You’ve got to give a bit of kudos to someone who calls themselves the chief bubble blower and co-flounderer (yes, spelling is correct) of a company.
Whether you call New Zealand’s first crowdfunding platform PledgeMe a startup is debatable, as the 18-month-old company is still alive, kicking, and more importantly, growing.
Co-flounderer Anna Guenther gave a short presentation to Wellington’s Entrepreneur’s Club recently, highlighting the mostly ups, and a few of the learnings for PledgeMe that has so far raised $2.1 million across 470 successful fund-raising projects. PledgeMe’s business model is a five percent success fee commission (with an additional 2.8 percent to pay for credit card fees).
And while of course earning your way is important, you get the feeling Guenther’s absolutely enjoying enabling mostly community projects with an average size of $3500. Apparently 49 percent of all projects receive their funding target.
I suspect she’s excluded from this average size figure their most successful fundraising – a $207,000 Christchurch sculpture initiative (matched by Westpac, and with an additional $180,000 sent in by cheques!). The oldest successful fund-raiser was 82 year old Stu Buchanan, a jazz band leader who crowd-sourced (including from three generations of students he’s taught) enough money to put together his first ever album. He ticked it off his bucket-list!
Guenther gave the following nuggets of wisdom for anyone starting up. Being an internet wizard, she’s also put these points up so you can check it out on Dropbox.
Choose the right partner
Have a hard conversation at the start around a shareholder agreement. The discussion can focus around whose idea it was, the writing of the business plan, and other expertise brought to the table. What are people going to be contributing now and down the line?
Ask for help
A coffee or beer can be empowering in the knowledge and networks that result. Sometimes you have to jump (code is never ready!). Have a launch party, then you have to begin.
Build networks without expectations
In 12 months, you never know, those contacts could ignite. Surround yourself with smart people. You don’t want to be (or think you are) the smartest person in the room.
The best dollars spent are at the start – and that means making the brand look good and getting people wanting to connect with it. You can’t compare your feelings inside with others’ websites on the outside. In other words, what other startups show as their exterior view, in no way matches the undoubted angst and sometimes indecision that goes on inside. (Guenther acknowledged Rowan Simpson’s advice on this one.)
Guenther also encouraged taking any opportunity to speak at other people’s events, launches, and meetings as a way of spreading the word/love. When asked if she thought that the recent launch of a New Zealand-oriented Kickstarter would affect PledgeMe, she said no.
“We’re different, and we believe that local is important to us,” she says. “But indeed, if anyone wants some advice about putting a project up on Kickstarter, or on PledgeMe, give me a yell.”