In Booster, an online crowdfunding site for causes that revolves around selling custom T-shirts, Andrew Moss said he’s taking with he learned at group-buying startup BuyWithMe and putting it toward a “mission-oriented” purpose.
Moss, who founded BuyWithMe in 2009, said he’s reflected on what went right and wrong with the former daily deals site as he looks to build Booster, a Newton-based startup where he’s serving as president.
For one, Moss said he’s committed to building the company in Boston — and not splitting up the offices, as ended up happening with BuyWithMe. The company was co-headquartered in Boston and New York City, a move Moss said turned out to be a mistake due to the distraction it caused in the early stages of the company.
BuyWithMe also faced a massive amount of pressure to grow quickly — due to the hugely competitive market (namely, from Groupon and LivingSocial) and the millions in venture capital funding raised by the company. Booster, instead, is a spinout from an existing company, custom T-shirt company CustomInk of Virginia, and thus doesn’t face the same external pressures around growth.
BuyWithMe ended up acquired by competitor Gilt Groupe of New York in 2012 following layoffs. The acquisition terms were not disclosed, but the outcome has never been described as a win for backers, who had invested more than $20 million. “Nobody involved with BuyWithMe was as proud of the result financially as with the other metrics of the business,” Moss said.
In his new venture, Moss does see some parallels to the best parts of BuyWithMe, particularly around the idea of taking things people already do offline and bringing them onto the Web with some major improvements.
Booster allows individuals, groups, and nonprofits to run fundraising campaigns for causes online by selling custom T-shirts. It’s something that plenty of causes do offline, but Booster aims to offer a better model. Organizers don’t have to collect money, for one. And since it’s a crowdfunding model — and Booster is part of a custom T-shirt company — organizers don’t need to buy a certain number of shirts upfront (which can result in unneeded merchandise).
Booster also ships all of the shirts, so that organizers don’t have to deal with the typical hassle of distribution.
Booster — which employs 25 — is typically running 4,000 or more campaigns at any one time. Examples have included a fundraiser for families affected by the Washington mudslide, a fundraiser to send a Marine veteran with cancer on a honeymoon, and fundraisers related to the Boston Marathon.
Most fundraisers are modestly sized — the average campaign involves selling between 50 and 200 T-shirts, to raise a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, Moss said. Booster earns revenue by keeping a small amount of the total purchase price, he said.
Unlike other crowdfunding sites, there isn’t a particular goal for each campaign that has to be met for the campaign to be funded, though there is typically a 20 T-shirt minimum, Moss said.
Theresa Battaglioli, a health teacher at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford, and her class recently raised $1,000 on Booster to help build the Patch Adams Teaching Center and Clinic, a free hospital in rural West Virginia.
The Booster approach, Battaglioli said, let the group to fundraise from a broader community than it would’ve had access to normally. The site “allows you to reach a much larger audience — people who may want to support your effort but whom you would not necessarily think to ask,” she said.
Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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