Launching with a Crowd

PledgeMe is really proud to announce that our first equity campaign went live yesterday, and we’ve published our second today.

While at first glance the two companies are very different, they both have passionate founders who want to bring their crowd into their companies. Be it tech enthusiasts or Twizel natives, these companies cater for a wide spectrum of customers and offer exciting investment opportunities.

We’re excited about that. We’re excited that any company can try and crowdfund an investment round — and that the crowd gets to decide if they make it or not.

Now, let us introduce our two companies – Techvana and H2 Explore:

TECHVANA

With the help of computing enthusiasts nationwide, and the support of tech giants like Steve Wozniak, husband and wife team Mark and and Katie Barlow are working to create New Zealand’s first dedicated computer museum. Techvana – The New Zealand Computer Museum will bring together a massive display of computing, gaming, telecommunications and robotics technologies, sourced from fellow collectors throughout New Zealand.

Shares in Techvana are affordable because they want a thriving crowd to support the museum and be passionate about New Zealand’s tech history. Check out their campaign here.

techvana.jpg

 

H2EXPLORE

One word: hovercrafts. That’s what H2Explore are going to be bringing to Twizel. They’ve gained exclusive consents to start a hovercraft transport business over the Tasman River and Lake Pukaki. With over 7500 cyclists expected to do the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail next year and the booming tourist numbers this campaign has the potential to scale fast if you become part of their crowd.

Check out their projections and business plan here.

We’ve got another couple of companies getting ready to launch soon. So keep an eye out for some more equity crowdfunding campaigns coming your way.

Equity crowdfunding: we did it.

Wow.

It’s crazy that it’s the end of July already. This licensing journey for equity crowdfunding took a bit longer than we anticipated — but we did it. We’re totally stoked to be one of the first licensed equity crowdfunding platforms off the block!

In a way it’s really good that the FMA took a while working with us to finalise the license, we’re building a new industry and we need to be ready for anything.

And we are ready. Our new design for equity is ready to go (sneak peek above). We’ve got a variety of companies interested in launching with us, and some good media coverage of the changes — including this TV3 piece. After four months work it all fits. PledgeMe projects and PledgeMe equity are inter-related: it’s all about kiwis funding things they care about. Be it projects or companies.

So what’s next?

We’re going to hard launch on the 15th of August — with a bit of fan fare up and down the country. CAUTION: THERE WILL BE PARTIES and you will all be invited to join in the festivities. Keep an eye out here and on our Facebook and Twitter for more details.

In the meantime: if you’re interested in joining the growing crew of companies that want to launch with us, drop us a line. You’ll need to be ready to provide:

  • Descriptions of your company, team, what you’ll use the growth funding for, and your future plans
  • Your current financials, and forecasts (as a pdf)
  • A draft business plan to attach (as a pdf)
  • Your valuation (and an explanation of your method)
  • Your minimum and maximum funding goals

Once that info is on our system, you’ll need to get all of your directors to sign the issuer agreement confirming that you’re all on board with the campaign, and that we can complete the required background checks.

If you want to start investing in companies then keep an eye on PledgeMe on the 15th of August. We think you’ll like what you see. But don’t forget – the first pledgers on any campaign will probably be the family, friends, and customers of the company first, followed by a wider crowd if it strikes the right chord.

We’re excited to be changing the face of the financial markets AND crowdfunding in New Zealand — one start up (and stay up) at a time.

Key Facts about Equity Crowdfunding

  • Maximum Raise:   $2 million (per 12 month period per company)
  • Average raises overseas:   $80,000 – $120,000 for equity stakes from 10-20%
  • Legislation:   Equity crowdfunding was legalised under the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2014 – that came into play on 1 April. Companies are required to run their campaigns through licensed intermediaries (like us), and still need to comply with other legislation (reporting, Takeovers Code etc).

