Crowdfund your next project yourself
If you are looking for alternative ways to crowdfund your next project, you might give WordPress a chance. There are many different plugins, apps, and themes that work along with WordPress to help you get the most out of crowdfunding. By using WordPress, you can quickly tell people what you are doing and inspire them to contribute to your campaign.
Most people don’t know that they don’t have to rely on a third party site that takes a cut or high fees, and while the disadvantage is you have to do more legwork, the advantage is that you are truly in control.
You can offer rewards and perks for your backers as well. Here are a few ways to get your crowdfunding campaign started:
WordPress themes to get you started
Theme Forest offers several choices for a theme that will turn your WordPress account into a successful crowdfunding campaign. These are three favorites: Fundify, Campaignify, and CrowdPress.
1. Fundify is reminiscent of Indiegogo or KickStarter, but on a smaller scale that you can use any time you need help funding a project. All you need to do it create a campaign, by setting your goal amount, target date, and tell people about your campaign and yourself. Then, set backer rewards. Finally, decide whether you want a fixed or flexible campaign. A fixed campaign will only collect funds if you meet your target goal, but for projects where any amount of money raised is helpful, run a flexible campaign and collect contributions even if you do not meet your target goal. Fundify is $60 to download the theme combines the plugin with outputs (such as payment options like We Pay and Paypal) and then fully integrates into your WordPress account in a visually appealing manner, but if you just need the plugin, it is free.
To demo Fundify, Campaignify, or view similar offerings, you can visit this site to get more information.
2. Campaignify is very similar to Fundify. It offers you the best of the big crowdfunding sites, without the hassle. Using WordPress plugins means you will not be told what you can or cannot raise funds for, no portion of your funds will be taken away; what you raise is yours, and there are not a hundred other campaigns to take attention away from yours; your viewers see your campaign, on your site. Campaignify offers all of the benefits of Fundify, only in a slightly different layout. The complete theme is available for download for $55, but as with Fundify, the basic plugin is free. If you are curious about how these themes work, there are several demo campaigns on the Campaignify site.
3. CrowdPress offers yet another option for WordPress themes. It offers many of the same features as Fundify and Campaignify, but the layout is much bolder. It also offers multiple page layout options, a unique flip-style slider, and custom widgets with a big admin panel. The complete package is downloadable for $45, but again, the basic plugin is free. You can see a demo of CrowdPress here.
4. Fundraising offers a WordPress plugin to optimize your crowdfunding endeavors. It integrates with PayPal with a hassle-free interface: creating a new fundraiser is as simple as adding a new post to your WordPress blog. No more sending people to a different site and risking losing a potential donation. This plugin is compatible with any WordPress theme. Allowing you to retain the branding or images you already have in place with your existing theme, or create a new one for each campaign. Fundraising offers widgets, an automatically displayed “thank you” message, and fully customizable options from your dashboard. To get this plugin, you will need to become of WPMU DEV member, but this will give you access not only to this plugin, but over 350 more. Your first month’s membership is $10, after that it is $99 per month.
5. You can also use WordPress’ own Personal Fundraiser plugin to raise funds. In my opinion, it is much less user friendly, in that you have to manually set up PayPal, options, and be fairly proficient with shortcodes, to get your campaign operational and running the way you need it to maximize efficiency. However, it is completely free. So, if you already very proficient with WordPress and shortcodes, this could be another good plugin option for you.
If none of these plugins are what you need, here are two more to check out: IgnitionDeck and CrowdFund HQ.
Third party options that keep you in control
6. IgnitionDeck lets you crowdfund, pre-sell, or raise money for your next project. The WordPress crowdfunding theme, Theme 500, by IgnitionDeck is completely free, but, IgnitionDeck will also work with any of the thousands of themes available for WordPress. IgnitionDeck skins allow you to modify the framework in order to better match your overall web presence. You can change themes at any time because the magic is in the plugin, not the theme. Also, the IgnitionDeck MakerKit offers integration with PayPal, Stripe, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Mailchimp, and more. So it will enable you to take your fundraising to the next level. I especially like the Mailchimp integration because it automatically adds backers to your Mailchimp account for newsletters and updates. No more manually transferring your contacts.
