If you can remember the telethon, preempting your prime-time television for bit-rate entertainers and tired telephone jockeys, you may be surprised at how the spirit of mass-fundraising has turned sleek and sophisticated on the internet.
It’s called crowdfunding, and it’s a powerful tool to help entrepreneurs, creative artists, and startup companies raise capital to make their ideas a reality. Also known as crowd-financing or crowd-sourced capital, the concept is simple: an individual puts out a call for others to contribute money or resources to support a project. And with the interconnectivity of the internet age, the process is thriving.
The flagship of crowdfunding websites is Kickstarter, where donors are encouraged by incentives offered at different donation rates. Other crowdfunding sites cater to specific areas: Profounder, for instance, is tailored to entrepreneurs, and Fundageek specializes in innovative technology projects (take note ESTEEM students!). The site Funding 4 Learning focuses on educational endeavors, while Appbackr exclusively serves the application market.
Each site has their own conditions for fundraising, however. Most require a threshold amount: projects will not be funded—and donors will not be charged—until a specific amount of funding is met. And Kickstarter, for instance, doesn’t allow fundraising to start a company—only to achieve specific goals or projects.
That doesn’t mean a company can’t grow out a project. Take designer Scott Wilson of Chicago, and his idea for a wristband that turns the iPod Nano into a watch. After Apple declined to fund the project, he used Kickstarter to raise nearly a million dollars to develop the “Tik Tok,” and is still using crowdfunding for current projects.
Oh, and guess who came knocking for his iPod watch? (Hint: it begins with an “A.”)
The digital age is one of personal empowerment and interpersonal connectivity. Those two elements combined create a previously unimaginable wellspring for the entrepreneurial spirit. With programs in entrepreneurship like ESTEEM to give you the skills, and crowdfunding sites to help raise the resources, now is the time to put your innovative ideas into action.
So what are you waiting for? You’ve got a plan, now get a webcam and be your own Jerry Lewis! (And if you don’t know who that is, here’s this.)