Beverly resident and entrepreneur Brendan Smith applies a philosophy of giving back to his online business.
Smith is one of the founders and the CEO of Bizulu, an online business-to-consumer auction platform that opened its headquarters in Beverly's Cummings Center on Tuesday. Smith and his partners - his brother, Zach Smith, and Patrick Gillis - are putting this philosophy to practice through the "Bizulu Gives Back" program for the first time on Sunday night, when they hold a charity auction for Beverly resident Peter Frates.
Frates was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gherig's Disease, last March. He grew up in Beverly playing baseball and football with Smith and Gillis, was a standout, three-sport athlete at St. John's Prep in Danvers, and played baseball at Boston College from 2004 to 2007.
Sunday night's auction will go to benefit the Pete Frates #3 Fund, which helps subsidize his medical care and expenses not covered by health insurance.
"His spirits are unbelievable," Smith said of his childhood friend. "The man is a powerhouse, an unbelievable person, I get shaken up every time I talk about it...it's tough to see such a graceful guy kind of deteriorate in the face of the ALS disease, and they say the younger you are when you get the disease the harsher it is on you.
"But we have a lot of hope for him, and I think that he's made it his mission in life to raise awareness about ALS and we've made our mission in life to help him every way we can."
Thanks to some of the Major League Baseball connections of Larry Day - a former St. John's Prep baseball star who played minor league ball in the Yankees organization and now coaches at Vanderbilt University - some of the items that will be auctioned on Sunday are game-used bats from Matt Holliday and David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals, and an autographed bat from future hall-of-fame third baseman Chipper Jones.
Other items include autographed baseballs from David Ortiz, an autographed hockey puck from Bobby Orr, and a round of golf at Bass Rocks Golf Club.
"We're sports guys, so that's kind of the theme of this auction," Smith said.
Bizulu was founded in January of 2011 by Brendan, Zach - the user experience designer - and Gillis. For 10 months they worked on a prototype of the live-auction website and launched Bizulu 1.0 in October 2011.
The next several months were spent shopping the idea to anyone in the industry who would listen, which eventually landed them an invitation to present at MIT's annual inNOWvation event, and a spot on a Boston Globe list of 10 local start-ups worth watching.
"I'm thrilled that Brendan and his Bizulu partners decided to make Beverly their home. The energy that these young entrepreneurs bring to the city and their enthusiasm for success helps lift the economic atmosphere for everyone in the community," Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon said at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday.
"And not only are they smart, they are also caring contributors who are helping to make a difference for Pete Frates, his family, and all of the people who are affected by ALS. Bizulu's efforts in this area are admirable."
Bizulu is currently seeking merchants of all sizes to join the platform through their existing social media accounts, which Smith promises to be a new and unique experience. Merchants can create their own page, and have complete control of all sales, inventory, and minimum allowable sale price through Bizulu.
Businesses that use Bizulu pay a small brokers' fee on sales that go through, but in keeping with their philosophy of giving back, non-profits can use the site for free.
"If you're a non-profit, or you're raising money for a non-profit, you can use our technology absolutely free," Smith said. "We don't make a dime off of this auction, and we won't make a dime off of any of the charity auctions we'll hold on Bizulu...we wanted to build a company that could really give back to the community we operated in, and this is our way of doing it."
Ryan Mooney can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.