7. CrowdFundHQ is less of a plugin and more of a platform. It is fully customizable with CSS, or choose from clickable options. You have unlimited hosting space which is HTML5 and CSS3 compatible. Also, you can choose a custom domain name or use a subdomain of CrowdFundHQ. There are several different payment options already integrated in to the platform: PayPal, WePay, Dwolla, and BitPay. And perhaps the most unique feature to CrowdFundHQ is that is offers people the ability to contribute time or resources instead of just money; allowing more people to help out. Since this is a platform, instead of a plugin, it definitely has more to offer, but it does cost quite a bit more than the plugins. So, you will need to weigh the benefits against your budget. There is a full list of features available here. It is free to try for fourteen days, after that it is $99/month for up to $50,000/month in transactions, or $199/month for unlimited amounts of transactions.
Crowdfunding can really help you accomplish your project goals quickly and efficiently and with all the new plugins and apps available it has never been easier to find something that will work perfectly with your needs and your budget.
What this Gamestop stock upheaval could mean for the future of finance
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Yay America! We’ve witnessed our first populist uprising in finance, all thanks to the Gamestop drama unfolding in the last week.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last week, chances are you’ve heard about the drama surrounding the GameStop stock. Essentially, GameStop – or that spot I used to frequent in middle school to search through bins for used N64 games – has become the epicenter for what’s being called the first populist uprising in finance. We love to hear it.
For some background, GameStop became one of the most shorted stocks on the market. Groups within Wall Street’s hedge funds, known as the short sellers, have been colluding with each other and using the media to manipulate the market – and in doing so, were able to drive down the value of specific stocks (i.e., GameStop, which was essentially put on-course for bankruptcy) and, in turn, collect billions. This is common, legal practice on Wall Street. Just in case you were wondering.
Enter Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets page; another key player in this drama. With just shy of 2 million users last week (and now with over 7.4 million), WallStreetBets is a place where amateur day traders can exchange tips on penny stocks and rake in the “tendies”. Recently, one user popularized the fact that over 100% of GameStop’s stock was being shorted for no valid reason, so many from the group decided to take action – they began buying up cheap shares of the stock and demanding that their brokers not lend their stocks to short sellers, which in turn exploded the market value of GameStop as the short sellers attempted to “cover their shorts”.
Long story short (ha!), the entire GameStop drama has resulted in at least $3.3 billion disappearing from hedge fund balance sheets. One of the Wall Street hedge funds targeted by the Redditors, Melvin Capital, had to take a $2.75 billion bailout from other industry insiders. GameStop’s stock skyrocketed from $17.25 at the beginning of the year to $325 by this past Friday – reportedly the largest gains the company has seen in 18 years.
What you should consider
- GameStop is brick-and-mortar. They sell the clunky, physical versions of games, which can be bought online with less hassle. Let’s face it; outside of the few nerds who still enjoy the experience of standing in line to be the first to buy the new game, the retailer is essentially becoming obsolete. COVID, of all things, has only expedited this process. Even with the release of new gaming consoles, such as the PS5, the likelihood of GameStop bouncing back to its former heyday is highly unlikely. Hence the term “meme stock”. With a meme stock, users chose to invest in the name of an allegiance, based on a feeling, or just “for the lulz”, not because of perceived value. Wall Street elites do this all the time (Tesla, anybody?), but with the complicity of the media so we all buy into it as well. When people say: “The stock market is just a graph of rich people’s feelings”, they’re not kidding.
- Many of the involved Redditors are likely unemployed millennials, disenfranchised by the economic fallout from the pandemic, who have sat by and watched as the rich have gotten richer. Like, so much richer. According to some, this movement is less about the financial gains (though they must be sweet) and more about screwing the shorters – it’s about pointing out how corrupt a minimally-regulated free market is when it is only truly serving the elite inner circles of Wall Street at the expense of everyone else. So why can shorters short with mainstream backing just because they’re wearing suits?
- While I wish GameStop-gate was a simple populist win, it’s important to note that the rich own most of the market shares. Though some Wall Street wealth is undoubtedly being redistributed into the pockets of Main Street right now, let us not forget that a byproduct of the Redditors’ rebellion is that the already rich stockholders are now even richer. This poses the question of if you can have a real populist financial uprising if you’re working within the current market systems in place, which are designed to feed the few and deregulated to insure it.
