Monday Aug 18, 2014 by Josh Boyle - Director of Community & Marketing, VentureFizz
By now you’ve likely heard of Paul English’s latest venture, Blade, the new incubator that doubles as a private event space. Before his launch, Paul let VentureFizz inside to share the story behind Blade and his vision and passion for making more consumer tech work here in Boston in spite of all the naysayers (it deserves more credit than it gets… read: Wayfair IPO Filing).
It’s been roughly three months since Blade opened it’s doors and today, English is rolling out its first company, Classy - a student marketplace.
|Founded by Mike MacLean, who gained English’s attention in part because of their shared Alma Mater, UMass Boston, Classy is “making it painfully easy for students to buy and sell stuff - through their phone” MacLean tells me. MacLean also happens to be a DJ (and previously founded a record label), which is without a doubt an added value to Blade. I’m told they’ve already closed out a few workdays with MacLean on the turntables in the office.|
So why were MacLean and Classy one of Blade’s first investments from their $20 Million fund?
MacLean had initially targeted English as an advisor. He was aware of Blade, he said, but wasn’t looking for an investment when he reached out cold to his fellow alum. English, who says he does his best to help out aspiring entrepreneurs from both his alma maters, UMass Boston and Boston Latin, was impressed with MacLean’s emails, his “scrappiness” and of course his pitch.
English loves the product, loves the design and loves MacLean's tenacity he told me. Talking about Classy, he said, “It’s the simplest way to do commerce. Everything is opposite of Craigslist. Not creepy and ugly. It is clean and easy to use.”
For MacLean, having English as a partner and building Classy with the Blade team has been “incredible,” he says. “We started out with just two of us in Starbucks now we’re here surrounded by a team and incredible talent” he added. Counting Blade, Classy is a six person team, including Brian Kalma, a “nationally famous designer,” as English describes him.
Blade, who is currently undergoing their own self-analysis of what is working and what isn’t, has provided quite a bit for Classy (capital, office space, IT support, payroll, legal and much more), but in MacLean’s eyes, the mentorship and introductions are among the most important and instrumental.
This guidance is what brings us to today, the launch of Classy on four campuses - Northeastern, Boston University, Harvard and Babson. There will also be a softer launch at UMass Boston as many students there are currently users of the previous model MacLean rolled out and will be transferred over to the new platform. Additional schools will become available in following weeks.
The new app will simplify on-campus, authenticated student-to-student commerce, while ensuring a high quality, spam-free experience. Classy will offer each university a branded marketplace only for their students.
How does it work?
Take a photo of something, put a price and title on it, and it is then instantly available for sale to any student at your school. When you find a buyer, you can then decide where to meet on campus to exchange goods for cash. Initial categories are books, fashion and electronics. Students can list other things for sale under an “Other” category. Once a new type of item becomes popular under “Other” (for example, furniture), it will be promoted to its own top-level category.
To make sure you are buying things from actual students on your campus, Classy requires Facebook authentication and EDU email address verification on initial signup.
If you’re a student at any of these schools (or a parent that wants your son or daughter to stop calling you for money) looking to make some cash and unload excess items, give Classy a shot. Launching in the Apple store today, Classy will be released on Android in September.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one as it’s the first out of Blade. I think it’s safe to say the Boston ecosystem is ready to see a lot more consumer tech break through and we know English is determined to make that happened. Perhaps Mike MacLean brought him one to start the upward trend.