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Crowd Supply innovates, legitimizes crowdfunding

Crowd Supply is a crowdfunding platform on steroids, adding fulfillment, warehouses, SEO power, and project timeline tracking to the sector, giving much needed legitimacy to a formerly flawed process.

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Crowd Supply: the next generation of crowdfunding

Kickstarter launched as the leader in the crowdfunding sector which is now growing to include various spins on the concept. Since its inception, Kickstarter has garnered the most attention and press, and is a winner for media projects like art installations, music projects, and other fundraising efforts, but in 2012 when the Pebble smartwatch put up a page on Kickstarter requesting funding and became the most funded project in the site’s history, raising over $10 million, problems arose. The smartwatch was a winner because it was so popular, but the company was so overwhelmed and surprised that they were not prepared for such a windfall.

Kickstarter is a truly helpful tool for fundraising, but beyond that, innovators are on their own to meet demand. Kickstarter wrote in 2012 an explanatory piece entitled, “Kickstarter is not a store,” meaning they do not play a role in getting any products to market, nor insuring that they make it to market, they are strictly a fundraising tool.

But what of the companies that need more than fundraising? What happens when product development is adversely affected? Enter Crowd Supply, the next generation of crowdfunding that goes so far beyond just fundraising, but puts a twist on the entire process by adding fulfillment, warehousing, progress tracking, and more.

Crowd Supply IS a store

Kickstarter wants you to know that they aren’t a store, but Crowd Supply wants you to know that they are. In fact, they are so much more sophisticated than the average crowdfunding platform that all projects are given a red light or green light by a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.

Crowd Supply answers to some of the shortcomings of any crowdfunding site for products that don’t offer store functions, from how the project pages function to managing product fulfillment, tracking, returns, and more.

Crowd Supply funding works differently

One of the problems with crowdfunding sites is that the funding period lasts for a specific period, usually around 60 days, and fundraisers cannot access the funds before that period is up, even if they hit their fundraising minimum amount. Kickstarter, for example, does not release funds to be used for the product until 20 days after the fundraising date passes.

Crowd Supply’s President, Lou Doctor tells AGBeat that they answered to this conundrum by funding the project as soon as their fundraising goal is met so that they can begin production. If more funds are raised, they can scale to increase production, appealing to product developers who want nothing more than to get started.

Brands get the SEO juice and actual preorder pages

Another way Crowd Supply has put the crowdfunding process on steroids is by giving complete control to the fundraiser. Kickstarter is a massive SEO powerhouse and can give a brand a major boost, but because of their size and power, they inadvertently snag all of the SEO juice for the young brand’s name, as fundraisers cannot access their project page after the fundraising date passes to direct potential buyers to an order page.

Crowd Supply offers more than just a fundraising page, as each page that meets their goals is automatically turned into a preorder page, allowing brands to offer target delivery dates for batches of pledges so that no one is disappointed by endless delays (a bad start for any brand, we would add) as has happened with popular projects on other crowdfunding sites.

This setup is unique because most payment processors don’t want consumers to be at risk, so Crowd Supply mitigates consumer risk by allowing preorders to be cancelled for store credit, so funds are still collected.

Adding fulfillment and warehouses to the mix

The founders come from the e-commerce world and their existing companies will deliver $50 million in sales in 2013 alone, so what they’ve done is take the backbone of product development and added it as a layer to strengthen the crowdfunding platform. Genius.

They already have fulfillment for creators, warehouses, negotiated UPS rates, and can handle getting tracking information instantly to customers, handle return logs, etc. Most crowdfunding projects have to hire siblings and temps to slap stickers on packages in the inventor’s basement, with no real accountability to the consumer.

The company looks at their offering as ideal for serial project creators and assert that they are poised to have long term relationships rather than a simple one time event as the current crowdfunding world revolves around. We like to think of Crowd Supply as crowdfunding on steroids, built from the ground up for grownups.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business Finance

Bankruptcy doesn’t mean what it used to; no longer the end

(FINANCE NEWS) With the way the world works now, bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean game over.