What does the future hold?
Good question. As of now, everyone is scrambling to make sense of what has happened; Redditors are celebrating with a sleuth of victorious memes while politicians (*cough* Janet Yellen), the hedge funds, and the media gatekeepers are calling foul play, collusion and even meddling from the Russians (LOL).
Also, can we talk about the fact that the politicians (on both sides!) who reacted so urgently to the GameStop mania were the same ones dragging their feet to come up with a stimulus checks agreement?
In addition, Robinhood — the now infamous commission-free investing tool — put a pause on GameStop and other meme stocks, like AMC, Nokia, BlackBerry, and American Airlines. Others want the FCC to get involved. The pot WOULD call the kettle black.
All this being said, I think that GameStop-gate has, in a lot of ways, opened Pandora’s box, exposing the possibility of power-shifts and new financial realities to many who might feel powerless and financially vulnerable, especially right now. That the average Reddit day trader, when properly rallied alongside her fellow troops, could give such a massive middle finger to the hedge funds and make a little extra cash along the way is truly inspiring.
I think we’re going to see more meme stock shenanigans (AMC’s stock had quadrupled at one point!), and the weeding out of greedy short sellers with the methodical drole-ness that only a subreddit could conjure. Unfortunately, I do also see an eventual crash, a bubble bursting, that will leave many investors who didn’t get out in time at a loss. And many plan on riding out the storm, when she comes, in solidarity.
My two cents
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think short selling as it stands now should be legal, nor do I think speculative buying is a good idea. It’s gambling. And it’s dangerous.
But the Government would never enforce a blanket policy against all speculative buying, not when the billionaires who reap the majority of the benefits are buddy-buddy with the media and lawmakers. Plus, how would the right, in all its free-trade glory, react to increased market regulations? Could this mania uncover the elusive partisan glue we’ve all been looking for? Oh, how the turn tables.
My take? Beyond everything else, I see this as an opportunity for something even larger. We’ve learned that everyday people like you and me can be a part of something greater; something that shakes our market’s foundations. GameStop (sorry nerds!) is a random company that doesn’t have too much appeal beyond the games they sell (the same ones you can get online).
But what if we could drive up the market price on other companies that are being shorted for the wrong reasons? Companies that we could all get behind, such as ones that pay their workers well or that share equity with their employees. What we’ve learned from this all is that with collective action directed towards the corrupt “cartel” of Wall Street’s inner circle, you can take key players down and make waves.
And, at the end of the day, isn’t that the best way to approach a free market — to make it serve the people?
6 questions to ask when considering a startup accelerator
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Accelerators can help change startups from unknowns to leaders in the industry, but does your startup need one? And if so, which one?
When I’m advising startups, I often hear the question: “which accelerator is the best fit for me?” (Besides the obvious YC or Techstars.)
First off, I’ll ask if your company would benefit from an accelerator, or if you need to pursue something for early early stage companies before you achieve more market validation, like an incubator. (Side note: If you’re curious about incubators, here is a comparison of the two.)
If you’re new to these terms, here’s a brief recap on startup accelerators:
Startup accelerators are for companies with established co-founders and market validation – companies can be anywhere from pre-revenue/self-funded, or even have raised at least $1M.
Most programs can last anywhere from 10 weeks to 3-4 months. With many top accelerators like YC and Techstars, you’ll be expected to move to the city where it’s hosted and spend 40+ hours a week minimum in their dedicated coworking space, and several accelerators will often offer housing stipends to make the move easier. These programs typically conclude with a demo day to pitch your product to a variety of community leaders, angel, and institutional investors.
If your product has achieved market validation and is in a place where you’re ready to scale, congrats!
Before you commit to an accelerator, ask yourself and the program these six questions:
1. What kind of mentorship is available?
By and large, one of the most valuable portions of an accelerator is the networking with peers and mentors. Ask what kind of mentors are available to you as a part of a program, and ask their specific involvement and the opportunities to connect. These mentors will be crucial in guiding your company’s growth. Even if they aren’t in the same industry or have solved a similar problem that your company is trying to achieve, their advice and connections could prove to be invaluable.
