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ThredUP, a trading site for kid's clothing, pulling up stakes in Cambridge

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 5, 2010 01:38 PM

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thredup.jpgJust over a month after it raised $1.4 million from a quartet of venture capital firms, Cambridge-based ThredUP, a site that enables parents to swap clothing their kids no longer wear, is moving to San Francisco. ThredUP co-founder James Reinhart says the company signed a lease on office space this week. Five employees will head west with him, with two remaining in Boston (both working from home.)

Reinhart says the decision was primarily a personal one. He and his wife had their first child last month, and his wife is originally from the Bay area and has family there. Reinhart spent six years in Santa Cruz, working as a teacher and helping to start a charter school, in between his undergrad studies at Boston College and earning dual Master's degrees from Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government.

In raising funds for the company earlier this year, Reinhart says "I'd mentioned to Trinity Ventures [based on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park] that we were thinking about moving [west], and I think they sort of came to expect that it would happen at some point" — especially after Trinity decided to lead the company's funding round in July.

Two Boston firms, Founder Collective and NextView Ventures, and a New York investor, High Line Venture Partners, also put money into ThredUP in that round.

Eric Paley of Founder Collective told me this afternoon that "when I met James, before Trinity got involved, he told me that he was probably moving to the Bay area," but that Reinhart was also considering staying in Cambridge. "All things considered, I'd love for him to be here, but look, we invest in companies in Europe and California. I didn't push him in any direction," Paley says, noting that when he was running the MIT spin-out Brontes Technologies, Left Coast investors at times encouraged him to move the Lexington-based company to California. (Paley successfully resisted.)

"I don't think Boston would've been at all a bad place to do this kind of start-up," Paley says.

And neither does Reinhart, noting that several Boston-area companies like Swaptree, Gazelle, and RelayRides are encouraging people to swap, re-sell, and share things in new ways.

But he does note that when looking to hire people who've built and marketed consumer-oriented Web businesses, there's a much deeper talent pool in the Bay area. Reinhart says that Trinity has already started to help ThredUP connect with some prospective new hires.

ThredUP launched last fall, and shifted its focus from men's and women's clothing to kid's stuff this past April. Members of the site list a box of kid's clothing they'd like to get rid of, and they can select a box of clothes they'd like to receive from the site's inventory. Members pay $13 per trade, and a premium membership with extra features is available for $30 per year. (It costs the company $10.70 to ship each box via USPS Priority Mail.) About a quarter of the site's swappers eventually upgrade to the premium level, Reinhart says, adding that about 1000 members are joining the site each week. There are currently about 1500 boxes listed on the site for trade, he says, and members have shipped 3000 boxes to one another.

"We believe we're building something for every parent in America," Reinhart says. "This is a fundamental consumer behavior change. We want people to say, 'Oh, my kid has grown out of these clothes. I need to ThredUP.'"

Reinhart (center, above) met co-founder Oliver Lubin while studying history at Boston College; he met Chris Homer, ThredUP's chief technology officer and third co-founder, while at Harvard Business School.

ThredUP plans to be in their new Union Square digs in San Francisco by September 1st. In total, the company has raised about $1.7 million in funding.

(The photo above comes from a Boston Globe feature on the "25 Most Stylish Bostonians of 2009.")

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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