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When it’s over, it’s over. Perhaps you heard your best friend utter this phrase after a bad break-up. It’s true, most things that end, end for good. Except in this case, when it comes to the retail business.

We have seen a record number of retailers declare bankruptcy this year. Beloved teen retailers like Wet Seal have closed down their stores and malls have become ghost towns.

Reuters estimates that nineteen major retail chains have already shut down for good. While you may not miss the tight, neon dresses sold at Bebe, closures of all of these retailers result in a tremendous loss of jobs.

And it is not only job losses from the store in your hometown, often it is hundreds of locations across the nation.

For most of these retailers, bankruptcy was the definitive end to the business. After filing, most companies choose to close all locations and liquidate the assets. This is the most common path to take, until now.

Even with the surge of bankruptcy, those behind the business are finding alternative paths to keep the business alive.

Behind the scenes, there are three core groups invested in every business: the company’s creditors, vendors, and landlords. All of these groups have a vested interest in keeping the company alive even if they are in debt.

The most recent trend for bankrupt businesses has been to keep stores open and negotiate debt loans rather than shutting down everything. The truth is that a lot of these businesses still attract customers and have a large cash flow, even if they are technically bankrupt.

For instance, Toys ‘R’ Us manages to take in $800 million each year on average which makes it a viable business. Of course, they are $5 billion in debt, but with an extension and restructuring of their business, they could one day turn a profit. However, this will only happen if they are given the chance to keep their doors open.

There are other options to lending helping hands to bankrupt businesses. After the popular teen retailer Rue21 declared bankruptcy landlords agreed to reduce their rents 20% on average. Though these situations are not ideal, this mentality gives businesses a life beyond bankruptcy and save thousands of jobs in the process.

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Business Finance

Everyone’s favorite online retailer is set to accept Bitcoin by October!!!

(FINANCE NEWS) One big name online retailer is about to hop on the cryptocurrency train and start accepting Bitcoin at check out as soon as October.

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Crypto currently

There’s no denying that cryptocurrency has taken off like wildfire, but will Amazon be jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon?

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According to one top source, Amazon has already started flirting with the idea and could be ready to fully use bitcoin in October.

Kind of a big deal

The news broke via The James Altucher Report, which is run by the former hedge fund manager and venture capitalist James Altucher. Altucher uses his experience in the business realm, where he has cofounded over 20 companies, to offer realistic financial advice and insight.

He communicates via his popular newsletters, blog and podcast. According to Altucher, Amazon is geared up to change their payment options as early as October.

Already Testing the Waters

Last year, Amazon partnered up with Digital Currency Group, a major investor in Bitcoin, to act as an intermediary between them and their clients. Amazon’s role is to handle all transactions, many of which include the popular cryptocurrency.

Major companies like Google, Ebay and Paypal already accept bitcoin so it is just a matter of time until Amazon follows suit. Even Japan and Russia recognize it as legal currency.

Amazon + Bitcoin = AmaCoin?

Don’t think of bitcoin as Amazon’s only option. Some speculate that Amazon may one day create their own currency.

As a company that has already started testing drones as a future delivery method, custom currency does not seem so out of this world.

The blockchain option has been a refreshing alternative to using traditional banks, especially for those who do not have faith in the current banking practices.

There are questions

If Amazon jumps onboard and rolls out a plan to use bitcoin this year, Altucher anticipates a major surge in its value. Since they have yet to announce an official strategy, and because the option of them creating their own currency is still up in the air, it is unknown how Amazon will integrate it into their system.

Will Amazon find a different way to accept bitcoin? Perhaps a brand new way? If Amazon does start using bitcoin they will join many other tech companies that have already anticipated the growth in its value. Amazon isn’t the only company that has started transitioning over. Many other tech companies have already started to become intermediaries to manage digital transactions.

#AmazonBitcoin

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Business Finance

Pirate Bay is mining cryptos using their users’ CPU… those scallywags

(FINANCE NEWS) Cryptocurrency and mining and pirates. It all sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but trust us, it’s 100% real.

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Who pirates the pirates?

