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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.

Business Finance

India bans cryptocurrency prior to releasing their own

(BUSINESS FINANCE) India is potentially planning to ban cryptocurrency — and instead, they’re planning to introduce their own version of it for purchase.

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Cryptocurrency coin on a phone open to a purchasing app.

Owning mainstream cryptocurrency these days is a bit like owning a pair of Crocs: Potentially lucrative (especially if you’re Post Malone), but mostly just weird. A recent report shows that India is planning on adding “illegal” to that list, possibly ahead of launching their own cryptocurrency in place of the banned ones.

The proposed law would also fine anyone found tradingor even simply owningbanned cryptocurrencies in India. Mining and transferring ownership of cryptocurrency would similarly warrant punitive measures.

CNBC notes that this law would be “one of the world’s strictest policies against cryptocurrencies” to date. While some countries have imposed strict laws regarding things like mining and trading cryptocurrency, India would be the first country to make owning it illegal.

Some talk of jail timeincluding sentences of up to 10 yearsfor cryptocurrency owners and users was floated by Indian lawmakers back in 2019, but there is no explicit indication that those terms would be present in this rendition of the bill.

To be fair to the lawmakers involved here, the bill wouldn’t be as cut-and-dry as “has bitcoin, gets fined.” According to the CNBC report, people who own cryptocurrency would be able to “liquidate” their earnings for up to six months preceding the bill going into effect. This would theoretically allow investors to hold onto their portfolios for a bit longer before having to cash out.

But that leniency might not matter anyway. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this move could do two dramatic things to the cryptocurrency market: Add yet another niche option for investors, and destabilize every other pre-existing cryptocurrency optionor, at least, make them less stable than they already were.

In fact, the simple introduction and threat of this bill could be enough for the cryptocurrency market to take a nosedivesomething that can’t be discounted as a factor in making this decision. Current reports put Indian-owned bitcoin values at roughly $1.4 billion, though, so it’s clear that the bill hasn’t had a deleterious effect at this point.

The fact that India’s central bank has plans to introduce a government-sponsored cryptocurrency of their own cannot be separated from this bill, either. While the official government position is that blockchain is to be trusted while existing cryptocurrencies are eschewed and dismissed as “Ponzi schemes”, it’s clear that at least part of this bill is motivated by a desire to thin out the competition.

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Business Finance

Which generation has cried the most over money?

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Financial stress is tough on everyone. Here’s who has cried the most about money woes, and a few tips on how to alleviate some of that stress.

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Upset young man seated on bench with head in hands thinking about money.

There’s been serious critique in the last several years about the educational system and what basic knowledge young people should be taught in the United States. Home Economics (Home Ec) comes to mind (everyone should probably know how to cook or sew a button), as well as financial literacy.

There are many young Americans who grow up not really having a deep understanding of budgeting and fixed and variable expenses… But it may not be their fault. Perhaps, Mom and Dad (or other guardians) have always been paying for all of their expenses, making sure they had a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and food in their fridge. Because, that is what you’re supposed to do as a parent, correct?

So, while there’s no reason to blame anyone, often the process of learning what it costs to live and pay your bills is a rite of passage.

The current state of debt and financial fears also doesn’t mean that Millennials and Gen Zers weren’t educated around savings or working. Many young people have had part-time jobs (although much less in comparison to Gen X or Baby Boomers) but they may also be able to use the majority of that income for discretionary spending – which never created room for feelings of lack when they didn’t have to pay rent or a mortgage.

This scenario can ultimately create a challenge when you are finally out on your own and now have student loan debt, credit card debt, utility bills, and required car insurance. Especially if you are young person moving to a big city for exploration and/or new opportunities, where the cost of living can be quite high.

If you are feeling nervous or sad around finances, you are not alone. If you have cried over your personal balance sheet or your bank statements, you are also not alone. According to yahoo!money, a recent online survey of 1,004 Americans by CompareCards.com found that “7 in 10 Americans said they have cried about money in their lifetimes. Many cited worries over their job or making ends meet. Younger Americans appear the most vulnerable to financial tears. About half of millennials and half of Gen Zers said they cried at least once in the past month over money.”

So how can you cry LESS about money? Well, the first thing is to not be too hard on yourself. But you will also want to create a plan that works for you. Each person deserves financial freedom and not a bank statement that makes them cry on the regular.

Here are some financial literacy resources that may help you figure out how to navigate your way out of crippling debt.

Dave Ramsey Books – The Total Money Makeover – A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Bravely Go with Kara Perez – Feminist economics + inclusive personal finance

Debt Relief Programs – you’ll have to do your research but there may be a program that is right for you and an agency that can help you set up a realistic payment program for you

Student Loan Forgiveness – it is worth looking in to your options if you are feeling overwhelmed with student loan debt and there may be ways for your loans to be forgiven

Financial Advisor – consider working with a professional that can help you with your budgeting, investing and retirement savings/funds

And you may still cry because this is big adult stuff… But hopefully you trust yourself to do the research, explore, ask, and find options that work for you to gain a little more control over your financial situation.

