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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 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

First impressions matter – how to win over investors immediately

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Impressing investors is nerve-wracking, but these tips can help you to nail your first impression.

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Going in for your first pitch meeting with investors can be nerve wracking—especially if you haven’t yet met these investors in person. Fortunately, if you land a solid first impression, you can set the right tone for the meeting, and make the rest of the presentation a little easier on yourself.

But why are first impressions so important, and how can you ensure you make one?

Let’s start with a recap of the benefits of a strong first impression:

  • A reputation framework. Our brains are wired to make quick judgments about our surroundings. Accordingly, we tend to judge people based on our first interactions with them, with little opportunity to change those initial judgments later on. If you strike investors as a smart, likeable, and capable person early on, they’ll see your pitch deck in a whole new light.
  • Memorability. First impressions stick with people. If yours stands out from the other entrepreneurs pitching these investors, they’ll be more likely to remember you, specifically, and therefore may be more likely to eventually fund your project.
  • Personal confidence. If you know you’ve nailed the first impression, you’ll feel more confident, and as you already likely know, confidence makes you a better public speaker. You’ll speak more deliberately, more passionately, and with fewer mistakes.

So how can you make sure you land this impression?

  • Arrive in a nice vehicle. Show up in a luxury vehicle, or at least one that’s been recently detailed, sends a message that you’re already successful. This isn’t a strict necessity, but it can speak volumes about what you’ve already achieved, and how you might look when you drive to meet your future clients.
  • Dress for the occasion. Along similar lines, you’ll want to dress nicely. You don’t need to have ridiculously expensive clothes, but you should wear standard business attire that fits you properly and has no signs of wear. It’s also a good idea to get a haircut, shave, wear tasteful makeup, and make other small touches that improve your overall appearance.
  • Smile. Smiling is contagious, and it instantly makes you more likable. Don’t force a grin (or else you’ll look like a robot), but do flash a genuine smile as often as appropriate during the first few minutes you meet your prospective investors.
  • Use your investors’ names. When you speak to your investors, try to address them by name as often as possible. People love to hear the sound of their own names, so it might help you win their favor. As an added bonus, it will help you reinforce your association with their name and face, so you eliminate your risk of calling someone by the wrong name later on.
  • Warm up with something personal. It’s tempting to get down to business right away, especially because your investors’ time is limited, but in most cases, it’s better to warm up with something personal—even if it’s only a few lines of a conversation. Tell a funny joke you heard earlier in the day, or share an anecdote about how your morning has been going. It makes you seem more personable and charismatic.
  • Find a common link. If you can, try to find something in common with each of your prospective investors. You might comment that you got your tie at the same place they did, or that you use the same type of pen. Look for subtle clues about their personalities, lifestyles, and hobbies, and forge a connection through those channels. People disproportionately like other people like them, so the more commonalities you can find with your prospective investors, the better.
  • Watch your posture. Your posture says more about you than you might think. Keep your back straight with your shoulders back, and walk confidently with your hands out of your pockets. This is crucial for projecting confidence (and feeling it internally as well).

If you can land a great first impression, you’ll set the stage for a killer presentation—but don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to make sure you have a fantastic pitch deck in place, and enough knowledge on your startup idea to handle the toughest investor questions. If this is your first pitch, don’t worry – it does get easier – but the fundamentals are always going to be important.

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Business Finance

Anyone can invest in startups in a new, more bite-sized way

(BUSINESS FINANCE) With this new platform, startups can now seek funding in different ways than the traditional paths, using blockchain to set themselves up for financial success.

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Blockchain’s democratization of currency and investing continues to roll along, and it has just dug it claws into startup funding and investing.

A startup up called Securitize wants to offer an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) platform service for startups. The company believes this platform improves the equity experience on both sides of the aisle.

For startups, the ICO format streamlines the access to capital “without the overhead of needing to cultivate personal relationships and go through individual due diligence procedures.” Put simply, it takes less time and logistics to earn funding.

That trend of reducing logistical issues is also beneficial for investors. Traditionally, being a startup investor or equity holder is restrictive for numerous reasons. For outside investors, there are restrictions around investor accreditation to determine who can invest, and how much. Employees compensated with equity struggle with getting equity converted into an actual asset, if it ever gets converted at all.

According to Securitize, thanks to the ICO format, “investors can buy-in knowing the assets are completely liquid from day one.”

Furthermore, because currency investments differ from traditional business investing, more people can get in on the action.

That last point is important, since investing in cryptocurrencies this year is a bajillion times larger than the volume being pointed at startups. When these two world convene, startups get more eyes (and more dollars) pointed at their companies.

All that said, the floodgates aren’t open to free-market bedlam investing by anybody’s Uncle Ricky. Take 22x, a Securitize project that offers “tokenized equity in 30 startups – up to 10 percent of each.” For this project, you must be an accredited investor with a yearly income of 200k and a net worth over $1 million. These restrictions (among others) still allow Securitize to operate within the rules of US law; however, that barrier is still lower than traditional venture capital firm accreditations.

The implications of a more diversified set of funding will be interesting. Perhaps companies will be able to prioritize their journeys differently to align with new funding incentives. Its certainly a worth option to consider, and one that is important to follow as the first sets of companies embrace it.

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Business Finance

Startup offers Kickstarter campaign analytics so you don’t fundraise blindly

(FINANCE) If you’re considering using Kickstarter to fund your next big idea, you need to be armed with data so you’re not going about it blindly.

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You might have heard the common adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” If you’re starting a company, this rings especially true.

Whether you’re building software or a physical product, there are a lot of strategies to take into consideration, especially if you’re crowdsourcing funding.

If you’re planning on fundraising on Kickstarter, take a look at BiggerCake.

Created by Tross, a crowdfunding data and consulting firm, BiggerCake allows you to take a deep dive into the analytics behind a variety of Kickstarter campaigns.

(Author’s note: we normally don’t write about companies using Kickstarter because scams are rampant, but we know Kickstarter has been a useful tool for a lot of companies.)

So here’s how BiggerCake works. Campaigns are separated into categories by industry, like art, design, journalism, and technology. From there, you can see within each category like most funded, most backers, and highest average pledge:

biggercake

Let’s take Salsa for example, a photobooth built to help you make money — it’s already raised over 817% of its goal and almost $250k.

You can see the data behind the backers and pledges from a daily and hourly standpoint, as well as a favorite feature of mine: the ability to view average funding per day and average funding pace, since you don’t want to end your campaign too early.

Don’t be an idiot: always look at the data. Seriously though, if you’re planning on using crowdfunding to finance any of your company, please take some time to look through this resource.

It’s an easy way to learn from other makers’ successes and failures from objective, data-based standpoints. And you know how we love some good data.

Besides the funding pace and average pledge, take a look at common themes among the most successful Kickstarter campaigns on BiggerCake, and ask yourself some of these questions:

-What time is best to release my campaign?
-Is there a common thread among the copy or graphics/videos?
-What are the most successful incentives?
-How can I emulate the best campaigns?

The best part? It’s free. And after taking a look at the ToS, it doesn’t look like there are any big catches, so take advantage of this free resource while you can.

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