Early last month, I spent two days in Melbourne and one day in Sydney meeting with local companies, co-working spaces, government, funders, and startup supporters.

Australia trip

My trip had two goals. Firstly to assess where Australia’s proposed legislation on equity crowdfunding was headed and secondly to get a sense (read sanity check) of whether PledgeMe should hop across the ditch.

Apart from realising that my American heritage felt strangely at home in the rule-focused country, here are my main findings:

Change of government is helping change the law

The Australian government has recently gone through a change of leadership (to the relief of most Australians it seems), and a shuffle of portfolios means there is a new minister in charge of the changes to their securities legislation. The Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC) which wrote the original report around equity crowdfunding has been abolished, leaving Australia with the mouthful of a moniker “crowd sourced equity funding” for equity crowdfunding. Now, after two rounds of submissions, the equity piece is slated to enter the innovation statement set to come out by December 2015.

There is a general sense of optimism around the changes. The new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has a background in tech. This seems to leading the industry to believe he will make changes to support SMEs. He’s already shown he is capable of doing this with recent employee share scheme changes.

We believe that government’s role is not to tell citizens, let alone businesses, what is best, but rather to enable them to do their best.” Malcolm Turnbull

However, many predict Australia is more likely to follow the American way of equity crowdfunding. People I spoke to said as much: “Australians like rules”. This means there will probably be investor caps on how much individual investors can invest, both per campaign and per year. This stems, in part, from a general fear from institutional investors that retail investors would lose all their money in this space. New Zealand originally discussed investor caps, but decided not to go down that path. We agree with this. Caps on investment assume that retail investors need protection from themselves. This could be seen as somewhat patronising and counter to Prime Minister Turnbull’s above statement.

There has been some talk recently about the law change excluding debt/peer-to-peer(P2P),  and existing only for public companies. Both of these comments are strange, for the following reasons:



Debt crowdfunding, crowdlending, peer-to-peer, whatever you call it, is two thirds of the international crowdfunding market. Yep, bigger than all the equity crowdfunding and kickstarter-esque platforms combined. So it seems odd that it’s being left out of the conversation. In fact, in New Zealand, equity crowdfunding was actually an afterthought added after one of the P2P platforms made a side comment about it in a meeting in the lead up to our legislation changes. And, it’s a space that we’re really interested in ourselves as it helps more than just companies find funding – it supports individuals, other organisational set up, and social enterprises. So interested in fact, that we’re exploring an SME / organisational product for kiwis.

There are P2P platforms operating already in Australia, but under the old legislation with high compliance costs.

Public companies

Company structures in Australia are different to New Zealand.

In New Zealand, the companies coming through are private companies. They are not tied to the same continuous disclosures that a public company would be required to do, and are not required to create a public prospectus for funding. While equity crowdfunding may trigger the Takeovers Code (eg. a company has more than 50 voting shareholders) and a company may be required to audit their financials if their voting shareholders do not opt out, these companies are not classified as public.

In Australia, if you have more than 50 non-employee shareholders, you immediately move from being a proprietary (or private) company to being a public company (albeit unlisted). This means you are required to have 3 directors (2 need to be Australians) and are required to provide a directors statement, financials and an auditor’s report annually.



There is a need for funding (and a crowd)

Australia is seeing more Venture Capital funds coming through for tech, a maturing startup ecosystem, and a growth in impact investment. But, there was also a general sense that while Australia is generally wealthy, it is more likely to go into traditional investments (eg. asset classes), not currently into start ups. Also, Basel III has made it harder for SME’s to access bank loans. But there are some companies that need growth funding that aren’t supported by the current ecosystem, with 10% of Australian SME’s stating they have difficulty accessing capital to grow in a recent Deloitte report. Often, these companies either wouldn’t fall in the traditional investment space or would not choose to go down the traditional investment route.


My conversations made me realise that the other side of crowdfunding (the crowd) had been seriously downplayed in the discussions around legislation changes. Everyone was hung up on the funding (and potential to lose money) and overlooked the other skills, support, and insight a crowd of consumer investors could bring.

