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What’s next for crowdfunding? Four predictions for the future

Crowdfunding has changed considerably in the last two years alone, so what does the future hold for this form of funding?

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Crowdfunding continues to change

Once upon a time, crowdfunding was done by begging friends and family to invest in your company, then formalized online with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo where anyone can chip in smaller amounts to get you on your way. But with so many companies launched to help you crowdfund, and so many new strategies in a rapidly growing ecosystem, what does your company need to know about the future of crowdfunding?

To answer that very question, we tapped the expertise of Kaitlyn Houk is a crowdfunding Campaign Manager at RainFactory Inc., and uses platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter to launch and run some of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns to date, most notably JIBO (the world’s first family robot which raised $2.29M), SKULLY AR-1 (the world’s smartest motorcycle helmet, $2.45M), Luna (the mattress cover to make any bed smart, $1.1M), and Snap Judgment (the NPR radio show that tells stories with a beat, $209k). Her expertise is marketing and fundraising, and Houk spends her days sitting side-by-side with entrepreneurs every day to advise and execute on crowdfunding campaign strategy, inciting thousands to bring each new product vision to life. She has a BA in Political Science and Economics from the University of Virginia.

In other words, she doesn’t bleed red or blue, she bleeds green.

“Crowdfunding platforms have both flattened and broadened the fundraising landscape,” Houk opined. “Anyone with an internet connection can tap into this great fabric for raising support and acquiring customers. Even though crowdfunding is an open door for both product inventors and supporting users, it still takes agility and skill to succeed in a campaign.”

Houk works daily with clients who are “makers” and tells us that the top advancement she’s seen of late is “how these inventors and innovators progress from blueprint to finished product is in taking ideas directly to the online community for validation. This gives them the ability to use community feedback to shape their products. The low barrier to entry, the speed and ease of communication, and the wide range of channels through which we can reach out to all contributors in a campaign, combine to form a tight feedback loop that campaigners can tap into to flesh out, fund, and adapt their product or idea.”

So what is the current state of crowdfunding? Houk offers her three-point overview below:

1. Power to the crowd

This tight communication loop empowers smaller groups who usually don’t have a voice within large companies to be able to demonstrate the potential success of an idea or product. Take our client, Jibo, for example: Jibo Robot, one of the highest-funded technology campaigns on Indiegogo, came out of some of the best and brightest researchers from the MIT Social Robotics Lab. They then took their product directly to the masses and quickly found the buzz-worthy demand they needed to move forward. Jibo could then take their tidy sum of 4,800 pre-orders and $2.3 Million raised and raise another $25.3 million in a Series A round to build their business.

2. Build it together

Early-stage crowdfunding means makers can tailor their product to meet demand. There’s a discovery process that goes on when companies decide to crowdfund. Customers ask tons and tons of questions; often questions that makers have never considered before. For instance, the creators behind the SKULLY AR-1 Motorcycle Helmet have spent a long time discussing the feature sets that they believed would add the most value for potential customers. After the launch of their campaign, and the communication loop tightened, they suddenly had a large pool of motorcycle enthusiasts wanting to know about more features. Backers have a direct line of communication to the maker of the product and real input on feature sets. The SKULLY team released videos, diagrams, and performed demonstrations of other possible features, and got very valuable feedback on which features to focus on.

3. Naked in public

Many of these products fail, and when they do, they fail in a very public way. Products that fail early in their crowdfunding campaigns walk away without any funding and a very bad scorch on their egos. It is even worse if they fail AFTER receiving funding, which is the specter that hangs over any successful campaign. Communication has sped up, but not in lockstep with fulfillment, or the speed to produce and ship products. There is a time crunch within the company itself to live up to its promises.

Every crowdfunding team wants to meet their goal to launch their product. But not every crowdfunded product is able to launch. Angry investors are one thing; angry customers are another. There are innumerable campaigns that don’t launch simply by self-selection: campaigners who are remotely timid about fulfillment sometimes back out or pivot their product before coming to the spotlight. One of our clients even told me, “If I’m opening the kimono, I better look ripped.”

