ThredUP Swaps Boston-Area Office for San Francisco; Leaving New England Has Tradeoffs, CEO Says

8/6/10Follow @xconomy

News hit yesterday that Cambridge, MA-based thredUP, an online platform for swapping used children’s clothing, will be packing up for San Francisco next month, as first reported on Scott Kirsner’s Innovation Economy blog. The company has signed a lease for a building near the city’s Union Square neighborhood starting in September, CEO James Reinhart says.

Is this another notch on the Bay Area’s belt (think Zendesk and TaskRabbit), proving its superiority over Boston as a environment for fostering tech startup growth? Not exactly. Reinhart says the move is largely for personal reasons: he and his wife recently had their first child and they have family out West. It’s something he’s been planning for some time and isn’t due to San Francisco’s dominance as a tech hub, he says.

“I think Silicon Valley is certainly a bigger space, but it’s not necessarily a better space,” he told me in a phone interview yesterday afternoon. “There are tradeoffs in moving there.”

For example, he says, while there is a greater population of developers in Silicon Valley, there’s also tougher competition from tech giants like Google, Twitter, and Facebook in attracting that talent. “This notion that there’s more talent out there, and that’s why startups move, I think it’s false,” he says.

Boston also has a rich population of startups in the business of online swapping of goods. There’s Gazelle, for recycling and selling used electronics; Swaptree, where you can trade used books and entertainment media; and even a business for renting out your car while it’s not in use (that would be RelayRides.) “In some ways we’re leading the core swapping market, so it cuts both ways,” Reinhart says of Boston.

ThredUP does have the potential of taking advantage of the “spillover effect” from Bay Area consumer Web giants like eBay, when it comes to hiring talent or adding advisors, Reinhart says. He’s planning on moving with five other employees to the thredUP San Francisco office. The startup—which launched its kids’ swapping site in April after initially starting as a marketplace for trading used men’s and women’s shirts—plans to hire another developer once it gets into town, and add another engineer in October. A few thredUP employees will remain in Boston for personal reasons, he says.

Last month, thredUP raised a $1.4 million Series A-1 round of funding, led by Menlo Park, CA-based Trinity Ventures. Three East Coast investors also participated in the round: Founder Collective, High Line Ventures, and NextView Ventures, the new micro VC firm in Boston.

Founder Collective Managing Partner Eric Paley says his firm has investments in West Coast companies, so the thredUP move isn’t much of a game changer for his relationship with the company.

ThredUP now has about 16,000 users, and is adding about 1,000 each week, Reinhart says. He also says the company is looking forward to reaching out to the mom-focused bloggers and Facebook groups, like Circle of Moms, located in San Francisco. It’s a community thredUP has been looking to tap into in order to enrich its user site. “There are natural connections there that are interesting,” Reinhart says.

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