Our Facts

  • Launched:   February 2012
  • Number of users:   35,000+
  • Money raised to date:   $2.5m+
  • Number of projects funded:  640+
  • Largest campaign: $206,000 for Back the Bull (+ matched funding taking the total to $700k+)

Crowd around

Do you want to help more crowdfunding campaigns come to life? We’re doing an open call for people that want to support crowdfunding, be it by offering their flash film making services at a special rate to copy writers with a passion for telling peoples stories. Every team needs support, and we want it to be as awesome and diverse as the Barnstoneworth FC, Waikato Sunday Soccer League 4th Division Champions 2013 crew below (one of our recent successful projects!).

Here’s an example of one of our crowdfunding campaign supporters:

Meet Connor.  He’s a film-maker based in Auckland and makes music videos with Candlelit Pictures. Connor first met the Candlelit crew when he pledged money towards their short film ‘Hold Your Breath’ last year. Now he’s collaborating with them on his own work, and on top of all this – he can help you make your PledgeMe videos too!

If you’re keen to get your name out there helping local crowdfunding campaigns fill out the form below. You (and your services) will get a shout out on a page dedicated to our crowdfunding support crews.

 

Met our match

We’ve met our match in the crowdfunding space… Matched funding.

It’s amazing the motivational power that comes from promising to match funds raised – if a projects goal is met. We’ve been toying with the idea of matched funding for a while, after seeing it work on a few individual projects last year (Back the Bull being the biggest example). This year we partnered with two organisations to run group matched funding campaigns, and now we’re hooked. We really think it’s one of the areas where crowdfunding is going to make a big mark in 2014.

Think group decision making meets pre-existing funding. So, what happens is if a project can meet it’s goal through the power of their crowd, they’ll double the funding they receive.

We’ve seen this work successfully for two groups of campaigns this year so far – one in the documentary film making space, and once for smart energy solutions in the capital. The thing we found so exciting in this space was the increase in success rates. ALL of the projects that made it into the matched funding campaigns met their goals, and exceeded them. Here’s a bit of debrief on the two campaigns run so far:

Loading Docs – Documentary Filmmaking

Last year, the Loading Docs team asked film makers what home meant to them, and the resulting 67 short doco proposals they received were so varied they almost couldn’t be compared – everyone had a different way of showing Aotearoa to the world.

From that bunch, 10 were picked to receive NZ on Air and NZ  Film Commission funding, and set to the task of match funding the rest through us over the month of February. The response was amazing – 3 projects were funded in a matter of days and all of the projects overfunded. Considering our normal success rate is 49%, the fact that all of the projects met their goals blew us away, and really showed us the power of both matched funding and a support team.

The docos funded covered stories from an intellectually disabled man, Wayne, owning a home of his own after 44 years of shared housing, through to what home means to a wide crowd in the queer community.

Watch all of the documentaries that were created here: http://loadingdocs.net/films

Smart Energy Challenge – Wellington City Council

Earlier this year, Wellington City Council teamed up with us and some of Wellington’s brightest social entrepreneurs from Enspiral and Generation Zero, to bring local Smart Energy projects to life. They wanted to find and support community-led projects designed to reduce energy use and increase clean energy in Wellington, and called it the Smart Energy Challenge.

Three projects came through in the first round – from putting solar panels on Aro Valley’s community centre, through to solar powered heating units, and a car share scheme in the city. Each project met and exceeded their goal again, showing that Wellingtonians are interested in different ways to power our capital. Wellington City Council matched dollar for dollar the target amount of each successful project.  “It was kind of like being at the horse races watching the projects”.

What do you think about matched funding?

Don’t forget the crowd in crowdfunding

We keep on reading articles that don’t seem to get the importance of your crowd in crowdfunding – so we thought we’d give you the top 5 reasons we think your crowd is the most important part of your campaign. Maybe even more important than you….

1. Your first follower is what turns a lone nut into a leader

That first person that pledges might be your mother, but they’ll also be the person that everyone emulates. They’re the first person to show that they believed in you. We think Derek Siver’s put it best, when he said that the first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself.

