Thanks to the SBDC an innovative crowdsourcing platform gains valuable contacts to jumpstart business development.
Working in urban planning and real estate development, DeKoven Ashley and Mike Colosimo saw opportunity for an online community that would connect local governments, communities and residents. In 2011 the pair started building a prototype for thrdPlace, a storytelling platform that uses mapping, GIS, social media integration, and crowdsourcing tools to provide anyone with the ability to share their project story and raise the funds, supplies and volunteers needed to get things done and raise the funds, supplies and volunteers needed to get things done.
When thrdPlace was accepted into startup accelerator Hub L.A. in early 2012, Ashley and Colosimo put their concept into high gear. thrdPlace targets a wide range of clients—including individuals, government organizations, nonprofits and for-profit businesses—and Los Angeles has a huge market of such clients. But as young entrepreneurs with a brand-new business, the partners needed help getting in front of Fortune 500 prospects. They also needed help honing their marketing message and positioning to clearly explain the bottom-line benefits thrdPlace can bring to clients. In 2013, thrdPlace began working with Bixel Exchange, a technology center formed by a partnership between the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. Regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network.
SBDC Business Advisors Linda Bidrossian and Elizabeth Stewart helped Ashley and Colosimo explore how best to position thrdPlace, work on business development and connect with other startups and potential prospects.
Ashley and Colosimo are currently refining their marketing strategy based on feedback and data from pilot programs they have run with clients including the City of Los Angeles, The United Way and a national grocery chain. “We are able to refine our product every time we get feedback from users,” explains Colosimo.
For early 2014, the company’s focus will be on sales and business development, harnessing the relationships the partners are developing thanks to Bixel Exchange. “In the long term,” says Colosimo, “we will be capitalizing on all the data we’re generating, blending civic with corporate initiatives, and building an automated marketplace to help connect people and tell a story.
“Linda and Elizabeth have been massive fans of ours, and that will without a doubt turn into further relationships and new business,” Colosimo adds. “If you’re trying to develop regional relationships and understand who the people are within those markets that are making decisions, [Bixel Exchange] is an amazing group.”