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.

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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The Scottish Perspective

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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.

UKCFA

If your stuck on which crowdfunding platform to choose, the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA) was established in 2012 and has a voluntary code of practice so you can be assured that your money is safe. They go beyond the rules imposed on them by the financial authorities and it gives you more piece of mind as it’s designed to protect those participating in crowdfunding. Members even allow you to have a cooling off period if you decide your donation was misspent.

There are 12 founding members but Trillion Fund have some great youtube videos explaining who they are and the different types of investment available for crowdfunds- the difference between donation, loan and equity. Here is a wonderful video on what crowdfunding is.

Each founding member has a slightly different target market so they can harmoniously work together in this national association;

Abundance Generation

– Is focused on  renewable energy projects.

Bank to the Future

– Raise finance not just by donation/reward/P2P/Equity but a combination of these methods.

Buzzbnk

-Specialises in social venture crowdfunds.

Crowdbnk

– Innovative crowdfund platform that began from a story about an egg.

Crowdcube

– Is an equity only platform.

Crowdfunder

– Utilises a reward based crowdfund platform to also call for peoples time and skills.

CrowdMission

– Equity based platform for social and environmental businesses.

Ethex

– A not-for-profit investment platform.

Gambitious

– Specifically for game developers.

Seedrs

– Best for start-ups.

ShareIn

– Connects individuals to existing companies for investment.

Sponsorcraft

– For educational fundraising.

Trillion Fund

-Renewable energy focused in supplying low carbon energy projects.