The startups I love covering are the ones who are disrupting unsexy markets in a sexy way. Many times, it's overlooked opportunities that become the next billion-dollar idea. One of those markets, believe it or not, is item collection. And with over $120 million of items going through their community, this startup may be on to something.
Tucked away in a small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, the company's CEO, Solomon Engel sat in his office determined to take his dream and turn it into a reality. On that night, Engel sat on the phone with his friend Aaron Anderson reminiscing about their earliest days as collectors when they used to visit their local collectible shops and trade shows as kids.
Since the digital age, many local shops and trade shows vanished, leaving both founders to believe there needed to be a new place where collectors could come together and fulfill their passion.
While Engel and Anderson's mental blueprint was complete, the two struggled to come up with perhaps one of the first important elements when starting a new company: the name. "I'll never forget that night. So many different ideas for names were going through our minds but nothing sounded perfect to us." said Engel.
After hours of experimenting with no success, Solomon turned away from his computer screen, looked around the room, and saw something that immediately and instinctively gave him exactly the name he was looking for. "I had just moved some of my stuff from Miami up to New York and there next to my closet was a big brown box that I had used to pack some of my collectibles in." continued Engel. "When I saw that box, it made perfect sense to me."
Today, some four years later, Engel and Anderson's company, Boxes is climbing the popularity ladder of the social media world, giving collectors the perfect place to spend their time while enjoying more than $120 million in items that have been added in their online community.
The void that needed to be filled
Socializing about our passions and hobbies helps to keep us excited about what we're into. As Engel points out, that especially applies to collectors, but with the digital age taking off, the local spots for collector gatherings faded.
"It became very hard for local shops to compete with the likes of eBay and other online shopping places. This also caused the trade shows to disappear since they were hosted by these local shops," said Engel.
"A huge void was created in the collector world leaving less and less places for anyone to frequently socialize and trade. We set out to build a place that could bring collectors together from all of over the world and give them an experience comparable to that physical trade show."
Building a community
When Boxes came to market, building a community was essential to their success. They first needed to understand what collectors want and need, which came easily since the founders have a background in collecting. "We knew what many collectors want and we built it for them. We spared no effort to make the experience great," said Anderson.
As collectors started to discover Boxes, they found themselves spending more time on the platform than on any other network, Engel tells us. He adds, "There's a variety of things that keep them here and wanting more, from socializing to having their collection with them at all times."
Ask a collector where they keep their collection and you'll hear a wide variety of answers from "in my office at home" to "packed away in my basement." With Boxes, collectors now have a new answer: "in the palm of my hand."
"When Aaron and I initially developed the idea for Boxes, one of our first goals was to give collectors a place to organize and store away every item in their collection." said Engel.
"A card collector who has thousands of authentic baseball cards can take and upload a picture of each individual card, add a description, and store it away in virtual boxes based on custom criteria," added Anderson. "This gives that collector the ability to take his or her organized and searchable collection with them anywhere they go and that's a very powerful feeling."
"With hundreds of thousands of items added to the platform, collectors enjoy finding great collections owned by others, socializing around them, and getting to know the people behind the items." said Engel. "They can't seem to put Boxes down. From every aspect of the platform they find themselves immersed in what they're doing."
The passion that drives collectors is turning Boxes into what we see as one of the fastest growing startups for 2016 and potentially another billion dollar hit. Their community continues to roar with growth and activity that's comparable to some of the most successful social companies of this time.
"We're growing at over 138%+ MoM on average. Collectors last month added more than 55,000 new items, and we predict more than double that amount for the month of March." said Solomon Engel.
"Since August 2015, we have collectors that live on Boxes spending hours per day on the platform generating more than 6,000,000 actions such as likes, follows, shares, etc, and leaving us to process more than 275,000,000 events." said Engel.
The road ahead
While Boxes is a social community, it does have several components to its business that in time can make it one of the largest global marketplaces in the collector world. "It's inherit for collectors to buy, sell, and trade with each other so we built a marketplace where we keep 10% of every item sold. We fall into a $370B market and are in a unique position to take a nice size of it," said Engel. Premium subscription fees also play a role in the company's revenue and we're told there are many more revenue opportunities to come.
"We've only scratched the surface and our vision for the company is nowhere near complete," Anderson says. "Our goal is to give collectors a place they enjoy so much they simply can't leave. We haven't even done a fraction of the things we want to do. We have enough work ahead of us for many years to come."
Today the internet is loaded with various places for people to socialize, shop, and keep their digital assets, but Boxes looks like it's becoming the first place to successfully bring them all together in its own unique way.
In a world where people collect things (most of us do), having your collection with you is almost essential. Most of us love to socialize around our interests, and what better way to do so than with the stuff we own and care about. The combination of the two creates a powerful social experience that can only encourage you to purchase more, OR sell those items you just may not care for anymore. Either way, Boxes looks like a promising platform that may lead the charge as the next big industry mover and shaker.