2. They’ll give more than money

If your crowd believes in what you’re doing enough to pledge – they might have even more to give. They’ll give advice, share your project, maybe even help you out with the skills that they have, or provide you with rewards to offer with your campaign. Some people seem to think that this money isn’t as smart as traditional investors – we’d like to counter that and say it might not just be smarter and more diverse, but also immensley more practical.

3. They’ll ask the right questions

Some research has recently been completed in Germany to show that consumer investors ask good questions because they actually use your product. So while they might not all be financial experts, they’ll know if your product sounds like something they’d use. And some accountants might be in that mix asking questions about your financials as well. You never know who will come out of the woodwork in your crowd.

“As is true with markets, transparency produces fairness.” Michael Bloomberg wrote in his 1997 book “Bloomberg by Bloomberg.”

4. They’ll love you – and if you’re sticky enough – that’ll spread (not like an STD)

This is a chance for you to rally your crowd around you. It’s your chance for Great Uncle Jim, Aunty Margaret and your best friend from high school to all give you some help, and get something in return. It’s also the chance for your engaged customers who tell all their friends about what you make to get involved. They’ll be along for the ride, and maybe even bring some of their crowd along too. The social cohesion around crowdfunding is often under-estimated, but it’s the secret sauce that makes this different from pure financial plays or simply buying a CD.

5. They’ll keep you real

There’s nothing like your bestie or your mum to keep you real. They’ll push you to greater things, but also question your plans and expectations with real honesty. And that transparency and honesty will keep people engaged even when things aren’t going well. But what you need to remember is that communication is key – just keep people updated folks.

The importance of your crowd resonates across all types of crowdfunding. Without a crowd, you won’t get your funding. And that crowd always starts really close to home.

An unboring Board

Often when people hear the words “The Board”, eyes glaze.

They picture bland suits. A faceless, omnipresent entity that crops up every once in awhile in conversation – as in, “The Board vetoed this decision last Thursday.”

But, please – deglaze for a moment. Because that is definitely not how our board rolls.

We really want you to see the brilliant personalities and expertise that lie behind the names of the Board roll, because each member of the PledgeMe board was meticulously hand-picked to bring their savvy heads and extreme passion for business and community to the PledgeMe table.

These folk are here to make things happen for you, so with much pleasure, we introduce our unboring Board!

Anna Guenther, Founder & Chief Bubble Blower

Super Skills:

  • Breathing life into crowdfunding brainchild PledgeMe, and nurturing this 2-year-old every day to help Kiwis fund their very own brainchildren.
  • Certified crowdfunding academic/swot – Loves crowdfunding so much, completed masters thesis at Otago University on the topic of crowdfunding with a focus on what motivates people to pledge.

What she brings to the PledgeMe table: A background in economic development and major events at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and grant administration at a research institute affiliated with Harvard and MIT.

Pet passions: Singing to Pat Benatar in the office, wearing her panda onesie, coffee, and helping people out (not necessarily in that order – and not all at the same time).

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “I’m passionate about crowdfunding – and how it empowers creators to include their communities earlier in their journey. Our potential move into equity crowdfunding just strengthens our mission of helping Kiwis fund the things they care about!”

Anake Goodall, Director (though, we call him Obe Wan Anake)

Super Skills:

  • Former CEO of Ngai Tahu; developed intergenerational asset allocation programme around its $700 million portfolio.
  • Currently serving on the boards of Meridian Energy and social enterprise accelerator, the Hikurangi Foundation.
  • Strongman background in both public and private sector as a union delegate, credit union founder, iwi authority and startup champion.
  • Governance guru* – currently holds a range of governance roles in commercial, government, social enterprise and philanthropic entities .

What he brings to the Pledgeme table: A huge brain for strategy and development. Anake doesn’t just think about what we should be doing this week, or next month – we swear, he has a hundred-year-plan mapped in his head.

