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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.

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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

Private unemployment insurance exists – it’s limited, but it exists!

(FINANCE) Entrepreneurs – you know you’re supposed to have six months of income saved up in case of emergency, but another cushion is private unemployment insurance – it exists!

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Everyone knows that it’s important to have that reserve of funds stashed away in case of an emergency or a layoff, but it’s often hard to establish it—especially as a young professional or an entrepreneur. Even more daunting is building that reserve of funds to cope not only with a potential emergency, but a job loss.

If you lose your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits from your state — depending on a whole host of factors, including cause of termination and your classification as an employee. Often those state benefits are very limited in either duration or in payment, which doesn’t provide the newly minted job seeker with much in the way of time or funds to keep things afloat while they look for their next job. To offset that limitation, there are private unemployment solutions that do exist, albeit limited in scope.

For years, IncomeAssure, which began in 2011 and was issued by SterlingRisk and backed by Great American Insurance, was the largest private unemployment insurance policy. With about 1,000 active policyholders and over $1 million in claims paid out as of 2016, the policy is no longer accepting new applications for coverage as of late 2018, but is still insuring those with an active policy.

“It has been disappointing that we haven’t been able to find a cost-effective way to get the word out that this exists,” David Sterling, SterlingRisk’s Chairman and CEO, said, speaking to The New York Times in 2016. “It’s also understandable. If nobody is aware that something exists, it’s hard for people to find it if they don’t know to look for it in the first place.

With the closure of IncomeAssure as an avenue for new coverage, SafetyNet is another possibility for private unemployment insurance, depending on where one lives. Presently available in 10 states, SafetyNet provides their policyholders with a one-time lump sum payment between $750 and $9,000, depending on the coverage option selected at the time of inception. The monthly cost of SafetyNet varies by state and protection level, and is far less than the traditional policy that was offered by IncomeAssure, as the payment is correspondingly reduced as well. However, as a lump sum option, the ability to quickly access needed cash is a boon to those who may find themselves in need of it.

As with most insurance plans, there are certain exclusions to the SafetyNet policy. These include:
• A pending job loss that the client was informed of prior to purchasing the coverage, or job loss due to acts of war, criminal misconduct, or nuclear/natural disasters
• Job loss due to quitting or retirement, or are termination for cause, including for poor job performance and improper workplace behavior
• Any job loss within the first 90 days of coverage
• Any disability that starts within the first 6 months of coverage if caused by a pre-existing condition treated in the 6 months prior to coverage
• Any disability that occurs in the first 90 days of coverage, or any disability due to normal pregnancy, alcohol or drug use, or elective surgery
• Normal and routine downtimes and workforce reductions for seasonal and other jobs (like construction) or job loss because the task the employee was hired to do was completed or the time period covered by the employment agreement came to an end.

While no one would argue an insurer’s right to protect itself against issuing a policy to cover employment loss for those who sought to quit, retire, or get fired through poor choices on the job, some of these terms should be a caveat emptor for those who have medical conditions that may extend beyond FMLA coverage or whose workplaces are in areas prone to natural disasters, as neither of those conditions may be covered.

For those who are classified as independent contractors, however, the market for private unemployment insurance remains limited. In most states, independent contractors aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits, and neither IncomeAssure nor SafetyNet extended their protections to that segment of the workforce either.

For independent contractors, facing periods of unemployment is one of the hazards of the role. When such a period comes, the independent contractor should invest the time to review the conditions of the work that they did for their last employer to ensure that they were classified correctly as independent contractors, and weren’t mis-classified employees, who would be then eligible for state unemployment protections. (The IRS has simplified the independent contractor test to three broad factors with 11 conditions: behavioral control, financial control, and type of relationship).

Although the marketplace for private unemployment insurance appears to be limited, it’s worth it to ask your insurance professional of any options that may be available to you in your segment of the workforce as a part of your annual insurance review.

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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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Business Finance

Your 401K balance could be lower than what you see on paper

(FINANCE) Your 401k balance is looking good, but there are factors you might not be taking into account (including the fact that you need to stick with your current job a little longer).

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Most of us want to retire at some point, and as you do your yearly finances (taxes, retirement, etc.) you may be looking at your 401(k) account and have some thoughts in mind.

Many Americans don’t have any retirement savings, so if you do – you may be feeling good.

But it is important to note that while your balance may look good, you may need to reexamine – because you may not have the full amount that you see.

There are a couple of things to consider if you determining if your balance is appropriate and on-track. (Most financial experts say you need to have at least 10 times your salary saved by age 67 – FYI).

There is of course, the fact you will have to pay taxes on 401k withdrawals eventually, and there are of course fees associated with your 401k – service fees, investment fees, and plan administration fees. You will want to take a look at that – at some point.

The most pressing question right now – Your employer sponsored 401k most likely has some kind of match. Ideally, you’d take advantage of that max – as not contributing the amount to get the maximum match is basically giving away free money however, that money may not be yours yet.

You may not be eligible to take it if you leave or change employers if you have not met the vesting period (usually 3-7 years) for your current employer. With the median length of tenure for salaried employees being 4.3 years – it is very possible you may lose some of that balance if you move or change careers.

And remember, the balance you see in your 401k account doesn’t include the taxes you’ll have to pay when you ultimately use that balance.

So what can you do?

Check your plan details. You may need to contact the plan administrator or someone at your HR department. If you are considering changing your careers, be mindful that you may forfeit some of that balance.

You may need to talk to a financial advisor to ensure you can reach your goals.

Also, while you are examining your plan, ask yourself If you need to consider adjusting your investment strategy to accommodate your retirement goals. Also, while you are considering your 401k – consider other IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, or other investments and ensure you are on the right track.

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