Posts from crowdfunding

The End Of Pay and Pray

For years philanthropic organizations have bought fundraising software from the likes of Blackbaud and a host of other software companies, large and small, in the hope that these tools would help them raise money. The term I like for these fundraising software packages is “pay and pray.” There is no correlation between the amount of money a non-profit pays and the amount of money they raise with these tools.

I think we witnessed the end of pay and pray yesterday with the announcement that our portfolio company CrowdRise is joining forces with GoFundMe to create a single crowdfunding platform that will serve the needs of person to person fundraising, event based fundraising, fundraising for philanthropic organizations, and corporate social responsibility.

Over the past five years, CrowdRise built a suite of crowdfunding tools for philanthropic organizations, events like marathons and other races, and corporations that want to participate in social causes. Those web-based tools are used by tens of thousands of organizations to raise funds organically over the Internet. Now those tools sit on top of the world’s largest platform for charitable giving. In the six years that it has been around, GoFundMe has been used by over 2mm people to raise money from over 25mm donors. Over $3bn has been raised on GoFundMe since 2010.

I think the new GoFundMe has become the social charitable platform of choice, much like LinkedIn is the social platform for business relationships, Facebook is the social platform for staying in touch with friends and family, and Twitter is the social platform of choice for staying on top of what is happening. We will all have profiles on GoFundMe which speak to our charitable giving history and we will all have stored payment credentials on GoFundMe that facilitate one-click social action. In time, everyone who wants to raise funds from the billions of people who are on the Internet will use GoFundMe to do that. And everyone means you and me, it means charities large and small, it means corporations who want to light up social action in their employees, and it means events that want to offer charitable fundraising. One platform can do all of this and it will do all of this.

The other thing that is important to understand about a crowdfunding platform, like GoFundMe or Crowdrise, is that there are no upfront or fixed fees or minimums required to use the platform. Most crowdfunding platforms take 5% of the amount raised plus a credit card fee. So there is a direct correlation between the amount you spend for these tools and the amount you raise with them. And many charitable organizations that use these tools pass these fees onto the donor which means they keep 100% of what they raise on these platforms.

This is a revolution in the way money is raised for good causes. There is now a large scale network that exists to support charitable giving. And the tools now exist for any person or organization to participate in this network. And these tools cost relatively little, or nothing, to use. No more pay and pray.

Funding Friday: make/100

Our portfolio company Kickstarter has opened up the year with a challenge; launch a project in January in which you make 100 of something. It is called make/100.

Here are the details:

What is Make 100?

Make 100 is a creative initiative focused on editions of 100. Kick off 2017 by challenging yourself to bring your brightest idea to life, x100.

How can I take part?

Getting involved in Make 100 is simple: just launch a Kickstarter project this January featuring your idea as a limited-edition reward capped at 100 backers. Then, share your live project with us: [email protected].

If you’ve been wanting to do a project on Kickstarter but just haven’t had the right catalyst, maybe this is it. If you do a make/100 project, let me know in addition to Kickstarter and I’ll feature as many of them as I can on subsequent funding fridays this month.

Kickstarter Live

Live video broadcasting is happening all around us. From youth oriented services like our portfolio company YouNow to the largest platforms on the Internet like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, people are turning their camera on themselves and “going live.”

So it makes sense that crowdfunding platforms would embrace this trend. The leader in doing that is, not surprisingly, our portfolio company Kickstarter which tends to be the innovator in the crowdfunding sector.

Kickstarter rolled out their Live offering to all creators yesterday after testing it out with a handful of creators over the past few months. I like this bit from Kickstarter’s blog post announcing this new feature:

The key to Kickstarter Live is its intimacy. It brings creators and the people supporting them right into the same room together. And it encourages personal connection. Viewers can ask questions, chat, send selfies, select rewards, and back the project — all while tuned in.

Going live on Kickstarter allows the creator(s) to connect with their backers and potential bakers in real-time, answer questions, demo the project, and generate enthusiasm for the project.

Here are some projects that went live on Kickstarter yesterday:

You can follow Kickstarter on Twitter or Facebook and get alerts when creators go live. It’s a fun way to connect with creators, learn about their projects, and back them.

Kickstarter’s Impact On The Creative Economy

Professor Ethan Mollick of The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has been studying our portfolio company Kickstarter in his research. Late last year, he published his research on how many projects actually ship after getting funding on Kickstarter (answer is roughly 90% ultimately ship). Now he’s back with another piece of research looking at the broader impact of Kickstarter on the creative economy. We know that over $2.5bn has been raised by project creators on Kickstarter to date but what we don’t know is what has happened with all of that money.

Here are the findings from Prof Mollick’s research:

The study finds that Kickstarter projects have:

  • Employed 283,000 part-time collaborators in bringing creative projects to life.
  • Created 8,800 new companies and nonprofits, and 29,600 full-time jobs.
  • Generated more than $5.3 billion in direct economic impact for those creators and their communities.

