In September of 2020, many businesses were on the brink of shutting down as COVID-19 continued to disrupt global economies. Rhys Lawson wanted to help; he wanted to make an impact on his community beyond volunteering his services as a web developer.
He was inspired by a local business called Corner Store Vic that sells locally salvaged second-hand items. Corner Store Vic sadly closed their brick and mortar business due to the pandemic, but they pivoted with the idea of building a Shopify website that hosted auctions. Their business concept was simple: they salvaged items, curated them into an auction, and then posted the items on Instagram – engaging audiences and boosting sales.
The week Corner Store Vic began posting auctions on Instagram was when Rhys had an epiphany: “imagine how well a company would do if the audience could place bids directly on Instagram! It would not only be easier for their customers to bid, but it would increase their engagement and sales a whole lot more.” He realized he could in fact make a positive impact in the community and started coding Bidddy that day.
The first ever automated auction tool for social media
Bidddy works by detecting keywords typically found in a bid. This allows the system to easily tell the difference between someone reacting to a post and someone placing a bid. For example, if Bidddy were auctioning off shoes and someone left a comment saying “wow these are amazing!” and someone else said “wow these are amazing! I’ll bid $120 for the shoes,” the last comment would be detected as a bid. This way it doesn’t take away from the audience’s ability to react, interact, or engage with a post like they normally would.
Bidddy is receiving a wide range of interest, from artists to agricultural auction houses. Rhys is starting to develop relationships with local businesses with the goal of helping the community through the rest of the pandemic by creating a new virtualized revenue stream.
Before Bidddy, Rhys’ team was working on a platform that provided simplified social analytics to companies. His team would combine analytics like comments, likes, shares, etc. into one metric that represented overall engagement. They would provide the overall feeling the audience had about Product A, and what their growth rate was during that campaign. They would select the most important metrics and export them as a one-page report. This turned an eight hour task of gathering and organizing social data into a 30-second one.
Rhys acquired some pretty well-known clients for Reach Social Growth, from Steamworks Brewing to BC Children’s Foundation, but the growth still wasn’t there.
Eventually, he came to recognize that brands didn’t want to put in the effort to sign-up just for analytics. It needed to be paired with something actionable like an ad campaign builder or a post scheduler.
When Lawson realized there was a market for automated social auctions, he decided it would be best to build out this tool and use his learnings from the previous product to add analytics down the road. That way the user-friendly analytics would be able to help businesses better understand how their auctions are performing.
A team of outliers
Rhys considers himself to be the “jack-of-all-trades” team member with experience in graphic design, negotiation, frontend development, backend development, social media marketing, event planning, business strategy, and more. The rest of the team has a more tech-focused skill set with database architecture, user experience development, graphic design, and web development in general.
Lawson’s company is an outlier because of the diverse skill sets of the team; their ability to remain nimble and innovative during a global pandemic and because of his open, participative leadership style: “My philosophy for leading is to ensure everyone’s opinion is heard and valued equally, including my own. I believe the most valuable thing you can do as a team, especially when you’re problem-solving, is to maximize the number of perspectives. I try to stay quiet and listen to the team’s opinions before sharing my own.”
Participative leadership statistically improves morale and retention; decreases competition, encourages collaboration, and facilitates a free flow of ideas.
Rhys is also an outlier because he plans to set a high standard of integrity for the industry: he intends to use Bidddy to run charity auctions for local organizations and to partner with underrepresented communities.
Lawson wants to tap into the power of social media for the good of the community. What could be a more worthy aim?