Greece, social enterprise and crowdfunding

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I was recently invited by the British Council to speak about crowdfunding engagement for social entreprenuers in Athens on behalf of SoLoCo and BOLD.

Greece has been going through a tough time socially and economically for a while now, though excitingly an increasing undercurrent of optimism, creativity and entreprenuerialism is beginning to peek through.  At the forefront of this is a focus on social enterprise, and special thanks can be given to the support of the British Council in this area.

Because it is still a relatively young movement (‘Doing Business the Other Way’ was only the second Social Enterprise focused conference in Greece to date) there are issues with the infrastructure and particularly funding, which the government and other agencies are looking to address.  For instance, there are no appropriate legal structures; either you are an NGO or a private business, so grant funding for anything in between is complicated if not non-existent.  However, this could be a good thing in the longer term. If the movement starts without a dependency on grants, the sector will start off much healthier than ours here in the UK for instance, and will have longevity. This is where crowdfunding fits in well and could be very successful.  And here’s why.

The Greek diaspora has in excess of 10million people globally – only 1million less than who still live in the country. These are engaged first, second and third generation individuals who are looking back at their home country and are hugely sympathetic to the troubles the inhabitants are going through.  While doing some research into this I came across this article on Behance where American-Greek Lefteris Tsironis wanted to crowdfund the actual country

Born in a Greek-American family of entrepreneurs, I am inspired to find a way to kickstart the economy of my parents’ homeland – Greece. Having been to Greece over a dozen times over the years for studies and holidays, I have a personal connection to the country…For some reason, this small nation with a population of 11 million, seems to impact the sociopolitical and economic stability on both a European and global level. For me, it is a raw living inspiration and case study for sociologists, anthropologists, politicalanalysts, economists, scientists, artists, etc (as it has continued to be from ancient times). ”

He wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Since then, John Chatzimpeis has since founded Give & Fund a Greek reward-based platform aimed at supporting those who want to make a change to their country.  But we know that the platform is only the technology. It is the individuals/ projects themselves that must do the hard work and find their diaspora, their target market. Those projects/ ideas/ businesses that are pitched effectively will inspire will get the ‘thumbs up’ from a crowd who, if engaged sufficiently, will become ‘their’ crowd.

So this is where everyone in the crowdfunding arena globally can help by sharing the appropriate tools, methodology and experience to those entrepreneurs and charities trying to change their circumstances. And its not just Greece, now entrepreneurs in economically challenged countries (either through recession or in post-war conflict zones) have a chance to get a leg up and be visible to those who want to and are able to help.  These are exciting times, so watch this space.

For anyone interested, here’s my presentation!

Crowdfunding for Independence

It’s an interesting time to be living in Scotland.  Politics is the talk at the dinner table, in the pub, even at work – and everybody is getting involved, children and adults. And interestingly, so far about 70% of the people I talk to about it are positive about prospective independence for lots of different reasons and at this stage would vote yes.

I find this fascinating, because out of the 37 papers in the UK not one is pro-independence. That means that all these people are finding out information, debate and resolve from other sources.  And then I noticed this.  Wings over Scotland, a pro-independence newspaper crowdfunded over £30,000 on Indiegogo in 2013.  With still 16 hours to go for their second annual fundraiser they sit at £89,370 exceeding their target by £36,370.

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A recent poll by STV has found that WOS is the single most-relied-on named source for independence facts in Scotland.  Their monthly readership has gone up by 783%.  Since then, a poster campaign to promote Wings over Scotland has been pulled by SPT from the Glasgow underground, possibly the best publicity the newspaper could have hoped for.  The news has gone viral in the last week.

So, whatever your thoughts about independence, what crowdfunding has done is enabled WOS to find and engage a readership that is now double the online monthly readership of the Scotsman. This model could be the way forward to fund the media in future; those who value it will pay for its services and continue to support it. In terms of WOS, what will be interesting is to see what happens after the referendum – and will people feel the need to campaign anymore, whatever the outcome.  This is one to watch.

 

Bucking Barbie

Screenshot 2014-03-17 09.26.20For years little girls have been playing with Barbie, a pinched, leggy blonde who has had such an influence on our culture that there are now teens and adults, emulating the look of Barbie. Just watch a couple of episodes of ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’ and you’ll see what I mean.

However, Pittsburgh artist Nickolay Lamm has just designed a doll based on the ‘average teen size’.  The 25 year old decided to see if his idea would work by setting up this crowdfund to raise $95,000 to fund the manufacture. Crowdfunding is a fantastic opportunity to test the market with a prototype, to see if your idea gets a thumbs up.  And this one certainly has – with 19 days left, Lammily has raised $441,148 – which is 465% funded.  He’d reached is initial goal within the first 24 hours.

In stark contrast to Barbie, Lammily wears hardly any makeup, denim shorts, blue dip-dye shirt and white trainers. She is of ‘average proportions’, based on 3D modelling of the size of the average teen throughout the US.  I myself was tweeted at with the link to this, and as a mother, was immediately inspired to give it to my 10 year old daughter – not because she plays with dolls anymore, but because it’s a great symbol of how I think this doll can stand for normality.

What this campaign has highlighted is people getting behind a movement, spreading a message, as much as it is funding the manufacture of a doll and I for one have joined it.  However, I’m not sure if the next generations will be emulating Lammily as they have done for Barbie – but who knows what might come next.  One to watch.