Well, pirates, naturally. Piracy is a fractal. There is nothing so small that someone won’t strap on an eyepatch, grab a parrot and snag themselves an unlawful piece.

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Such is the swashbuckling tale recently broken on Reddit about Pirate Bay, which is borrowing visitors’ CPU cycles to mine cryptocurrency.

TRANSLATION, PLEASE?

To translate that from Internet to English, “mining” cryptocurrency means volunteering your computer to verify blockchain transactions. We’ve covered blockchain in depth before, but the short version is it’s a particular security protocol that encrypts tokens representing money.

When you join a cryptocurrency exchange, you use that exchange’s blockchain to encrypt your stuff.

Some members of an exchange volunteer their computers to verify that transactions have taken place. Then they’re encrypted, never to be futzed with again. Those members get paid for their trouble with fractions of coins from the exchange.

The volunteers don’t actually do anything. The verification and encryption are automatic. That’s the point of cryptocurrency: no flighty or nefarious humans are involved in the bookkeeping. It’s all about the robots. That said, somebody owns the robots, and robot time is worth money. Therefore, miners.

SIXTEEN COINS – WHAT DO YOU GET?

“Miners,” in common currency dork parlance, are folks who invest in verifying transactions on a large scale, turning those fractions of coins into meaningful profit. It’s a smart way to make consistent money.

One big caveat: you need serious computing power to do it enough to matter.

Lifewire estimates an upfront cost of $3000 to $5000 to get real money out of the process. That said, their estimate also says 50 dollars a day in profit, which means over the course of a year you’re talking 3 to 5 times the money you put in. Ain’t chump change.

YAR

Which brings us to Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay is, as I’m sure the pure and innocent readers of American Genius would have no reason to know, a torrent site where various forms of media may be secured for free by nefarious means.

You’re shocked, I’m sure. Not everybody is, it turns out: as of this article, it’s the 88th most popular website on Earth. 25th in Canada! Canadians, man. They’re tricksy.

So, unsurprisingly, is Pirate Bay.

To state the obvious, swiping media and giving it away is not a working business strategy. Robin Hood did not have a positive P&L ratio. Typically – I’m told, I of course would have no way of knowing this myself – torrent sites support themselves through ad revenue. That wasn’t cutting it for Pirate Bay, plus they just wanted to get rid of the ads for an improved user experience, so they experimented.

Their first scheme was borrowing users’ CPUs while they were on the website, using unused processor cycles to mine cryptocurrency.

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A CRYPTODIME?

The rollout was flawed. In fact the rollout was nonexistent: the only reason anybody even knew it was happening was somebody effed up the miner script and it started taking 100 percent of users’ CPU cycles as long as they were on the page. Oops.

But fair dues, Pirate Bay did exactly what tech folks should do when caught with their digital drawers down.

They fessed up in an official statement that explained their intent, addressed the problem people were complaining about, and invited further input. That’s more than can be said for, say, Uber.

More to the point, if the cryptocurrency mining plan goes forward, Pirate Bay will be providing a service to consumers in exchange for compensation at stated rates. The fact that it all comes in a novel form – the service is peer-to-peer, based on a model of free sharing; the compensation is provided voluntarily by people who aren’t receiving the services; the rates are measured in CPU cycles rather than money – doesn’t change the fact that fundamentally, “service to consumer for compensation” equals “business plan.”

For another time

Whether it’s a workable business plan or not is a question for Future Matt. Present Matt just has a question: if it does work, if Pirate Bay becomes a self-supporting enterprise trading encrypted, peer-to-peer money for an encrypted, peer-to-peer service, what then? At what point does it become more reasonable, and for that matter more ethical, to accept peer-to-peer transaction as a real thing and regulate it accordingly, as opposed to banning it outright?

Ask Piet Heyn. Better yet, order a mojito and run it past Captain Morgan. (It’s better because you get a mojito.) Back in the days of real pirates, when you wanted to rein them in, you just legalized them. If Pirate Bay establishes a legitimate revenue stream, that may well be the smart next step.

#PirateBay

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