In three words, co-founder DeKoven Ashley described thrdPlace as, “Making community relevant.” In other words, this startup builds strong, more dynamic communities by bringing the power of the market to community service and development. ThrdPlace provides value beyond a marketplace. How’s that? I was privileged to interview DeKoven about his startup and find out more about this web and mobile application.
How exactly does thrdPlace work?
Conceptually: It allows the needs and aspirations of local community members to reach up, and it allows the needs and aspirations of institutional developments to reach down. “The gap – the potential intersection of top-down and bottoms-up community outreach, cause marketing and ‘giving’ – is a market opportunity valued up to $X…thrdPlace provides grassroots and institutional interests alike the tools to capitalize on their activity within the market.” It’s easy for anyone to start a project that impacts their community, get supplies and volunteers, manage projects and measure the impact that they are able to create.
Functionally: thrdPlace makes it easy as possible for you to get actively engaged in your community’ it makes discovery easy. It’s no more than 3 clicks to get involved. No fees. No sign up. “I just want you to be active in your community. You can be a change maker; you yourself can make a change.”
DeKoven also added, “Too often we feel that people look at challenges in their community and people feel they do not have the money to tackle this problem. It’s all about the value of other forms of capital.” Volunteering and supplies speak just as loudly as money.
“People are looking for more ways to give back. People give to a bottomless bucket; they don’t know how their donation is being used. Donors are over capitalized and under leveraged, they’re only asked for money, and they’re not asked to engage in something more.” ThrdPlace takes this problem and addresses it directly. ThrdPlace makes it all about storytelling and helping people get engaged with a project’s story and co-create the story.
Currently, thrdPlace is in public beta right now, but while it was in private beta they partnered with Whole Foods and ran a single campaign of 140 different projedts across the UK, Canada and USA. Whole Foods used thrdPlace to get employees to do volunteer work in their community. The startup allowed Whole Foods employees to find local projects/nonprofits that they could get involved with. This campaign showed that the people driving these projects were able to engage people and find projects that they wanted to join locally.
DeKoven explained that thrdPlace “replaces the middle man with an opportunity for the future. It gives distinguished data to those former middle men.” For example, the data that thrdPlace gives will show the middle men where they want to place their campaigns to have the greatest success.
What are your goals for the company?
Conceptually: “I want to brand ourselves and be recognized as a tool set for community service. I also want us to change the conversation from ‘lack’ to ‘abundance.’ We need to help people understand that the resources are closer than they think.” ThrdPlace is reaching out to foundations and for-profits so that they can display all their philanthropy and community outreach, and so that they can engage their communities around their work. ThrdPlace wants to help them tell their stories.
How did you come up with the name thrdPlace?
Ever heard of Ray Oldenburg? I hadn’t either, but DeKoven told me about this urban planner from the 19th century. Oldenburg was working all over Europe and studying in salons (where people get together and talk about anything and everything…not beauty salons). He was very interested in learning how people interact in a place that’s not in their “comfort zone” (home or work). From Oldenburg’s terminology, the thrdPlace is a combination of people and place. We all exist in 1 of 3 constructs of time: work, home, and… community.
“ThrdPlace facilitates the exchange of resources for development an tells the story of how strategic outreach can scale development across municipalities, regions and nations.”