2. What are the perks?
You’re giving up a lot of equity to be in a program, but it doesn’t come without its perks. Many programs offer not only a cash investment or stipend for housing or other growth costs, but programs like Techstars offer free services such as web hosting costs (an upwards of ~250k), legal and accounting services, and other credits and perks that can be worth 6-7 figures. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you say yes to a program.
3. Do I want an industry-specific or industry-agnostic program?
This one is important and is directly related to #2. If your company sells CPG products, web hosting credits may not be valuable to your business, but a CPG-specific accelerator like SKU or The Brandery with direct connections to Sephora, Target, and Whole Foods may make more sense.
4. How much equity am I willing to give up?
Try not to make this a guessing game and make as many data-driven decisions on this as you can. Create a revenue and valuation model and see how much your company would benefit from the networking, fundraising opportunities, and perks offered, and see what the ROI would potentially be.
5. What are the funding and exit numbers?
This is an objective way to view the success of an accelerator: # of funding raised and exits. Of course, younger accelerators will have smaller numbers, but it’s worth looking to see if a company has raised $ after. Seed-DB is a great resource to view these numbers for hundreds of accelerators globally.
6. What do alumni think?
All accelerators are going to tout the transformative experience that is their program, and program mentors will likely have a similar narrative.
The best resource to learn the real experience of an accelerator: ask its alumni, and they’ll give you the truth. Make sure to survey both recent and more experienced alumni, as they’ll be able to speak to both the short term and long term benefits.
Personal experience: the night before I was set to hear from an accelerator on my application status, two alumni stressed to me that the time and equity investment wasn’t worth it. I consider this providence!
Finally, two items to note:
Choosing an accelerator is all about finding the right fit between you and the organization. Sadly, not all accelerators are created equal, and try to view a potential relationship with an accelerator as an investor relationship, or better yet, dating. There’s a reason the phrase “no money is better than bad money” is prevalent in the startup community.
Make sure to do your due diligence and ask the right questions to make sure a specific program is worth the investment of time, energy, and equity.
And sometimes? That may not mean an accelerator is a right fit right now or at any point, and that’s okay.
Under-representation of women in fintech: Let’s talk about it
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Representation of women in fintech remains scarce despite a prevalent population of interest. Why is this the case, and what can we do about it?
Women are 50% of the population – so why are there only 9 of us on the 2020 Forbes Fintech 50?
I’m personally shocked by how underrepresented women are in such a lucrative industry. By 2022, it’s predicted that fintech, or financial tech, will be worth $26.5 trillion, and we cannot afford to miss out.
And I’m serious when I say fintech is truly taking over. This includes payment processing, online and mobile banking, person-to-person payments (think Venmo or Cash App), financial software, to name a few. For some perspective, half of consumers use digital banking services as the primary way to manage their money. That’s a big deal.
So why does it matter that women are drastically underrepresented in leading roles at these companies?
- Women CEOs receive only 2.7% of all VC funding – that is astonishingly low, considering that the remaining 97.3% is secured by their male counterparts.
- While a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review on leadership skills found that women scored higher than men in 17 out of 19 categories (I could’ve told you that), women founders make up only 17% of fintech companies. Some of the categories tested on were:
- Bold leadership
- Taking initiative
- High integrity & honesty
- Collaboration and teamwork (this is a big one!)
- Inspiring & motivating others
If you’re a woman interested in business, tech, or entrepreneurship looking to break into the big leagues, here’s some exclusive advice from lady CEOs, founders, and COOs:
- Stay Passionate
Suneera Madhani, Founder + CEO of Fattmerchant, says: “…remember why you started and hold that close to your heart when times get tough.”
- Be Open to Learning
“Never behave as the smartest person in the room because you may miss some of the best ideas.” Says Snejina, Co-founder + CEO of Insurify.
- Trust Your Intuition
As the Founder + CEO of Tala, Shivani Siroya urges us to: “Stay excited, focused on results and be incredibly optimist. It’s okay to really believe in your gut – just make sure that you see the results with it.”
2021 is a new year full of opportunity – even though the odds are (and always have been) stacked against us, let’s have this be the year where women techies and business owners capitalize on their leadership skills. We have lost time – and profit – to account for.
Author’s Note: Thank you to CreditRepair for the linked infographic!
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