If you are not already doing so, it may be as simple as starting with a budget to better understand your income and outgoing expenses. Being informed can help you to plan better for the future and make you feel less like crying.

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Business Finance

Lauren Ford explains how you can support women in fintech all year

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Interview with Lauren Ford: Celebrate International Women’s Day beyond just the day by including more women in your finance company.

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Women in fintech over laptops and paperwork, in discussion.

A bit delayed, but happy International Women’s Day! It’s been a hard year, but this is one day I can always look to for inspiration. To celebrate this year, I interviewed Lauren Ford – the Customer and Content Marketing Manager at OneStream Software, a corporate performance management solutions provider. Not only is Ford a total powerhouse in her industry, but she is also a firm believer in female empowerment in the world of tech.

Here are her top 5 tips on how finance companies in particular can strengthen their gender diversity efforts – and a little bit about Ford too:

Tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the Customer & Content Marketing Manager at OneStream.

I have an extensive background working with enterprise software, specific to digital transformation, and I came to OneStream with a decade’s worth of experience in the Marketing Communications field. After earning my degree in Public Communications and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont, I was intrigued by the state of technology: What it had brought us, what it was doing for us now, and where it was taking us next. I was determined to get involved and landed a role at a start-up software development firm, specializing in enterprise content management and capture automation solutions specific to the office of finance. At the time, there were 30 employees – and I was 1 of only 5 women in that fintech space.

Overtime I achieved more prominent roles in the organizations and built customer-centric marketing teams, driving strategies for customer engagement and advocacy. The small start-up I knew had grown immensely but after 8 years it was time to take on a new challenge in a larger, well-known company – which brought me to OneStream.

What is it like to be a high-powered women in this industry at OneStream?

It’s no surprise that there is a shortfall of women in finance-leading roles. But, OneStream has really taken the time to focus on engaging, nurturing and retaining the best professionals throughout the industry. And over time the company has created a culture where women in high-powered positions are more prominent and well-respected. There are many women who have made it to the top – and what’s great about that is they’re open to sharing their journeys, challenges, and wisdom to the greater OneStream community. So much so, that the company recently introduced the Women of OneStream group, which has been developed to support the business success of OneStream and the women within. This group works to inspire and transform the landscape of women in fintech and in technology to achieve personal growth and company success. It’s inspiring to have this type of support within our industry, and I commend OneStream for taking the necessary steps forward to ensure a welcoming workplace.

We both know that there is a great lack of women in finance and fintech industries – what do you make of this disparity?

Obviously, the statistics about women in finance and fintech are quite grim – and sadly this is all too clear when looking at high-level leadership positions. Demanding hours can take away from home life, which could be a main reason why more women aren’t entering finance roles. But in my opinion, the biggest obstacle to women entering the finance field is an unsupportive or biased corporate culture. Even when a company looks to implement change to close the gender gap, people in senior roles are often privier to what’s happening whereas entry-level employees don’t have as much visibility to changes in policy or behavior – and therefore don’t believe it exists.

I think it’s important to communicate messages of change to all levels of the workforce hierarchy, and something as simple as creating more opportunities for mentorship and sponsorship can help make women feel more supported in their finance careers. The good news is we are lifting a veil on a problem that has always been there, but wasn’t always discussed, and now we are paving the way for change.

How can we help to combat this disparity moving forward?

I think there are some strategies that women can use to achieve a more prominent role in their organizations. Standing up, making their voices heard and cultivating relationships with people they respect and admire is important. Creating a support network is key to success. On the other hand, there are several things an organization can do to support diversity, equality, and inclusion to transform the perception of women in fintech:

  • Create internal support groups dedicated to diversity (ex. mentorship programs that empower women to improve and advance)
  • Offer consistent support from the top
  • Develop leadership training to help all get a seat at the table
  • Reevaluate company benefits (ex. paid family leave)
  • Expand internship/apprentice programs to train young and upcoming females (ex. teach them about finance and technology)

How do we make this push for women in finance as intersectional as possible? Why is this important?

There has been a lot of time and effort spent on segmented groups to promote diversity, but many people fall into multiple minority groups. Women and ethnic minorities are often disadvantaged when seeking roles in the finance field. Business leaders must adopt an intersectional lens and pay more attention to the interplay between the characteristics of ethnicity/race, gender, and social class in their onboarding. To help address this, organizations can:

  • Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Policy and create a strategy with quantitative data to meet diverse onboarding goals.
  • Expand internship/apprentice programs to train young women in high school and college to teach them about finance and technology and recruit for entry-level positions.
  • Encourage employees to invest time (volunteering, speaking, and tutoring) in youth STEM programs to help educate and interact with young people who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? How does this day tie into your career goals?

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of women throughout history and those who have fought for the equality of so many things I often take for granted. It’s a day filled with pride! I have gratitude for the women I am surrounded by, from my family to my friends and colleagues. This day also is a reminder that although we have come so far, there is still a long way to go.

There is definitely still a long way to go. If you own, manage, or work at a tech or finance company, Ford’s tips are definitely worth trying to implement. There is an amazing generation of young women coming into the workforce, and you won’t want to miss out – this boss knows what she’s talking about.

Happy ITWD!

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