So what’s next? Four predictions for the future

So what will be the next advancements? How will funding be innovated in the future? In her own words below, Houk offers four predictions every brand must pay attention to:

  1. Building Trust – More new digital marketing firms like RainFactory are entering the space to help campaigners hone their vision, and build confidence in the product as well as the ability of the team to bring the product to life. Customers and backers are needy: constant feedback, profuse thanks, and social validation are an imperative.
  2. Streamlined Operations – New services are cropping up to offer accessible and affordable fulfillment systems for crowdfunding campaigns, such as BackerKit. Even the crowdfunding platform Tilt has begun to offer fulfillment services. I wouldn’t be surprised if more platforms began to do the same.
  3. Vocal Backers – Backers will become more comfortable with this “buy and wait” model, as long as the crowdfunding community of trust is maintained. There are even backers who feel compelled to defend the product against critics. On the other side of the same coin, backers will have better “lie detectors” to call out any crowdfunding schemes that look suspicious and vocally demand more answers.
  4. Simplified Legalities – The legal system will catch up. The hybrid donate-presale model will reach a level of maturity and there will be mutually agreed-upon sets of terms and conditions for launching and running a crowdfunding campaign. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the biggest requirement enforcers right now and they will continue to be the leaders in this arena. Their Trust and Safety teams are some of the best I’ve ever worked with.

Okay, so there is actually a fifth prediction:

  1. Fostering Growth & Imagination – The technologies that are being created via this direct-to-consumer method are truly awe-inspiring. I am excited each day I get to go to work and help these people make products that have a meaningful impact. More exciting technologies are developed, more dreams come true, and more jobs are created: one campaign at a time.

Houk concludes, “Case in point: Go fund somebody today and you’ll have an extra skip in your step. I promise.”

#Crowdfunding

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. PICISI.com

    June 8, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Great article, Kaitlyn we are trying to launch our crowdfunding site at http://www.PICISI.com, however we need 4 more administrators to be able to do that, would you kindly refer some good people to us?

  2. Gitendra

    June 9, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Kaitlyn and her team do spectacular work – they don't just have deep understanding of the crowd funding model and its associated best practices, they also respect the entrepreneurial process. This means an immersive and comprehensive examination of specific and often unique client product development and growth needs. Blended together, these framework approaches make Kaitlyn and RainFactory a powerful and effective agency with an in-house feel.

  3. Pingback: What's next for crowdfunding? Four predictions ...

  4. Pingback: Which state leads crowdfunding efforts? Texas, duh - The American Genius

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Business Finance

Ex-PayPal execs launch new payment system, raising eyebrows

(FINANCE) A new payment system has been launched, already causing controversy, raising skeptical eyebrows, all while earning fanfare.

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initiative Q payment system

Have you heard of Initiative Q yet? Perhaps your friends’ Facebook posts about it (or maybe you’ve posted about it yourself, asking your friends to sign up for this “payment system of the future”).

A quick Facebook search revealed several friends (and friends of friends) who had posted “invites” to join the effort to create to a new currency in the past couple months.

Most of these posts contained various iterations of the following description:

“Initiative Q is an attempt by ex-PayPal guys to create a new payment system instead of credit cards that were designed in the 1950s. The system uses its own currency, the Q, and to get people to start using the system once it’s ready they are allocating Qs for free to people that sign up now (the amount drops as more people join – so better to join early). Signing up is free and they only ask for your name and an email address. There’s nothing to lose but if this payment system becomes a world leading payment method your Qs can be worth a lot. If you missed getting bitcoin seven years ago, you wouldn’t want to miss this.”

These posts then included a signup link and a warning that the link would no longer work once the person who posted was “out of invites,” creating a sense of urgency for interested friends.

But what are people signing up for, exactly? The folks behind Initiative Q have explained the economic model behind the currency system, but for those of us who don’t hold an economics degree, here’s the gist:

The first thing to know is, it’s not a cryptocurrency. Second, despite accusations saying otherwise, it isn’t a pyramid scheme, according to Forbes. This is because a pyramid scheme needs money to operate, and — so far — no one who has joined has been asked to invest a single penny. Think of it as a global currency.

Founder Saar Wilf (whose payment security company was acquired by PayPal in 2008) told Forbes, “We want people to be able to pay for a meal like they would an Uber. To use artificial intelligence to allow families and businesses to share accounts. To have an international currency that can be traded and shared without the ill-equipped processes that are currently in place and cost so much time and money.”

The initiative has some skeptics, for course. Some see several hurdles in Q’s way, including meeting government regulations and requirements across multiple jurisdictions across the globe.

So, what’s ahead for Initiative Q? According to its road map, it will continue its membership drive through mid-2019, then begin work on developing an advanced payment network, with hopes of launching select Q locations in 2020.

The verdict?

Initiative Q is still in its infancy. Will it become the global success its creators hope it will? Or will it follow in the footsteps of the thousands of dead cryptocurrency and blockchain projects? Only time will tell.

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Business Finance

7 ways to get your freelance invoices paid more quickly

(FINANCE) It’s easy to feel uncomfortable bringing up money with your superiors, but for a freelancer, it’s more important than ever to bring up the issue. Here are 7 tips to get your invoices paid quickly.

