A page on the Bidr app; (right) Bidr growth guru Jenny Sanford with founder and CEO Sam Staley.
Sam Staley likes to fix things. Take, for example, elementary school fundraisers. A couple years ago, Staley’s wife, Caroline, was on the auction committee for their children’s school, Sullivan’s Island Elementary. “I was watching all of the stuff they had to do—all the paperwork,” he recalls. “I couldn’t help but try to fix it.”
And that he did. After he suggested that people be allowed to send text messages to bid and created a simple platform, the event doubled its regular profits. “I knew we had something,” says the self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. “I told them if they wanted to use the technology again next year, I needed to make it pretty.”
Fast-forward nearly two years and more than 300 fundraising events, and 20,000 bidders nationwide have used Staley’s software, now known as Bidr. By visiting an event’s page at bidr.co, users can view and bid on auction items from their phones (where they can also purchase tickets and donate via text message). On average, fundraiser revenues increase by 47 percent; the company charges three percent of that total.
In addition to Staley and his partner, Patrick Bryant, Bidr employs six people at its new Mount Pleasant office—including former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford, who is the company’s “growth guru”—plus a handful of part-time event managers.
What’s next for the startup? “We’ve launched a new mobile app and are creating a marketplace of donated items,” Staley says.
CEO Sam Staley weighs in on memorable fundraisers that utilized Bidr software
➼ Charitable events for Emanuel AME Church: Many benefits organized in response to the shootings at Emanuel AME used Bidr, notes Staley. The largest was the auction for A Community United, which pulled in $338,732. Artists for Emanuel: Straight from the Heart exceeded $56,000, and Bidr’s own Text.Gives donation campaign netted more than $160,000. ”Together, all the events raised $800,000. It’s humbling to know you can be a part of providing that kind of impact,” Staley says.
➼ The Moth Ball: This New York City fête raised $34,986 for The Moth, which produces storytelling events around the world. The auction featured offerings such as breakfast with Molly Ringwald and tea with Neil Gaiman. Says Staley, ”A number of celebrities tweeted links to their items on our event site, and traffic was through the roof.”
➼ Charleston Collegiate School Auction: This spring’s gala raked in $187,000—$70,000 more than last year. ”Bidr played a huge part in increasing our auction revenue,” says the school’s director of development, Bonnie Scapellato. ”Before the doors even opened, we’d raised more than $8,000 in silent auction bids.”