Crowdfunding is officially mainstream. Celebrities see it as a path to creative control; your run-of-the-mill entrepreneurs without an A-list network see it as a way to build a support community and the most viable way to find financial backing.
But it's certainly not as easy as slapping together a sales pitch and waiting for the pledges to roll in. The majority of projects fail to reach their crowdfunding goals. And while there's plenty of piecemeal advice scattered around the web, what's lacking is a comprehensive Crowdfunding for Dummies type of resource.
That's why Aucklander Kat Jenkins has created Multitude. She plans to develop a single repository of resources that will guide wannabe crowdfunders through the entire process of crowdfunding from start to finish.
It's a logical move for Jenkins, who has spent the last few years creating online courses in technical subjects. From March, she'll be working on Multitude full-time, and she gave us a heads-up on what's to come:
What's the next step for Multitude?
From here the plan is to get the full set of courses online. I've started with my "Introduction to Crowdfunding" course and that's available free right now. I will also be adding content covering the entire process: from setting your objectives, right through to shipping and fulfilling rewards. Those will go up progressively throughout 2014. After March 1, the more in-depth courses will attract a fee.
Is there potential to collaborate with partners in the future?
Multitude is very much my baby and it's in its early stages, so at this point it's just me. I do however think it’s important to realise your limitations in business and have a network of people who give good advice.
I regularly reach out to project creators to develop my case studies and gain insight into how the process worked for them. I've also got a great bunch of contacts from a diverse range of backgrounds who help me to develop the content as well.
In terms of industry collaboration, I look at each option as it comes. Collaboration is a key part of crowd-industry dynamics so it's definitely part of the business plan. At the moment, however, I'm focussing on building networks and connections with people involved in the industry, and allowing any collaboration to develop from there.
Will Multitude be online-only?
Initially my focus is online. I've got a background in developing online learning, and I'm pretty comfortable with the challenges. I also like the idea of a passive income which allows me to focus attention elsewhere as I grow the business.
Around the edges of that, however, I will be looking at other ways to get involved, including one-on-one consulting, workshops and speaking engagements.
What's the best crowdfunding campaign you’ve ever seen?
Hard question! I think it's only fair to respond with a very long answer! I've narrowed it down to two, both of which are on Kickstarter.
In terms of a perfectly executed campaign, I have to say MyYogaPro has blown me away. They had a solid idea, clear goals, great rewards, amazing engagement (they sent a personal message to all 3108 backers), and everything they have done since the campaign has ended has been bang on. The backers know what's going on and when, and I, at least, am very excited to log in for the first time!
In terms of handling the stresses and realities of a campaign, Lima. They faced legal issues with their original name and had to pause halfway through their campaign and retool with a new brand. They've also got an incredibly complex product and were massively oversubscribed with an incredibly passionate fanbase, which causes all sorts of community management issues. Post-campaign, they've changed programming languages and have had to put serious work into stabalising their product. There has been some change to the timelines as a result, but the level of transparency with backers is admirable as well.
What’s the most you’ve contributed to a single campaign?
US$225 for a Smart Citizen Kit on Kickstarter.
One of the things I adore about crowdfunding is the sheer magnitude of possibility. This one captured my imagination by providing an environmental sensor which would read and submit climate information from my backyard to an open online database. When it's joined by thousands of other backyard sensors from all around the globe submitting fine data back to an openly available central database in real time... it blows my mind what future generations are going to be able to do with that!
Initially I couldn't convince myself to put that much money in and contributed at a much lower level, but about a week before it closed I made the jump. The idea of being part of collecting that kind of data - particularly when it's so vital to the survival of all things on this planet - I had to do it.
Have you ever crowdfunded something yourself?
Not yet, but I'm currently working with my first consulting client to get his fundraising efforts off the ground.
There are also plans to use crowdfunding to support major developments for Multitude itself, including more content and better functionality. Initially this will probably be via Indiegogo or PledgeMe, but ultimately there will also be scope to generate larger investments as the Financial Markets Conduct Regulations come into play early this year.
What do you consider the most common mistakes or misconceptions in crowdfunding?
Haha, this could be a long list! Ultimately, it's this problem that created the opportunity for Multitude to exist in the first place, but my top tips:
It's not easy money. A lot of extra work is generated from the crowdfunding activity itself. Be prepared to treat your backers like a good business would treat investors.
Have a two-minute video showcasing who you are, what you're doing, and what rewards you're offering. It can increase your chances of success by up to 20 percent, but a large number of projects don't have them.
You have to drive the audience. You can't just put up a Kickstarter or PledgeMe page and watch the cash roll in. You have to ask for it, and mobilise your own networks, especially in New Zealand. PledgeMe published some data last year showing 70 percent of your pledgers will know you personally, so it's really important to make personal contact with your friends, workmates, acquaintances, family etc and ask them to help you.
Million-dollar projects are the exception, not the rule. Most successful projects look for less than $10,000.