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financial advice

For many, an awkward topic of conversation revolves around money. Whether asking for a raise or asking to borrow money, people often feeling uncomfortable when talking money.

This is equally, or possibly even more so, true for freelancers who are solely in charge of their finances. Without a system of weekly direct deposit, freelancers have to work overtime to keep their earnings in order.

The issue with this is that clients also have a lot on their plates, and something as simple as a freelancer’s paycheck is common to fall through the cracks. This causes freelancers to have to work friendly reminders into their repertoire.

However, freelancers may not always be knowledgeable of the best ways to keep their finances in check (no pun intended). Below are seven ways to enhance payment methods.

  1. You have to be willing to make billing a priority. Due to the fact that money is awkward to talk about, as aforementioned, many let this fall by the wayside. The best way to do this is to keep up to date with your invoices and send them as soon as they are done. Making a calendar specific for billing can help with this idea.
  2. This second bit dates back to when we were young and learning our manners: it is crucial to be polite. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also increases speed in payment. Using “please” and “thank you” in invoicing emails are said to get you paid five percent faster.
  3. It is best to try and keep a complicated concept like finance as simple as possible. Make sure you are creating specific due dates. This will help to signify importance of payment.
  4. Now that virtually anything can be done online, it would make sense to use electronic payment verses an old-school check. Accepting online payments will get a user paid, on average, eight days faster as opposed to a check.
  5. This is an important notion to keep in mind for any aspect of your business life: be professional. Invoices are often seen by many eyes so it is best to include your business’s logo on said invoice. This has been found to increase chances of being paid on time by 10 percent.
  6. Specificity is urged again in the form of transparency. Make sure you are giving detailed descriptions on each invoice so that anyone looking at it knows exactly what you are being paid for. By doing this, you are 15 percent more likely to be paid on time.
  7. While you may be invoicing month by month, try to avoid sending on the 30th or 31st. Being that everyone, generally, sends their invoices in on these dates, it takes 10 – 20 percent longer to be paid. With everyone sending it at the end of the month, it has a tendency to back up payroll.

The most important thing to remember is that while the topic of money may be awkward, it is your money. If you let a few invoices fall behind because you are uncomfortable reminding your client, this has a way of adding up. Be sure to keep on track with your finances to earn what you are working for.

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Business Finance

Laugh at Bitcoin all you want, but Ohio business taxes can soon be paid in crypto

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Cryptocurrencies are still widely misunderstood, but an innovative Treasurer in OH is making crypto history.

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crypto

Ohio. The part of a title of that one Bowling for Soup song, home of Lake Erie and now the first state to start accepting crypto as a form of payment for taxes.

On Monday, December 3rd, businesses in Ohio will be able to pay their taxes in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

It seems like a rather easy process to enroll. Companies that want to join in on all of the history-making, crypto fun just have to go to OhioCrypto.com and then register to pay whatever taxes they want in crypto. There are 23 eligible business-related taxes and there is no transaction limit.

While there is no timeline set, there are hopes of expanding the program to individual tax payers.

Ohio’s state treasurer, Josh Mandel, is the man responsible for the state’s light speed propulsion into the finance future. The crypto program is just one step of many of the state’s bigger picture goal of rebranding itself as tech-friendly. Mandel is quoted as saying, “We’re doing this to provide Ohioans more options and ease in paying their taxes and also to project Ohio’s leadership in embracing blockchain technology.”

I had no clue Ohio residents were referred to as Ohioans, but onto the thought I’m sure looming in the back of everyone else’s mind:

What could go wrong with a crypto tax payment program?

For starters, the crypto market is currently the definition of a dumpster fire. Crypto has been in a nose dive for sometime now. Last November, Bitcoin prices capped off at about $8,000. This November, it isn’t even half of that.

Also, what is a stat going to do with a bunch of crypto currency. The treasurer’s office is not holding, mining or investing in crypto for payments or processing. Instead, the state will work with a cryptocurrency payment startup, BitPay to convert the bitcoin to dollars. But per the startup’s official blog, their open-source Bitcoin wallet Copay has been compromised by malicious code. BitPay says that their app was not vulnerable to the malicious code but that they are investigating whether or not any of the CoPay users had been exploited by the vulnerability.

Ignoring those slight holes in the plan, it is kind of cool that Ohio is the first state to make its foray into blockchain payments. They even have plan to expand into other cryptos in the future.

Never thought I’d say that Ohio would lead the way into the future but hey, it’s been a weird year, so why not.

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