Pet Passion: Especially interested in organisations that are taking the lead on a low carbon, re-localised, sustainable and resilient future; very passionate about communities realising their collective aspirations. He also loves photography, and can often be found with his camera in hand.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “It’s really exciting to see crowdfunding remove one of the biggest constraints to innovators evolving and going to scale. Creative ventures have just slipped the leash!”

Nick Lewis, Chairman of the Board

Super Skills:

  • Polymath-esque background in engineering, finance, entrepreneurship, education and mentoring.
  • Co-founder of Wellington boutique investment bank, Woodward Partners (having done time at JP Morgan).
  • Serves on the board of Creative HQ, the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s business incubator that brought the business accelerator Lightning Lab to NZ.
  • Frequent guest lecturer at Otago University’s Masters of Entrepreneurship programme (“Where I first met PledgeMe’s unstoppable entrepreneur, Anna Guenther!”).

Pet passion: Calculators and suits aren’t Nick’s only tools – he’s also pretty powerful with his pen. Much to his wife Diane’s dismay, he took a sabbatical to write his first novel a few years back (a thriller), and he still stretches those creative writing muscles with us!

What he brings to the PledgeMe table: As an entrepreneur, banker and investor, Nick has spent most of his career at the intersection of companies and the financial markets that fund them.

As a result, he’s naturally passionate about how PledgeMe provides a platform for Kiwis who want to support projects they find worthy or (license pending) invest in businesses they find promising.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “OK, New Zealand, over to you! Support each other’s exciting ventures!”

Breccan McLeod-Lundy, Director / Technical brain

Super Skills:

  • An incomparable technical brain combined with human empathy like no other: as the founder of Rabid Technologies Breccan supports the development of new products and companies with a belief that partnerships and relationships are more important than simple transactions.
  • An ability to discuss complex philosophical ideas with the best of them (he did his degree in it – bless him).
  • But also the ability to simplify things down so even a child could understand them – very useful with tech lingo!
  • He lets the team talk him into karaoke, when and as required.

What he brings to the PledgeMe table: A background in technology and startups, Breccan has been programming since he was six with a Commodore 64 and has degrees in philosophy and management.

Pet Passion: Watching the top 250 movies on the IMDB list. He only has 30 more to go, and is always up for discussing the merits of all the movies he’s enjoyed to date.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “I’m excited about our potential move into the crowdfunding equity space because I believe it will release a broader base of capital to startup businesses and help New Zealand grow.”

Mark Kirkland – Director / Legal Eagle

Super Skills:

  • With a background in commercial and financial law, Mark is a founder and partner of Auckland boutique law firm, Carter Kirkland Morrison.
  • Guest lectured at the University of Otago’s Masters of Entrepreneurship programme (where he also crossed paths with Anna).
  • Speaks semi-fluent Russian – we’re not quite sure how to channel this talent for PledgeMe yet, but it’s merely a matter of time.

Pet passion: His Harley. So much so, we had to include a photo of it. Which we think plays into his adventuring, pushing new boundaries spirit – which is exactly how he’s helping us with the legal side of equity crowdfunding, forging new boundaries and demystifying some of the legalese around the capital markets.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: ”Bring on Naked Investment!”

Top 7 Quirky Ways to Market Your Crowdfunding Project

We love it when our creators get creative, and quirky. Here’s just a few (there are many more) examples of quirky rewards on some of our projects.

1. Panda Onesies

To celebrate raising $7000 for their film Hold Your Breath, Candlelit Pictures posted this pic of the team in their panda onesies along with a big THANK YOU to all their pledgers. We love this because it’s not a generic thank you. The expression on Alix’s face (right) says it all.

2. Create a Religion Dedicated To Your Pledgers

Mangle and Gruff took rewards to the next level when they promised to create a religion dedicated to anyone who pledged $1000 to help the band record a new EP. And someone did that. We’re still not sure if the band has worshipped in front of the pledgers house yet though…

3. Promise To Shave Off Your Beard

When Milarky needed to raise $5,000 to refill his graffiti stocks after painting a shark mural in Wellington central, he promised to shave off his fully vegetarian-fueled beard if he met his goal. Now Milarky is a big beardless PledgeMe success story.

