Greece, social enterprise and crowdfunding

Parthenon

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!

K is for Killer Ideas

crowdfunding-pillarsNow the most obvious blog for K would be about a rather famous crowdfunding platform that has in the last year extended into the UK.  But no, I was determined to find our own K.  So I came up with Killer Ideas.  I’ll talk about platforms another time – wait for P!

Killer Ideas are what makes a crowdfund. They are the hook that makes people’s ears prick up, and then entices them to put their hands in their pocket.  SoLoCo works on the principle that a crowdfund has pillars that you can base your campaign on as follows:

“hook, social media engagement, network, geography, capacity, reputation and branding”

Of these, the critical pillar is the hook – and if your product or service doesn’t have a hook you need a killer idea within your campaign to make one.

Nucoco Chocolate Wall
Nucoco Chocolate Wall

When we crowdfunded with Nucoco we wanted to raise funds to help a chocolate company afford its branding and packaging. At first glance you may feel this would be easy ‘everybody likes chocolate’. But do they like it enough to donate more than the sum of a chocolate bar? The product was delicious, but what would make them stand out from other hand-made chocolate houses?  So, we had to create a hook.  Our ‘killer idea’ was to sell handmade chocolate and cake bricks that at the end of the campaign would form an edible installation. So we went all Willy Wonka – even to the point of hiding a ‘golden ticket’ worth £1000 in one of the bricks.

If you’re product or service doesn’t make waves, think of your killer idea first and how to build that into your campaign.  Remember the social media world is a noisy place. Killer ideas can help you to rise above it and be noticed.

The Scottish Perspective

glasgow chambers 

The Glasgow Chambers of Commerce recognised the emerging trend of businesses turning to the crowd for funding and wanted to know what the scene was like in Scotland.

At the end of June 2013 the GCC received the hotly awaited report by Twintangibles detailing the crowdfunding market in Scotland.

What was a little surprising was the massive under-utilisation of Crowdfunding in Scotland. In the UK, crowdfunding was worth £200m and so if you were to take 8% of that- as Scotland is 8% of the UK population- you would expect to see about £16m being raised. However there is less than £1m being funded this way. In looking for reasons of this Twintangibles left this open to speculation.

Why aren’t there more platforms and money being raised in Scotland?

Well Scotland is starting its own platform crowd. We have the recently released SquareKnot that is a really flexible platform allowing businesses to choose between a combination of equity,reward based and peer to peer crowdfunding. Then there is reward platform Bloom VC which launched back in 2011 just after our own platform launch (please click here to read further).  Next month will see the launch of ShareIn, an equity-based platform based in Edinburgh focusing on tech and bio-tech.

If we look across the water to the more high profile campaigns by Obama, Veronica Mars, Zach Braffs and Smosh they have allowed crowdfunding to become more commonplace in America. Whereas in Scotland the highest profile campaign we have is BrewDog and their excellent Equity for Punks campaign -although strictly speaking that was a public IPO.

It will be interesting to watch out for further research in this area as it could be a number of things- Are Scots just wary? Do we have smaller disposable incomes in the first place? Have they not come across a campaign that moved them? Is it a cultural thing that we’re a bit more reluctant to donate to business?

There are many possible reasons it could be but crowdfunding seems here to stay and as many organisations that hand out grants are looking for innovative ways to fund raise and banks can see it as proving a product or venture has real consumer potential, small businesses need to start getting in touch with the motivations of their customers or else they will be missing out on some serious cash.

#socialeconomy

This is a great Ted talk by Brian Solis – who you might remember from a previous post on the Conversation Prism. It looks at how technology, in particular social media is affecting capitalism and suggests a Generation C. What’s your relationship with customers like? He advocates that business is not so much business to consumer or business to business but people to people.

J is for journey

However well your crowdfund does, the whole process from start to finish is a journey. A journey that is so fast and pressurised it is like going through a wormhole, compressing everything into an 8 week period; your marketing vision, your relationship with your customers and your handle on social media!

wormhole2

In order to ensure your journey develops more wormhole rather than blackhole it is key that you take note of several things:

  1. Planning.  Your plan will change, but work out what each member of the team will do for every day of the crowdfund.  Who will you contact, and how.  What visuals will you produce? Who will do the thank yous? Make sure you understand your core message, but change how you say it so it doesn’t get boring! At the end of your crowdfund you can look back and see how much of your original plan changed!
  2. Your donors are your customers.  They are gold-dust.  They will get to know you very well over the period of the crowdfund, and you will certainly get to know what they like and what they don’t like, be prepared to listen.  Some companies spend a lot of money on this kind of information – you, instead, are spending an intensive period of time, and lots of sweat.
  3. Use your crowdfund to co-create.  Let your donors help develop your product or service.  If you’ve got them hooked they’ll have plenty of ideas from their perspective and will be more loyal in the longer term.
  4. The end of the crowdfund is really only the beginning. Before your launch, few people will have heard of you or what you are trying to do. Now you are in the public eye – you’ve made promises and now it’s time to keep them.  Make sure if you’ve got rewards, send them with thank you’s, send them on time, and send them to the right address!
  5. Make sure you take a break at the end.  It is such an intensive period of time, emotions are frayed and you may even ask ‘was it worth it’. It really will have been, but to get onto the next phase you really need to be fresh, not run ragged and have no energy.

Watch our film interview with Medicine’s Dark Secrets here just after they finished their crowdfund on Indiegogo.  Learn from them how they managed their journey, and what tips they have for others deciding to crowdfund.