When Andy Mitchelides wakes up in his East Cambridge apartment, he’s surrounded by merchandise-boxes of clothing bearing his startup’s name, Sorry for Partying, are stacked throughout his home.
Mitchelides, who founded Sorry for Partying five years ago, is not bothered by the fact that his fast-growing startup is run out of his bedroom-far from it.
“I think that there’s this misunderstanding that to be successful you need to have this massive office space and tons and tons of resources working on something, and we just found a way to build this thing differently,” said Mitchelides, who works alongside Jason Carrigan and Demitry Toumilovich to run the company during nights and on the weekend-all three men have other, full-time jobs.
A lifestyle brand that taps into an enthusiastic demographic primarily made up of people between the ages of 18 and 24, the startup has grown not as a result of vast resources, but due to its widespread appeal. The startup now runs a website, a Facebook page with upwards of 40,000 likes, and, as of earlier this month, a new iPhone app-all without spending a single marketing dollar to date.
“I think it’s a brand that’s highly shareable,” Mitchelides said. “What happens is a lot of people start telling their friends about it, and I think that just attributes to the potential for organic growth.”
A year ago, for example, New England football player Rob Gronkowski was photographed wearing a Sorry for Partying tank top. The shirt Gronkowski purchased was actually a bootleg, but Mitchelides was not concerned about taking any kind of legal action against the salesman of the shirt-with a high-profile athlete wearing the startup’s name, the transgression amounted to nothing less than free marketing.
Mitchelides said that the company has only stepped in if it felt that someone was using the brand for something that the startup would not endorse, such as drunk driving. Otherwise, Mitchelides said that the involvement of the startup’s community actually serves to keep the brand fresh and perennially able to serve its users effectively. Indeed, Mitchelides said that maintaining the startup’s relevance is heavily rooted in keeping a finger on the pulse of its community. The way that people party and socialize has changed since his time at Miami University in Ohio, and the way that people interact with the company’s product changes as well.
In its earlier days, the startup’s website focused primarily on promoting content by student-writers, a path taken by many websites, only to find that users were most engaged by visual content-one photo that the company posted to Facebook, for example, garnered around 75,000 likes within 24 hours.
With its new iPhone app, the startup is seeking to harness the appeal of visual media by combining the ideas made familiar to people by the massively popular apps Snapchat and Instagram. According to Mitchelides, college students concerned about future careers are reluctant to release compelling visual content from the confines of their phones. Now, however, the company’s new Sorry for Partying app allows users to post photos from social gatherings anonymously. Without ever having to log in using Twitter, Facebook, or an email address, the only information the company receives regarding users is their location, which allows the company to analyze partying trends by location. What college, for example, actually is the biggest partying school?
The app includes a flagging system through which users can report controversial content, said Mitchelides, who added that the brand is not limited to the type of fraternity-style partying that people might typically associate with the company’s name but also includes people who party in different ways, such as through dancing.
According to Mitchelides, the startup hopes to expand the app to Android in 2014 and will continue to introduce new features to the app.
Despite its current success, Mitchelides insists that getting Sorry for Partying off the ground was no easy task. “The reality of it is, like with any startup, everything looks good on paper,” he said, but that, even when good ideas are executed, there is the possibility of failure. “We just managed to do a really good job of just not giving up, and that’s definitely not an easy thing to do.”