I told the story of Brianne from Sorbet pretty much on repeat. How she went out and raised $200k from her crowd in two weeks, but not only did she get cash from her crowd; she also had three chemists invest. There was a problem she’d been working on for weeks if not months, which they came in and fixed in half an hour.



It’s a big (and complicated) market

Australia is large compared to New Zealand. With five times the population, there is more individual wealth (one person ball parked 10x that of NZ), and there are more layers to bureaucracy (city, state, federal).

There was a comment that Australia is more likely to back Australian owned, and that we would need distinctive entry plans tailored to each city. Which really made us think that if we wanted to go to Australia, we’d need partners. Companies or organisations that reflect our values, but aren’t already in the crowdfunding space.



It’s a crowded market

There are quite a few players getting ready to launch in the space. Some platforms have already completed their technical development, and there is a sense of waiting to see how the legislation lands.

Some platforms believe  the changes could come through this year (as stated in one of the documents released by government) where others think it will still be at least 6 months before the first platform is licensed and launching campaigns.

There are a range of platforms getting ready to enter the space, some with project based crowdfunding experience, some currently in the equity crowdfunding space in NZ (Equitise, My Angel Invest) and some specific niche crowdfunders (all the property….).



Where to from here?

I feel like there is little sense for PledgeMe to try and enter the Australian market on its own. But, we are open to partnering with companies in Australia to set up a platform (with us bringing the tech / expertise, and a partner bringing the potential base of campaign creators / presence / brand recognition). Partnering would be a stronger proposition than setting up a new platform from scratch.

So if there are any folk that would like to continue conversations or start conversations, get in touch with me ( We’re keen to support the democratisation of funding in Australia, and are actively waiting to see how the final legislation pans out.


Final thought

For all that’s good Australia, please don’t go down the path of over regulation. If you write 635 pages of guidance for platforms like the USA, you’ve already stifled the innovation of your 140 character fueled future.



a big thanks to everyone that took the time to meet with me and share their thoughts on the future of funding in Australia.

Throwback Thursday

Bountiful Burlesque

Nov 26

Fifi Colston’s drawings should never be hidden away. This wonderful writer, artist, and creator of Wearable Art ran her first PledgeMe campaign back in 2012 so that she could mount a series of sketches for an exhibition. The subject of these sketches? None other than the daring dancers of the Wellington burlesque scene. Fifi describes it as a “great exhibition” with fascinating frills abounding.


One of Fifi’s books, which won the LIANZA prize.

Since then, Fifi hasn’t stopped making wonderful art. She’s had two beautiful books on costuming for children published, including “Wearable Wonders” which won the LIANZA non-fiction prize.


She’s also made puppets, costumes for businesses, and a whole historic replica flag for Waitangi. But her real tour de force is in WOW season – this was her 20th year in show. In 2012 her piece “Lady Curiosity”, also inspired by burlesque dancers, placed third, and went on to be exhibited around NZ only to end up much further afield in Honolulu!

Lady Curiosity, photo courtesy of World of WearableArt.

Lady Curiosity, photo courtesy of World of WearableArt.


We are so proud of Fifi’s amazing work, and can’t wait to see what marvels she will keep on creating. If you want to check out Fifi’s original project, take a look at it right here.


One year on

It’s one year ago today that we had our first successful equity campaign – for us.

It was a scary move, going out with our own campaign and asking our crowd to join us on our journey. I joke that it’s effectively the same as getting naked and running through a crowd of friends (and critics). It’s a no holds barred, warts and all approach to growing your company, and it’s not for the faint hearted. But, it worked. In 23 hours we raised our maximum goal of $100,000, and we grew from a team of 2 FTE’s and a board to a family of 186 shareholders, directors and team members.


And, we got so much more from our crowd than just the funds. In the last year we’ve gotten everything from strategy sessions to home cooked meals to contacts in Australia to campaign leads to attendees at our pitch kitchens to another round of funding. We’ve been supported commercially and personally. We’ve strengthened existing friendships and made new ones.

With your help, in the last year we’ve gone from $2.9million total pledged through the platform to $8.2million pledged. We’ve had 11 other equity campaigns funded, covering a spectrum of industries – from beer to wind turbines to solid hair care bars. And, we’ve almost hit the 1,000 mark on total funded campaigns. Yep, that’s almost 1,000 campaigns that got the funding they needed to go ahead. Since 2012.