4. Homekill

To raise the money needed to build a measurement tower for their wind turbine planning, Blueskin Energy went out to their crowd of Blueskin Bay residents to source rewards for their campaign. They had everything from artwork to blues lessons offered back to them, and even one resident who offered to “homekill” chickens for each $15 pledge.

5. Everyone Loves A Good Pun

Who doesn’t love a good pun? The Christchurch Art Gallery used lots of bull puns in the copy on their project, Back the Bull, which aimed to buy back Michael Parekowhai’s bull sculptures. “Bull-iever” “Unbullievable” “Unbelieveabull” “Unstoppabull” certainly livened up their copy.

6. Costume Changes

Not only did Liz Kirkman ask her crowd to send her to Perugia, Italy to work with vocal experts, but she asked her crowd to help her decide what to wear. Liz posted her costume ideas to Facebook, and her crowd could vote for the costume they thought was best.

7. More Panda Onesies

When James Shaw needed to raise the money to get himself to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Programme, he promised to travel from New Zealand to Chicago in a panda onesie, if he got a big $500 pledge. Any reward involving panda onesies is alright with us.

“It’s not Dumb Money, it’s Love Money”

It’s amazing how fast the last month has flown by! We thought it might be time for a quick update on all things equity crowdfunding, so here goes:

Licensing update

The Financial Market Conduct Act came into effect 1 April, wahooo! We celebrated in the office, and hope you did too?

Sadly – this doesn’t mean we’re licensed yet though. We’re working through the process with the FMA (who is regulating everyone going into the space) and it’s definitely going to take a few weeks to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Since we’re all building this space as we go, we want to make sure we do it right.

How it could work

A lot of people have been asking what will be required to run an equity campaign. It will be a bit more than the current rewards side for sure, so it’s good everyone is asking. Here’s the minimum info that we expect we’ll need to get companies up and running with equity crowdfunding:

  • Company Name (as in the Companies office) and location / sector

  • Team details (Directors and Senior Managers)

  • Basic info around Idea, Market, Exit Plan / Treatment of Dividends

  • Financial Accounts created by an accountant or pulled from Xero (up to past three years, dependent on how long the company has been trading) – bonus points if audited.

  • Financial Forecast for the next three years – including money raised

  • Images from business / team in description / browse box

  • Business plan

  • Valuation of the company

  • Equity on offer (min target, and max overfund)

  • Rewards and a pitch video will be optional, but recommended.

The pricing will be similar to our model now (5% success fee), though there will be a few legal costs at the end (getting the final share registers and everything set up), and a cost to run background checks.

We’ll also have a Q&A forum for potential investors to ask companies questions (or offer support), and a shareholders communication portal after the campaign is successful.

Crowd update

We’ve been talking to literally 100’s if not 1000’s of people about equity crowdfunding – from all walks of business and life. The semi-overwhelming response has been excitement – using technology to make raising equity funding more transparent and efficient has really resounded with the crowd.

Our favourite comment so far though, came from a craft brewery that is looking at launching with us. When we mentioned some areas of the eco system were sceptical that equity crowdfunding wouldn’t be smart money – he responded with what is now our favourite blog title ever “it’s not dumb money, it’s love money”. Through our talks, the excitement of really skilled everyone (business people, lawyers, accountants, designers) has been infectious. They’d love to invest small amounts AND help if needed. So instead of a handful of smart investors – you could have hundreds of savvy people backing you and ready to jump in and help.

Shout out if you’d like to chat to us about this a bit more!

Crowdfunding a Choir Tour

In July of last year (2013), Christchurch Youth Choir sang their way south, performing their way from Timaru to Dunedin. In 40 days they raised nearly $2000 towards transport and accommodation costs via PledgeMe, to help them on their way.

