When Tom Serres and his partners — together a group of "college kids," he says, working as online strategy consultants as he made his way through University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business — couldn't take on any more clients, they wanted a way to expand.
And, as Serres finished his last year at UT in 2009, he says, they saw a business need: There was an opening on the market for a versatile, software-as-a-service campaign management product.
They knew there was pain in the industry, he says, so they founded Piryx, and in 2009, they launched their product, a fundraising platform designed to make it quick and easy to raise money across online media. And they priced the service with the intent of undercutting existing people in the same industry, who, Serres says, were simply charging too much.
"What we didn't realize is how much pain there was in the industry," says Serres. "How wide and how deep that pain actually went and with how many people."
Serres' firm is nonpartisan, serving both Democrats and Republicans. He says he never expected to really market to nonprofits, but that they now account for 50 percent of his business.
Piryx was built from the ground up to make it quick and easy to build fundraising campaigns around events, says Serres.
In the rapid-fire world of the online media cycle, being able to craft a solicitation for donations around something that happened seconds ago — the release of an opposition campaign ad, the passage of legislation, the public misstep of a competitor — can capitalize on momentum and translate directly into campaign cash. This is the problem Piryx seeks to solve.
Serres says Piryx can do the traditional, static donation page on a campaign website, but that isn't the point. The point of the software, he says, is to be able to create multiple issue-based requests for money, release them into the wild on Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, in search advertising, wherever, track in real time how much money they're bringing in, and decide which campaigns to continue, which to change and which to drop based on the results. To accomplish this, Piryx is supposed to make it easy to build each actual donation page in a short span of time. All of the fundraising widgets and pages can be themed to match your organization's existing branding, says Serres.
A compliance system can generate your required ethics reports — if you're running as a statewide candidate in Texas. The fundraising platform has been growing too quickly, says Serres, to round out the compliance side yet. Piryx is designed to work with a third-party CRM.
Each contributor is entered into a database, and that person's donations are tracked — including the path that brought that person to the contribution, whether it was from an ad placed, for example, on Glenn Beck's blog, or in search, or released onto Twitter.
The other difference for Piryx, says Serres, is that it follows the PayPal model: Merchant accounts and credit card processing don't enter into the equation, from a user perspective. You just sign up, run your campaigns, and Piryx handles getting donations from donors to your bank accounts.
Piryx has taken the latest love for open APIs a step further by building out a framework for an iPhone App Store-esque setup where extensibility — like interactivity with SMS, Facebook and Twitter — are add-ons that developers can build and then sell for a price. That's not open to everybody yet, but it's working, says Serres.
When Rep. Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, made his famous "You Lie!" outburst during a speech by President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress, it immediately turned into a fundraising opportunity for Democrats hoping to raise money for his adversary. But it was also an opportunity for Wilson, says Serres, whose Piryx software was tapped by consultants on the Wilson campaign to handle the candidate's online fundraising.
Only charge is per-transaction processing fee: 4.5 percent from 0 to $100,000, 4.3 percent from $100,000 to $250,000, 4.25 percent for donations of $250,000 to $1 million, and 4 percent for donations over $1 million.
Joe Wilson (R-Sc.), Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, The Miracle Foundation, Tom Corbett for Governor (Pennsylvania), Felecia Rotellini for Attorney General (Arizona), Barbara Bush Foundation