So, I want to take this moment to say thank you. Thank you to our supporters, shareholders, and the growing PledgeMe team. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you. We also wouldn’t be who we are today without you.



What does the next year hold?

  • More kiwis funding the things they care about.
  • Us pushing to hit our goal of $8.2million pledged this financial year.
  • Different ways of supporting our crowd, be it new ways help campaigners to new products we offer.
  • More inspiration. More learning. More you.
And for me? Turning 30.
ps. Here are some other campaigns you might want to check out on the anniversary of our funding:


What's Up Wednesday

Floatation Dreams

November 18

Canterbury carer Angela Prosser wants to make a difference in the lives of disabled children. Having spent her life as a massage therapist studying fitness and nutrition, she knows a thing or two about wellbeing – and she believes the Floatstar floatation pod is the best thing for wellbeing there is.

These floatation pods remove stress, improve sleep, speed healing amid a score of other benefits – and Angela wants the opportunity to set up the first one ever in Christchurch for everyone to experience. She reckons it’s the closest you can get to zero-gravity – which sounds pretty good to us! We got in touch with Angela to hear more about this amazing invention and how she’s finding the campaign for it.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

The campaign is a lot of work!  But it’s quite extra-ordinary how wonderful people are.  I have found it’s best not to second guess who will be my biggest supporters, so long as I keep bringing the campaign to new people it keeps on moving.  This process is putting me in touch with some very beautiful souls.

What do you have planned for the rest of the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

I am waiting to hear from some potentially larger donors to help boost the total along and have contacted some sports groups to see if they would like to by subs with larger pledges since floatation therapy has proven benefits for athletic performance.

Plus I have an angel who will lend me $20K at the end if I manage to get the rest pledged.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

HUGE THANKS to the amazing people who have so generously pledged so far – they are wonderful brilliant people. I simply want to create a place where peace can be found – by the people who need it the most – and post -quake Canterbury needs it more than many.

If you want to support Angela’s awesome campaign and get your own five minutes of float-time, check it out right here.

Throwback Thursday

A New Take on the Undead

Nov 12This week’s Throwback Thursday hails from April 2012! Amy and Patricia were working on a film called “A Party for Me” – a zombie-genre film with a twist. Despite the film’s ambitious shooting plans – involving a cat, a night shoot, period costumes and child actors – they aimed for the modest goal of $270, and blasted right through it. Due to a long post-production period, the film was only completed last year, and was received hugely well at both its Wellington screening and at the October Fright Night Film Festival all the way over in Kentucky USA! To find out more about this fab and freaky film, check out the info here.

As for Patricia and Amy, they’re still filling the world with fantastic films! Amy is a director based in Wellington, while Patricia is based in London running Action on the Side, a filmmaking group which makes whole movies in a month.

We’re so stoked to see how well the film worked out, and all the cool stuff its creators are up to now. Check out their original project here to see where PledgeMe can take you!

What's Up Wednesday

The Scoop Foundation for Public Interest Journalism

November 11We love the innovative PledgeMe campaigns Scoop comes up with, from their “Operation Chrysalis” campaign which raised over $36,000 earlier this year to their “16 Days of Scoop” campaign, which had a target of only $16 and raised over $9,000. When it comes to their crowd, the team at Scoop know what they’re doing – and their latest campaign is no exception.

This time around, Scoop is putting out a “call to arms” to find new members for the Scoop Foundation. In a country where well-known news agencies are turning to clickbait and celebrity gossip, Scoop offers a solution to the news crisis – a new model of funding that is not reliant on advertising, but is focused on delivering timely, important news stories that New Zealanders need to hear.

But in order to get to that model, Scoop needs your help – and that’s why they’ve come back to PledgeMe. We got in touch to hear how the campaign is going so far.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

It has been a very interesting experience. As it is our third outing we brought some experience to what we are doing but have learned more this time round than we did in both earlier projects. The responses of the crowd to our appeal appear to be more deeply held than in our earlier campaigns. Starting with an informational campaign was helpful to do some groundwork but feel now that we should have started the full on barn-storming part earlier. On moving to our “1000 Kiwis” positioning the entire campaign went up a notch so that was a very clear signal that changing out the communications approach is worth doing if what you are doing is not delivering what you need.