The choir’s accompanist, Matt Everingham, set up the project on PledgeMe for the choir, and was interviewed by our Christchurch Brand Ambo, Amy Bowie.

So, Matt, how was the tour?

The CYC ‘Awakenings’ Southern Tour, as the title might suggest, was a first for the choir and a resounding success for all involved – singers, audiences, the committee and the music team. In only our second year of existence we decided to make a bold and exciting decision and plan for a tour South.

The first half of the year was filled with rehearsals and smaller concerts while we prepared the wonderful ‘Mass in G’ by Schubert and a varied programme of classical, jazz, contemporary and spiritual repertoire to take on tour. We took this ‘Awakenings’ Concert programme on the road to Timaru and performed in the beautiful Sacred Heart Basilica and then the Knox Church in Dunedin. It was a real pleasure performing in such historic venues (they seem to be missing in Christchurch!) and the audiences were appreciative and impressed by our performances.

We returned to a full house crowd at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Christchurch which was a real highlight to end on. Again, the music was sung superbly and despite the winter months the reaction was warmer than ever.

The tour proved to be an important milestone for the choir with so many benefits. It allowed us to really place ourselves on the map in the wider South Island and New Zealand music scene, performing to new audiences and alongside a fantastic young string ensemble. It has given us the assurance from both a musical and organisational perspective that we can go far as a young and independent choir. In the last two years CYC has grown from strength to strength, and our ‘Awakenings’ Tour was an exciting part of this.

More photos can be found in our Southern Tour Photo Album

What did you like about PledgeMe?

PledgeMe was a unique, user-friendly and effective way of gathering financial support to turn our Southern Tour into a reality. It was a great form of publicity, and teaming up with Cookie Productions we created a video from our first concert to spread the word and introduce the choir to possible crowdfunders. PledgeMe was pivotal terms of getting our message and cause out online and into the wide world (and world wide web).

How did you find the experience?

The experience was new for the choir, but it was a very flexible way of gathering support from the wider community in a friendly and positive way.

You raised nearly $2k – but were there any other benefits from the project besides money?

It allowed us to go beyond the Christchurch network of supporters and get our message out to a wider audience in New Zealand which was invaluable. It encouraged us to make a demo video of our group, which we had done professionally, which in turn boosted our publicity on Facebook and other online areas.

Any tips for choirs and/or musical groups wishing to raise funds via PledgeMe?

Publicity and getting your voice and cause out there is essential – utilise all the connections in your group! The more you can get members on board to advertise and push the cause the more support you will receive. Share, share, share – sharing really is caring when it comes to facebook and twitter! Give your group enough time on the pledgeme campaign to reach your goal – don’t be unrealistically rushed and vice versa don’t let it drag out!

We heard you recently played for The Christchurch International Musical Theatre Summer School. This is but one of many music/drama themed intensives in New Zealand and beyond. What is your advice to students who are struggling to afford such opportunities for furthering their musical education?

Where there is a will, there is always a way! Never give up on what you’re passionate about. Where opportunites seem too unrealistic, it is often even more rewarding to create your own. Where you see a need, fill that need with your own creative spark – The Christchurch Youth Choir for example emerged from a small group of committed young singers at University who saw the need for a creative musical outlet for singers post high school. Thanks to that initial vision we now have a high calibre group of some of Christchurchs’ best young singers led by our awesome Musical Director Grant Bartley. If you’re a keen young singer – watch our facebook page for audition dates!

What is in store for CYC in 2014?

With the first audition round complete, we have an exciting year ahead of us, building on the journey we had last year. It’s full speed ahead for us at the moment with plans to perform Mozart’s theatrical and action-packed ‘Coronation Mass’ with featured soloists and orchestra, as well as a Hollywood Tribute Concert to come later in the year featuring the very best choral arrangements from all the movies.

The next exciting project in the works is a CD Concert recording and on the not-so distant horizon we have plans for an Australian Tour – next stop world domination! Who knows, we might well see you back on PledgeMe soon.

Find out about our other adventures at our facebook page!