Once upon a time when you wanted to start a business you had to ask the bank for a loan. Or occasionally your parents. (Yeesh.) Thankfully, today, with a few clicks on the Internet, you can connect with hundreds of eager investors just looking to turn your startup into the next big thing.
Whether you’re Zach Braff looking to raise funds for his next film or a menswear designer struggling to attract traditional investors, crowdfunding can be the key to making your business dreams a reality. But as crowdfunding has grown, so have the number of crowdfunding websites. Did you know you can’t raise money for eyeglasses on Kickstarter? Or that Indiegogo campaigns are rumored to fail 80% of the time? Do you even know the difference between donation-based funding vs the newly legal Investment crowdfunding?
Well, you should. So we devised a little roadmap to help guide your business to the right crowdfunding platform. Now all you need is a great idea and sales pitch.
1. I have a company or a product that I lack funding for. What I really need is…
…to find accredited investors.
Up until 2012, crowdfunding campaigns couldn’t offer equity or revenue-based securities in exchange for funds. (The only way to sell shares was to IPO.) But that all changed thanks to the JOBS Act legislation, which opened the doors for sites like Crowdfunder. The site helps small businesses and entrepreneurs connect with accredited investors much like Facebook helps you connect with old high school friends. So if you want to attract venture capital but don’t know where to find it, Crowdfunder is a great place to start. Plus, CEO Chance Barnett and his team are pros at navigating the post-JOBS Act waters. (Barnett was a major player in getting the legislation passed by Congress.) crowdfunder.com
…more capital now that I have seed funding.
If you’re already an established start-up, one of the hottest new ways for you to build capital is AngelList. You’ve already got your lead investor, but now you need momentum to take your startup to the next level. AngelList’s network of accredited investors wants to help. The site’s investors have already put their money into hot Silicon Valley companies like Shyp and Estimote and the site has attracted some of the top angels in the tech world, including Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss. angel.co
…a crowdsourcing site that specializes in early-stage startups.
Rock the Post
To offer their network of accredited investors the biggest possible return on their investment, Rock the Post only wants the best. That’s why they seek out early-stage companies with some level of traction and then act as mentors to help those startups achieve fundraising glory. Think the Ivy League of crowdfunding. It would also explain their relationship with influential programs like YCombinator, MIT, and SXSW. rockthepost.com
2. I have a great idea but no funds to get it off the ground. What I really need is…
…for my idea to go viral.
The undisputed king of donation-based crowdfunding, Kickstarter is home to the most popular and highest grossing campaigns of all time, such as the Ouya video game console ($8.5 million) and the Veronica Mars movie ($5.7 million). Much of that is due to Kickstarter’s rigid rules that keep the site’s focus on creative endeavors. Its all-or-nothing fundraising model has an advantage: If you succeed on Kickstarter, you’re likely to succeed big. Just be sure you can handle that exposure; an entire industry has stemmed from helping companies find and then manage Kickstarter success. kickstarter.com
…to keep all the funds I raise, even if I don’t meet my goal.
Though it’s long played second string to Kickstarter, this donation-based crowdfunding veteran has picked up momentum as crowdfunding becomes a more popular way to raise anything. Unlike the highly curated Kickstarter, Indiegogo is a crowdsourcing free-for-all, removing both categorical limits and Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing model. Instead, Indiegogo charges a higher fee for those who want to keep any and all funds pledged. indiegogo.com
…potential TV exposure.
Much like Rock the Post, Rockethub specializes in curating and mentoring donation-based fundraisers so they can achieve the highest possible results. Campaigns can enroll in Crowdfunding Success School and gain insight from fundraising experts. But it is their recently announced partnership with A&E Networks that really makes them stand out. The network will provide funding and possibly feature them on air. Though nebulous, the partnership seems less Shark Tank and more Duck Dynasty incubator. rockethub.com
…help building and selling my product.
Most crowdfunding sites are only focused on raising seed capital. But Quirky is more interested in turning a profit from your idea. So they utilize crowdsourcing in a unique way: Everyday designers and inventors submit ideas and other Quirky users vote on the ones they like. Popular ideas rise to the top and Quirky staff select the few they believe they can build and sell. This means you can go from concept to finished product in a matter of weeks. It’s an exciting business development model—and one that will cost you. Not only will quirky own your intellectual property and keep 90% of the product’s gross sales, but you’ll have to split the remaining 10% amongst all those who voted for, contributed to the design of, and even helped name that product. quirky.com
…to pay a flat fee.
If you want flexibility, Fundable has you covered. Though it’s one of the newer crowdfunding sites on the scene, Fundable has two key features which make it unique: it allows companies to offer rewards or equity via their crowdfunding campaign; and it only charges campaigns a flat monthly fee ($179) instead of skimming a percentage of your total earnings. That can spell big savings when you’re raising six-figures in capital. fundable.com
3. I just want to fund myself right now because…
…I need money for my family.
Donation-based crowdfunding is no longer just the realm of companies and products. Anyone can crowdfund anything. Got laid off and need help paying the bills? Too sick to go back to work? Want a safety net before going out on your own? GoFundMe will provide you with a popular platform in which to raise the cash. The trick is to make your story compelling enough for people—especially strangers—to donate to your personal cause. A task easier said then done. gofundme.com
…because Donald Trump is giving money away.
What is unique about the real estate mogul’s new donation-based crowdfunding site? Not much, actually, except for the man behind it. He says he wants to “bring crowdfunding away from the Brooklyn hipsters and bring it to the masses” and has even put $80,000 of his own money to the site’s causes. It is too early to tell if FundAnything will stand out in the busy crowdfunding throng, but Trump’s former Celebrity Apprentice competitors sure seem to like it. fundanything.com
…I want to pay for a boob job.
My Free Implants
In a world increasingly comfortable with democratic capitalism, it seems inevitable someone would create a site where men can fund a woman’s breast implants. And hell, why not? If a woman wants to do it and can get some stranger to pay for it legally, why shouldn’t she? In fact, My Free Implants is one of the grandfathers of the crowdfunding movement—it was founded in 2005, years before both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. myfreeimplants.com