What do you have planned for the rest of the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

We only have a week to go now.  With three of us working on the content and social media aspects of this now we hopefully will continue to amp up our social media visibility. It has been a shame that there has been no mainstream media coverage of what we are doing but I think that is reflective of the seriousness of the crisis which is facing the news media. Scoop’s raising of difficult issues is not something that is being warmly received by our media colleagues.  There is one more announcement to make publicly, later today, announcing a Scoop Hui which will be held this Sunday at St Andrew’s on the Terrace.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Thank you for your fantastic support. The amplification effect of the crowd distributing our shareables in Facebook and Twitter is the driver of this campaign – please keep it up. And hopefully together we can #TakeBackTheNews.

If you want to help Scoop solve the NZ news crisis, check out their campaign right here.

What the All Blacks can teach us all about culture

It’s no secret inside Team PledgeMe that for me, major sporting events (like World Cups and the Olympic Games) mean erratic sleeping patterns, constantly waking up flatmates by yelling at the TV, and even more time spent trawling Twitter. A few of us have been relegated to a #sportsball channel on Slack for intra-office communications on the subject matter.

The Rugby World Cup is over. This makes me sad. The main reason I feel this way is that the All Blacks, especially this team, have captivated me for a few years now.

The thing I find so fascinating is the culture they’ve created. It incubates success better than anything else I’ve seen in sport.

The All Blacks have been ranked #1 in World Rugby for more than a decade (less a few months by South Africa). That, in itself, is crazy. But had they fallen to their Trans Tasman rivals last weekend, it would have been slightly harder to call them the best team ever.

But the All Blacks prevailed. They are unequivocally the best team ever.

Theories about the success by this current batch of All Blacks, and the most recent head coaches Steve Hansen & Graham Henry, will undoubtedly be covered by academics in years to come.

How can a team remain this dominant for so long? How do they continue to innovate and remain ahead of their rivals?

Things weren’t always this great. There was a turning point after the 2003 World Cup when New Zealand lost in the semi-finals to Australia. Coaches Graham Henry, Steven Hansen, and Wayne Smith met with some of the senior players. The outcome of the conversation was for the All Blacks to move past their macho-culture towards a culture with humility and respect.

You can’t change your culture overnight. It takes time. I’m sure it wasn’t easy either. After 100 years of being rugby’s toughest team, the All Blacks coaching staff and leading players decided being feared wasn’t enough.

Their culture was holding them back and it needed an adjustment.


… dictates your pace of change

There’s the saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. This means with the right culture a team — whether it’s the All Blacks or a startup — achieves more faster. Everyone is able to focus on their key areas improvement. This allows the team as a whole to continue to innovate. Culture keeps a team’s inertia up.

The All Blacks began changing their behaviour, particularly while on tour. I’m sure at first it required effort to manage. As cultural norms shifted, the All Blacks likely spent little time on this. They focused on rugby while many of their rivals were probably still spending time and energy on off-field issues.

… happens behind closed doors

The All Blacks culture is not what us “normal people” see from interviews and read in the media.

Picture this. The All Blacks had just won. They have a quick debrief in the changing rooms and the team gets ready to head for their hotel. Before leaving they turn do a final sweep of the locker room. They leave it the way they found it so nobody has to clean up after them.

… is the sum of the team

A favourite athlete of mine was recently questioned about a pretty impressive team effort he played a key role in. He responded by saying “it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit”.

Listening to Dan Carter’s interview after receiving Man of the Match, you notice he focuses on  achieving the goal of back-to-back World Champions as a team. None of it, not even the individual honour he’d just received, was about him. It was about the collective.

…dictates your long-term performance.

It’s impossible to say an organisation and team’s success is solely related to culture. Looking back now though, the All Blacks winning average went from 75% in 2004 to 86% by 2011 and again crept to over over 90% in the Steven Hansen era. It’s hard to deny the impact culture had in this progress.

Although it’s sad to see several legends leave this team, we’ve seen the All Blacks culture cut through the noise and focus on continual improvement.

That’s why they’re the best team ever.

