On February 3rd, City Awake hosted a fireside chat entitled “How a Social Entrepreneur Raised $18 Million” with Pat Walsh, one of the co-founders of Classy.org. This anticipated event was well-attended by approximately 100 local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists seeking to understand how to secure funding and when to invest, respectively. Appropriately, the questions during the fireside chat addressed how to be successful in social entrepreneurship.
Classy was the perfect candidate for this discussion, as it had navigated many of the startup challenges towards its ultimate success, as referenced in the invitation to the event: “Classy is the world’s fastest growing fundraising platform for social impact organizations. Since launching in 2011, Classy has helped more than 2,500 social enterprises including Oxfam America, World Food Program USA, and National Geographic to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. From cutting-edge health programs to educational advancement, their customers are tackling the world’s greatest challenges with the power of the Classy platform. Most recently, they raised $18m from Peter Thiel – cofounder of PayPal and Palantir, and investor in Facebook, LinkedIn and Yelp.”
The Q&A format discussion about Classy’s success was hosted by Justin Kang, Executive Director of City Awake, a local organization founded with the goal of making Boston the capital of innovation by building an inclusive and vibrant ecosystem. President of Impact Hub Geoff Mamlet introduced Classy to City Awake, which sponsors monthly fireside chats with government, public and private, and nonprofit sectors.
City Awake is responsible for engaging Classy in Boston and thus facilitating a smooth transition for Classy and measuring its presence during the next few months, leading up to the Collaborative + Classy Awards event to be held in Boston in June 2016. In the past, the event has been held in San Diego and last year, speakers included the President of Oxfam America and CEOs of Clinton Foundation and Care USA, among the several notable leaders in the social innovation arena.
This year will be the first time that the Collaborative + Classy Awards is held outside of the home location. When asked why Classy chose Boston as the new home of the Collaborative conference, after considering other cities in the East, Pat was quick to say “Social innovation is [a] core competency here,” and Justin concurs, “If you want the world to change, the best [innovative] programs are in Boston.”
Between 1,000 and 1,500 entrepreneurs from organizations and companies big and small and venture capitalists are expected to attend the Collaborative + Classy Awards. As a prelude to the event, Classy will be coming to Boston every month to engage with the social entrepreneurs here.
Post event, we caught up with Classy about the fireside chat:
What were your goals for the event?
The goal of the fireside chat with City Awake in February was to start an initial dialogue with the Boston community about social innovation. Though we have roots in Boston – our founders and a large percentage of our staff are from New England – our company is based in San Diego and our community is spread nationwide.
We were excited to connect face to face with the social entrepreneurship community in Boston, have an opportunity to share our story, and hopefully get the attendees excited about the Collaborative + Classy Awards coming to Boston this June.
Who were you reaching out to?
Our goal was to engage with the diverse array of organizations and individuals that define social innovation in our communities – nonprofits, social enterprises, entrepreneurs, corporations and impact investors. Boston is rich with social entrepreneurs of all stages, from individuals that are just getting started and hungry to make a difference to groups that are very well-established and scaling their impact in dramatic ways, and we’ve been lucky to meet with many of them.
Our team left the event feeling inspired by all of the ideas, suggestions, and questions we got from those that attended the fireside chat. This is very much the audience that we hope will join us at the Collaborative.
‘Perseverance’ was a recurring theme that Pat went back to during the fireside chat event. What other qualities would you include as core attributes of an entrepreneur?
We would say:
- Dedication to learning & improvement
Were you able to make new connections?
We’ve had two trips to Boston so far, and we’ve been fortunate to meet with some great people and organizations! In addition to visiting MassChallenge, CIC, Venture Cafe and District Hall, it was great to spend time with Geoff Mamlet and the team at Impact Hub Boston – we were grateful to them for hosting the event! We also got to spend a few hours with our partners at Social Innovation Forum and Kendall Square Association.
What were your overall impressions about the nonprofit sector in Boston?
The nonprofit sector in Boston is unique and exciting. It didn’t take long to take in the culture, which seems to balance challenging each other while supporting each other. We’ve met some great groups that exist solely to accelerate the growth and impact of nonprofits, and others that exist to continue to push the boundaries on what’s possible, especially as it relates to solving social problems. We believe that social impact organizations across the country can learn from the innovative organizations in Boston.
Will you be holding similar events elsewhere? Here? How often?
Definitely! City Awake will be hosting several Classy events leading up the Collaborative + Classy Awards, June 14-16. We don’t have the dates solidified yet, but we’ll keep you posted.
What specifically would you like the readers to take away about Classy, the Collaborative, and the Classy Awards?
Quite simply – we hope you can join us in June! The Collaborative + Classy Awards will convene some incredible social sector leaders and innovators from around the world, and we’re honored to be able to host the event in the city of Boston! We look forward to seeing you then!