The entrepreneur behind Magnises shares his quest to connect young people across industries.
By Catherine Trifiletti
Millennials want it all, and don’t want it later, they want it now. Billy McFarland, CEO of tech companies Magnises and Spling, gets it. Maybe it’s because he is a millennial himself or perhaps it’s because he is naturally business savvy. Whatever the case, McFarland wants to give everyone what they want by changing the way young people interact with brands and one another.
The 23-year-old New Jersey native spent a year at Bucknell University before realizing he could combine his computer engineering skills and his entrepreneurial spirit to create a platform that would help connect industries. In 2011 he founded and developed Spling, a custom content-sharing website that is still in operation today.
McFarland’s continued passion for connecting people led him to his next venture, Magnises. Building off the idea that traditional social groups do not engage members frequently enough, he invented a perk-laden black card for millennials who can’t actually afford the infamous American Express credit card. McFarland and his team, tasked with making the gimmick effective, assembled an exclusive, yet diverse, community of people around the card through brand-sponsored parties and members-only events. After funding from several venture capitalist firms in New York, the concept became a reality in early 2014.
“The biggest challenge when we were starting on day one was building this desirable demographic, so we essentially went out and created a group of five hundred people from every industry,” McFarland says. “Once we got past that initial core user base, everything really took care of itself and became self-fulfilling. More members came on board and more brands came on board and the company grew really fast.”
Magnises’ popularity among its flagship member base in New York City, which has since grown to 9,000 people, triggered an influx of inquiries from intrigued Washingtonians leading to a D.C. expansion earlier this year. McFarland notes that the demand was hard to ignore. The District now boasts 1,000 members with projections to hit 10,000 by the end of next year.
Most applicants (yes, you have to apply) are accepted via referrals, ensuring that the membership is a tightly spun network of people. The $250 annual fee will not only give you access to the Magnises partner space at the Embassy Row rooftop, but also supply you with the MagnisesNOW concierge app that addresses all your lifestyle needs. Need a spot for a business lunch in Dupont? Simply type your request into the app and a Magnises team member will promptly reply with a curated restaurant recommendation. You and your guest may even be treated to a complimentary appetizer or a visit from the chef.
In addition to satisfying member needs, Magnises also gives big brands the opportunity to tap into the collective consumer subconscious of millennials. Last month, Tesla sponsored an event at a New Jersey racetrack where Magnises members, including several from D.C., were able to test drive cars equipped with the new ‘Ludicrous Mode’ feature. With the press of a button passengers were thrown back in their seats as the car’s acceleration catapulted from zero to sixty in a measly 2.8 seconds! As with other brand-backed events, the benefit was mutual — Tesla got to hone in on a demographic that values luxury while members got to speed around in Teslas and post envious Instagrams.
McFarland has hopes of spreading to other metropolises across the country. The idea is that Magnises chisels away at the intimidating mass of people in a city and successfully connects like-minded millennials through parties and exclusive events. Recently, for example, twelve members casually hopped on jets flown by two fellow Magnises comrades and headed to the Bahamas for the weekend -further proof that McFarland and his team are redefining what it means to have it all.