By Liz Segrist
Published Nov. 8, 2015
From the Oct. 19, 2015, print edition
“It was the first time since we launched that I had really gotten outdoors,” Staley said, joking about his workload as company founder and sole developer. “We had been head-down working, so when we walked into the tent and up to the stage and people recognized us as Bidr, it was kind of surreal.”
|Patrick Bryant (from left), co-founder of The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, Mindy Taylor, a former Bidr employee, AOL co-founder Steve Case and Bidr CEO Sam Staley at the Rise of the Rest competition aboard the USS Yorktown. (Photo/Revolution)|
A week later, Bidr was one of eight startups to pitch during AOL co-founder Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest stop in Charleston. Bidr won first place there, too, which netted the company $100,000. The company has since raised an additional $100,000 from investors.
Bidr was born in the way of many startups — an entrepreneur noticed an inefficient operation and worked to improve it.
For Staley, that was the Sullivan’s Island Elementary School auction. As he watched his wife shuffle through papers to prepare, he had the idea of automating the auction process.
He built the initial Bidr platform so attendees could use their smartphones to register for events, bid on silent auction items, participate in raffles and pay for items. The Sullivan’s Island event earned $50,000 in 2014 — double its previous average revenue.
“I realized then that there was a lot more money in these small fundraisers than I thought and that we were making a big difference,” Staley said.
Bidr continues to work fundraising events all over the country and in Canada from its offices in Mount Pleasant and the Harbor Accelerator’s King Street site.
During a recent visit to the White House, Bidr launched a new text-to-donate platform for philanthropic giving that does not have the traditional $10-per-text limit. Staley said the idea for Text.Gives came this summer while he was creating a texting campaign for families of the victims of the Charleston church shooting.
Staley said his struggle now is to build out new features while also maintaining and improving the existing product. He said he hopes to use the recent financing to hire technical developers.
But he said growing a tech team in Charleston can be difficult, particularly for startups that often offer less-competitive salary and benefit packages than some larger, more established tech firms.
“I always have four to five ideas I’m sitting on, but I have to keep blinders on and focus to build Bidr,” Staley said. “My goal is to either build this and get that volume and that scale so someone might want to purchase and have a great exit in the next 24 months — or to keep building this and become a top player in the market.”
The team now employs five people, including Jenny Sanford, a former Wall Street finance executive and first lady of South Carolina. Sanford said her 20 years of experience running political campaigns prepared her for the job.
“This role is no different than managing a candidate in a campaign because everybody wants to pull on that person ... and it’s my job to manage that,” Sanford said. “Campaigns are startups. They are kind of the ultimate startup. You start with zero votes and zero money and it’s a race to see if you’re going to make it.”
Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.
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