Filmmakers, photographers, artists, authors, designers, musicians, and others reported that their project led to professional growth, greater earnings, and career advancement.

  • 37% said that their Kickstarter project helped them advance their careers.
  • 21% reported receiving an increase in annual earnings after running a successful project.
  • 19% said they found a new job opportunity as a result of their Kickstarter project.
  • 7% said their project helped them successfully switch careers.

Creators also reported meaningful professional gains within their fields:

  • Filmmakers reported that Kickstarter helped them secure distribution deals.
  • Musicians reported that Kickstarter helped them secure record or publishing deals.
  • Video game creators reported that their Kickstarter project helped them secure a publisher or attention from reviewers.
  • Authors and comic book creators reported that their Kickstarter project led to attention from mainstream publishers.
  • Journalists reported that their Kickstarter project gave them freedom from the external control of editors and publishers, and helped them create work that served an underserved audience.

I remember taking economics growing up and learning that an economy can have a multiplier effect on money. A dollar in can create multiple dollars out.

And it turns out that is the case with the Kickstarter economy. So when you back a Kickstarter project, something I do regularly including yesterday, you are helping way more people than just the project creator.

And, like most things about Kickstarter, that feels really good to me.

Experiment and Scandal

We are living in a time of great experiments. They are not happening in the lab. They are happening in the real world. And they are being financed by real people. We are witnessing the de-institutionalization of experimentation. We are returning to a time when anyone can be an inventor and innovator. Some of this has happened because of the explosion of venture capital, both in the US and also around the world. Some of this has happened because entertainment and culture has embraced the world of experimentation and innovation (Shark Tank, Silicon Valley). Some of this has happened because the tools for innovation and experimentation have become mainstream and anyone can use them.

I am not thinking of one thing. I am thinking of many things. I am thinking of The DAO. I am thinking of Bitcoin and Ethereum. I am thinking of Oculus getting financed on Kickstarter. I am thinking of the launch of equity crowdfunding for everyone in the US last week. I am even thinking of things like Theranos.

All of these things are great experiments that will produce great benefit to society if they succeed. But by their nature experiments often fail. They need to fail. Or they would not be experiments.

And one of the challenges with the de-institutionalization of experimentation is that some of these failures will be spectacular. Combine that with the idea that these experiments are being funded by real people and the idea that the world of media/entertainment/culture has injected itself right in the middle of this brave new world and you have the recipe for scandal. And scandal will naturally result in efforts to put the genie back in the bottle (Sarbanes Oxley, Dodd Frank). And these regulatory efforts will naturally attempt to re-institutionalize experimentation.

I find myself wishing we could keep the dollars invested and hype down when we do these massively public experiments. But the dollar/hype cycle is a natural part of being human. Some dollars are invested. We get excited about this investment. We talk it up. More people find out about it and more dollars are invested. More of us get excited about this investment and we talk it up more. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat and you get unicorns and distributed autonomous funding mechanisms entrusted with hundreds of millions before anything has even been funded. Eventually some of that gets unwound and the tape is full of red.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for distributed autonomous organizations and the innovation behind them and in front of them. There isn’t much out there that I am more excited about. But I am also very fearful that this could end badly. And even more fearful of what may be foisted on us by well meaning regulators when that happens.

So let’s celebrate this incredible phase of permissionless innovation we are in. And let’s all understand that we will have many failures. Some of them spectacular. Money will be lost. Possibly hundreds of millions or billions. Let’s expect that. Let’s build that into our mental models. So when that happens, we can suck it up, deal with it, and keep moving forward. Because an open permissionless world of innovation that everyone can participate in is utopia in so many ways. The good that will come of it will massively outweigh any bad. But bad there will be. I can assure you of that.

Funding Friday: Three Noteworthy Projects

It’s funding friday again. Here are three projects I thought you all should know about.

Black Medicine Iced Coffee – This is an equity raise on CircleUp for a new iced coffee brand. Not only does the product look great but you can get a $1.3mm pre-money valuation for a product that did over $300k in sales last year and is growing rapidly.

Black Medicine

To learn more about this equity crowdfunding opportunity, visit the Black Medicine CircleUp page.

 

Blue Sky Lab – This is a charitable crowdfunding project on Crowdrise. Xibei Li is running a marathon at the North Pole to raise money for a non-profit that works on reducing urban pollution in China.

Blue Sky Lab

To learn more about this fundraise, visit the Blue Sky Lab Crowdrise page.

 

In Search Of Truth – This is a Kickstarter project in which the creator, an artist named Hank Willis Thomas, proposes to take his “Truth Booth” to all 50 states in the US.

Truth Booth

To learn more about this project, visit the In Search Of Truth Kickstarter page.