Why Crowdfunding Can Help Mankind

One of the things I love about crowdfunding is that it can circumnavigate the risk averse and, as a result it can achieve greatness and can help to change the world. This week saw another Crowdcube crowdfund smash its target by £30,000 to raise £150,000 to make landmine disposal technology. The founders had originally tried going down the traditional investment route, but had constantly hit their heads against brick walls as the VC’s were either very cynical or risk-averse about investing in what the founders saw as life-saving and life-changing technology. For co-founder Arpana Gandh, it was important that they support charity workers, NGO’s and commercial organisations to make their jobs easier and safer through more effective and lower cost technology.

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This is why crowdfunding can work so well – a group of people see an idea they love, and want to help to make it work – they’re not as concerned as a VC about getting a return, they just want to see it happen.  As a result social and life-changing technology is more likely to be funded through this route without the immediate pressure of having to make a multi-fold return in the next 3 years. The irony is however,  that now it has been funded, it probably will make a mulit-fold return anyway as there are, unfortunately, so many countries in need.

So, a big congratulations to both Disarmco, Crowdcube and all of their investors, the world will hopefully be a little bit of a better place as a result.

M is for Marketing

Crowdfunding may be the most influential marketing campaign you ever do.

In order to crowdfund successfully, you have tell people that not only do you exist but that you have something they may well be interested in.  Traditionally marketing was about shouting out to a huge audience in the hope that at least some people may listen.  But now, with social media becoming more and more sophisticated targeted marketing with a reward can reach exactly the right people.

However, that is working under the assumption that people want what you are offering. So, before you start on your crowdfunding journey ask yourselves the following things:

What makes your idea/ product/ service so different from anybody elses?

Who is going to want it?  Are they a future customer?  What do they look like?  What brands do they like?  What is their name?  Do they have any children?  Don’t fall into the mistake of ‘everybody’.  Though you may truly believe that everybody could benefit from your product/ service or idea – focus on either one or two ‘ideal customers’ to begin with.

Now get into that persona’s head – and think about how they might think about your product. What messages might they want to hear?  Do they want to hear about trust, reliability, pricing?

Now, what will help them to truly care about what you are producing, and not only care but actually put their hands into their pocket?

Though intensive, a crowdfund will not only help you to identify your customers, it helps you to identify with your customers and vice versa. That can only be a positive thing and one that can sustain your growth in the longer term.

 

Crowdfunding Masterclass – March 14th, Leiston Abbey

Is crowdfunding right for YOU?

In today’s financial climate, understanding alternative funding streams is essential for organisations in the arts, heritage and third sector. How will crowdfunding affect your bottom line, when the bottom line is about so much more than money?

In order to answer this question – and many more! – heritage crowdfunding pioneers DigVentures have teamed up with Edinburgh-based creative crowdfunding experts SoLoCo to offer a weekend Crowdfunding Masterclass for arts, heritage and the third sector March 16 – 17, 2014 at Leiston Abbey, in Suffolk.

We’ll cover everything from basic definitions and models to asset mapping, capacity assessment, defining your value proposition, messaging, communications plans, and what do to with your new networks.

Do you receive public funding, and want to know how you can incorporate crowdfunding in your model?

Do you have a crowdfunding idea, but don’t know where to start?

Are you ready to launch, but want to double-check your idea with practical advice?

By the end of the weekend, you will have the tools and understanding to decide whether crowdfunding is right for your organisation – and the confidence to lead and manage a crowdfunding campaign. We will provide you with plenty of reference materials, and options for follow-up help for your future activities.Image

Schedule and Prices

Friday, 14th March: Optional Friday night arrival

You are welcome to spend an extra evening with us in order to be ready to start at 9:00am sharp on Saturday. There is an accommodation surcharge for the night (includes breakfast on Saturday), so please select this option when booking if you would like to join us on Friday.  A detailed schedule of the weekend will be sent with your Registration Pack.

Saturday, 15th March          9:00 – 17:30 (lunch and refreshments provided)

Sunday, 16th March             8:45 – 16:00 (breakfast, lunch and refreshments provided)

Early Bird Registration is now open – Register before 10th February 2014

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*All rooms are en suite, and prices include breakfast, lunch, refreshments, and Course Workbook

For further information please contact lisa@digventures.com

Crowdfunding Masterclass – Save the Date!

Soloco and Dig Ventures are collaborating to produce a Crowdfunding Masterclass in March at the beautiful Leiston Abbey, Suffolk.

Over the weekend we’ll be drawing on our own experience to help you understand all the aspects of crowdfunding, from developing your networks to fulfillment.  We’ll also identif the different strands that make a crowdfund successful so you can put them into in real practice. By the end of the weekend you’ll have a workbook of practical steps to take-away so you can design your very own crowdfund. Interested? Click here.

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L is for….

 

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L should always be for Love!

It defeats evil on a regular basis, has the majority of  songs dedicated to it and if you’re lucky its what gets you up in the morning ( your love for your job that is). In crowdfunding there’s a lot of love, you’ve got to love the product/service your pitching and getting other people to love it too. People want to believe that what you are going to do with their cash is going to make a tangible difference to their world and they need to see the passion and conviction from you that will then lead them to connect emotionally with you and they will naturally want to help you out. It’s what gets them to dig their hands in their pockets.

It’s pretty tough trying to fake love so if you’re not being authentic you’re going to have an uphill battle on your hands. And if you don’t believe in what your doing you’re certainly not going to convince anyone else.

Plus if you’ve got these peoples love then you have to take care of it, to turn it into loyalty (another appropriate L word). You might want to do another crowdfund in the future and if you have used their money and not thanked them for it or shown them what you’ve been able to achieve with it they are unlikely to feel like giving you more. Brewdog are currently on their third equity crowdfund and they couldn’t have done it without an extremely loyal fan-base they’ve nurtured.