Bubbling with innovation

Today crowdfunding platforms are awash with ingenuity. Look no further than our own humble bubble to find bitchin’ mobile stitching workshops, the future of food and a refreshing way of delivering the news. But, it’s not only the bright sparks running campaigns that are sharing their brilliance with the world. As crowdfunding has evolved over the last stretch, interesting industry innovators have begun to emerge. Specialist platforms are filling gaps in many markets.

Abundance is giving communities in the UK an opportunity to move away from the grid and take control of their energy generation and consumption through community energy projects. Removing reliance in favour of renewables. Re-energising indeed.

Fundrise is cutting down the barriers to investing in property and in the process gives communities a voice to contribute to how their environments look and feel. Greater access, greater openness and greater involvement.

Kiva is creating connections that change lives. The core idea is to take the desire of many to alleviate poverty and rejig the way that this will be achieved. Kiva partners with socially-conscious microfinanciers around the world to connect third world entrepreneurs with ordinary people wanting to lend their money to worthy causes. What is truly amazing about the platform is that 98% of loans have been repaid, calling into question the selectivity of traditional modes of lending.

These platforms are creating new opportunities for engaged decision-makers to become more involved in the decisions that affect them and the world they are part of, and as a result create a stronger sense of worth, empowerment and ownership.


What other upcoming patterns do I see bubbling up within crowdfunding? I believe that governments will begin involving their crowds in the decisions that shape public infrastructure, allowing them to directly contribute to the funding of and benefit from the returns made by public projects. I think that the funding of programmes to combat social issues will turn toward crowds who want to be part of the remedy. I can see labour market disruption ahead, particularly with how skilled freelancers ply their trade.

Here at PledgeMe we’re taking inspiration from not only our courageous campaigners but also our fellow platforms who, like us (and Postman Pat himself), continue to push the envelope.

Opportunities for innovation in the crowdfunding space are aplenty and PledgeMe is so proud to be supporting innovation here in New Zealand.

Throwback Thursday

From Kim Potter to DJ Vinyl Burns!

This week for our Throwback Thursday, we shot back to April 2012, when Kim Potter successfully raised over $4000 for his music video, “Just the Way You Shine”. The video featured the Boy with Tape on his Face and Leda Petit, and was hugely well-received. You can check it out below!

These days, Kim’s still making music – but these days he goes by the name of DJ Vinyl Burns. Vinyl Burns is a Wellington-based showman DJ, who likes to bring a little comedy to the tunes he spins. He’s also currently running a PledgeMe campaign! With the help of his friend Adam Simpson (who also came up with the idea for Love the Way You Shine), Kim’s trying to take Vinyl Burns on the road with his very own trailer-mounted Vegas Wedding Chapel.

Vegas-Chapel-BlueprintSo if you love this gloriously mad idea as much as we do, head on over to Kim’s latest project and support someone who can truly boast of being PledgeMe alumni.


What's Up Wednesday

Anika Moa’s Songs for Bubbas 2

October 21
So, this is a campaign we’re pretty amped about. Anika Moa, New Zealand’s songwriting sweetheart, is back on the scene with more songs to lull kiwi kids off to sleep – and she’s chosen to put them out through crowdfunding.

Offering everything from customised onesies to a beer with the lady herself, it’s clear Anika is cutting no corners when it comes to making this album a reality. We got in touch to hear from the horse’s (or, singer’s) mouth just how it’s going so far:

How are you finding the campaign so far?

It’s quite exciting waking up each morning to see who’s pledged. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the love and appreciate so much people giving me their hard earned money. I am nervous and scared all at once!

It’s good to work on a NZ crowd funding site too as it makes it more US and inclusive. Really loving it.

What’s coming up with the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

We might have a sneaky few rewards in there for some lucky people. LOL I’m just going to see how it goes and let it do its beautiful work…. Anyone keen for singing lessons?

Anything else you want to shout out to your crowd?

Kia ora mo Te tautoko! Thank you for the support!
I am truly warmed by your kindness. I will make such a great baby album and your kids will be soothed and happy from here on in. No money back guarantee! Hehe.

If you want to get on board and support the amazing Anika Moa, go pledge to her campaign right here.