsessed. Working from home, taggers link photos on those sites to more than 2 million products from dozens of merchants that have signed on as advertisers, including Amazon.com, Overstock.com and Macy's.
For now, Pixazza is focusing on fashion-geared images, but it plans to expand to other categories like travel, sports and home design later this year.