Home CompaniesB2B This Steve Case-funded Charleston Startup Mobilizes Silent Auctions

This Steve Case-funded Charleston Startup Mobilizes Silent Auctions

by Muriel Vega

Keeping up with auctions, raffles, and attendees can get a little crazy even at the smallest events. Charleston-based Bidr streamlines your fundraiser with text-to-bid auctions, raffles, and registration all in one platform — no more clipboards, sign-in sheets, or cash boxes. Founder Sam Staley conceived of the text app after watching his child’s elementary school struggle to keep up with the admin tasks behind auction events.

Bidr makes it easy for small organizations to set up their events through an online platform, list all bidding and raffle items, and keep track of attendees. Your attendees can easily register, get text updates on their favorite bids (after they leave) and pay via text, helping your organization make 40 percent more money. At the end, Bidr only takes 3 percent of the event’s net earnings.

Staley talks to Hypepotamus about his passion for small-scale events, Bidr’s new exciting partnership, and their big goal for this year.

Where are you with funding right now?

We’ve been bootstrapped to date. We raised a $200K seed round in 2015, half came from AOL co-founder Steve Case’s pitch competition win and the other half from undisclosed investors. We added more staff and also used it to prime our marketing, including trials, ad buys, and online campaigns. Since then, we’ve really dialed in. Our acquisition cost is now $24 per event, which is great for us. We leveraged those funds and now we’re ready to go really fast with it.

How big is the team now?

We still run pretty lean. We’ve got a network of about 20 event reps around the country. Those are guys that we send directly to events that request it. Then internally, we’re pretty lean. We’re about five internally —sales and support, developers.

How did you get the idea for this?

About two and a half years old now, our kids’ elementary was having a fundraiser that my wife was helping out with. I just watched their processes as they were shuffling papers and it was cumbersome. I said, “God, there’s gotta be a better way. Let’s try this.” And we did, and it worked really well.  I found out a lot of other fundraising organizations really needed it, so we’ve been growing fast ever since.

What’s your pitch to organizations that could benefit from Bidr?

Last year, we helped over 250 fundraising events increase their revenues by 47 percent on average. That’s our mission — to help these events make more money.  We have a software platform that facilitates event ticketing, silent auctions, raffles, and text to donate.

What challenges have you encountered helping folks adopt this particular app, and using it?

The biggest thing we hear from organizers is they’re a little worried about the older demographic at some of these fundraising events. But I always use the case of my mother-in-law. She’s on Facebook all day. She’s interacting with her friends in the digital world. I think they’d be surprised to know how much of their constituents have already made that leap. It often isn’t an issue when we get into the event.

What’s your current revenue model?

We make 3 percent of what we help the organizations raise and that’s it. It’s that simple. That’s what’s so exciting about our model. We built it from day one to be self-signup and self-managed. Out of those 250 events we helped last year, maybe 30 percent of them never talked to a human on our end and that’s what we want. We can really scale this model.

What our niche is, these organizations that are raising $100,000 or less, there’s no other software in the market that caters to those small events. We really hit those hard and let them sign themselves up, do their event, make more money. We can scale and do 1000 of those a week. We’ve helped events raise as much as a million dollars in a single night, and we’re happy to do that, but we’re really passionate about those events out there that you can never find or hear of that are raising $35,000, $50,000.

What are some lessons that you learned, that may be helpful to other entrepreneurs, as you were growing your business?

I always say, don’t spend too much time building it, until someone will pay you at least a dollar for it. I see a lot of startups get bogged down in their product, and wanting it to be perfect, and I always say, put it out there. Because you don’t even know what the market is gonna turn it into. It’s not gonna be your vision by the time it’s out there making money, right? So you gotta get it out there as soon as possible.

How does the Southeast fit into your startup’s story, especially growing up in Atlanta and building your business in Charleston, SC?

I’m excited about it. I think it’s really up and coming. That’s why we were excited to work with Steve Case and Rev Ventures. Their mission is just that. Technology is allowing startups like ours to grow in these edge markets. Charleston’s still an edge market. Newnan, GA, where I grew up, would be a tiny market, but you could start a company there now, because you’re connected, and you have all of the digital resources you need. That vision, I think, certainly lives in Charleston. We’ve got a really vibrant startup community here, so it’s really easy to plug-in with other companies and collaborate. I’m excited about where we are regionally with starting something up.

What’s next for Bidr?

In January, we became a preferred technology partner of Blackbaud, a cloud software company that encourages organizations to increase their impact by using technology. They’re the 900 pound gorilla in the non-profit space, so that’s really exciting. This partnership for us is huge because it now means their over 500-person sales force is pushing us into their 40,000 nonprofit clients. I want to do 1000 events this year, so we’re running really fast to get there.

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