What's Up Wednesday

Sonny Southon’s Third Album

Jul 27

 

This singer/songwriter grew up in Upper Hutt – but her quest to sing has taken her much further. In her ventures overseas, Sonny sang for everyone from Sir Bob Geldof to Duran Duran, before signing a contract to take her talent solo. Now she’s striking out on her own once again – and this time, she’s inviting you along for the ride!

After two critically acclaimed solo albums and two self-funded singles to raise money for charity, Sonny is looking to fund her third album. In order to raise the funds she needs to get there, she’s offering her crowd awesome rewards like singing lessons, lunch dates, and even a full concert via skype. We caught up with Sonny to find out a bit more about her campaign.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

Great. Very happy with how PledgeMe is helping me promote and get it out there.  It’s an awesome opportunity to get help to record this album.

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

I had a gig last Sunday @ Days Bay Pavilion in Eastbourne.  A nice acoustic set with a log fire and great pizza. Other gigs and events are updated on my website.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Just a massive thank you to every who has donated.  Having fans who want to hear my music inspires me to keep going.

Seeking new onesie wearing People Wrangler

PledgeMe is onesie central, and while our Chief People Wrangler Tash may never have worn a onesie, she’s taking it one step further and growing a whole new person to rock a onesie out. A PledgeMe baby! (yes, we are patiently waiting to see whether bubs will wear a dinosaur or a panda onesie…)

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[This is what the team would probably look like while discussing Panda’s vs. Dinosaurs – that’s Tash in the red]

Which means we’re after someone to fill the Tash sized hole in our lives while she is on maternity leave. Chief People Wrangler is an all-encompassing title, which means you may end up doing anything and everything to help ensure the PledgeMe boat sails smoothly. You’ll be the first and last point of contact for Projects, as well as making sure enquiries around PledgeMe.Lend and PledgeMe.Equity are taken care of by the right people.

 

No two days are the same, except for the fact that you are constantly inspired by amazing people doing cool things the length of New Zealand.

 

Now, here’s a list of Tash specific things that we’ll miss, but that you’re not required to bring to the table:

  • Her ability to knit and talk at the same time
  • Her good humour, even in tense Twitter situations
  • The way she just gets shit done, like the manual she decided to write for you (yes, you). It covers everything you could want to know and she decided to revamp it to be the most useable guide on the planet.
  • The fact that one day she’ll knit us a PledgeMe onesie. Right, Tash??

 

Here’s are the general qualities we’re looking for in the perfect People Wrangler:

  • Not afraid to be a bit quirky. We occasionally wear onesies to the office (but only on Wednesdays).
  • Attention to detail – passionate about inbox zero (TBH, inbox ten is fine too)
  • Tech able. No, you don’t need to be able to code C#, but you should know you should be able to work your way around embed code and excel spreadsheets.
  • Empathetic. You need to want to help people, and get the best out of every project creator that comes through your inbox / our office.
  • Able to think on your feet (and office chair). Happy to point out things you think could be improved, then leading the charge to fix ‘em.

 

What this actually means day-to-day:

  • Responding promptly to correspondence regarding projects, an understanding of CRM’s would be a bonus!
  • Supporting creators during project creation, and managing all the steps from reviewing initial request to project close out.
  • Financial management – you’ll be in charge of reconciling pledges, and creating payments to be authorised.
  • Answering enquiries in a timely manner – and forwarding on when help needed
  • Support at events (every few months – it’ll be fun, promise)
  • Picking up on the details around what we do on a daily basis, and finding ways to fix or improve our processes.

 

Hours: 10-15 hours per week – Must be able to work at least 2 hours per day (Monday to Friday)

Location: Wellington (though flexibility to work from home)

Rate: $20-25 p/h (depending on skills and experience)

Applications close EOP 29 July, and we’ll look to conduct interviews 2nd week of August. Please send your application through to anna@pledgeme.co.nz with an email talking about why you love crowdfunding and a link to your LinkedIn (or CV if you really want).

 

Ps. We’re really going to miss you Tash!

South Island Roadie: Part II

Over 7 days we met with over 200 entrepreneurs, doers, and supporters.

We travelled from Invercargill to Westport, and stopped a bunch of places in between. I wrote about the first leg of our roadtrip here, and this is what happened after we left the furthest Southern town (aside from Stewart Island that is).

 

Dunedin

Dunedin is my home town, so returning to the stomping ground of my youth is always a little bit disconcerting. Gone are many of the highlights of my university days (oh, Gardie), but replacing them are start up spaces, beautiful and massive street art, and an amazing re-use of the old commercial district.

We held our evening event in the Abacus Bio offices, which is part of a beautiful historic building on Moray Place. We had everything from berry farmers to tech start ups, from priests to students, ready to learn more about crowdfunding for companies. The room was packed, and it was at this exact moment we ran out of Crowdfunding magazines (sorry everyone!).

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There were some great questions, and a good of bit of weighing in from the attendees on their thoughts around investment, the law, and what a good campaign could look like.

Afterwards, we went out to Thai with some of the attendees, and got invited to park up outside of one of their houses for the night (well – I was outside, Kelsey got a bed!).

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Timaru

The next day we continued on our way to Timaru, where Shaun and the team at Vetta Technologies hosted us in their new co-working space. We had a mix of alumni there (Sam and Rachel from the Super Power Baby project came along to listen) through to cafe owners and local charities. We even had a shareholder, Craig, host some after event drinks downstairs.

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After a night in Timaru (thanks for the bed, Sam and Rachel!) we wove our way up to Christchurch.

It’s around this time that I introduced Kelsey to the podcast Serial. Our driving got a lot more intense after that, as Kelsey was listen with a renewed focus to what was happening over the sound system.

Christchurch

There we were lucky enough to have a crowd of our shareholders give us a place to stay, host us for our event, and be the overall fantastic folk that they are. The turn out for our crowdfunding talk had a similarly diverse feel with youth workers to a company that listed in 1999 showing up to learn more.

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We had the Sunday off after our Christchurch workshop, and had some great conversations overlooking Christchurch while listening to this playlist:

 

Westport

Our last two events were held over mountains in Westport. There was so much interest there, we held two events, and met with everyone from the Mayor to a powerbar company. We need to say a major thanks to Peter Howard, from Buller REAP for sponsoring and coordinating the events for us, and for Epic Westport for letting us use their beautiful (and new!) space.

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Massive thank you time

To all the attendees that crowdfunded to get us down South: thank you!

For all the event organisers & supporters who gave us spaces to speak / sleep: we couldn’t have done it without you.

And to the amazing folk (especially Rachael) at Jucy who sponsored the van we slept in: a HUMONGOUSLY HUGE THANK YOU! You made it possible for us not only to visit our crowd down South, but to sleep outside their houses in a non scary way :)

With over 200 of our crowd met while we toured the South, we feel like a North Island tour needs to happen. Do you agree? If you want us to come to your town, let us know in the comments below.

South Island Roadie: Part I

For someone that gets carsick, typing this blog in the back of our Jucy caravan while we drive to across Central Otago wasn’t the smartest move I’ve ever made. But, watching the terrain and inspired by the folk we’ve met, I thought I should share what we’ve seen and done and learnt so far on our South Island Roadie.

Our road trip kicked off on Tuesday, with Kelsey, Nick and I converging on Queenstown. After a delayed start (nothing like a diversion to Christchurch so we could find a bigger plan to fly in on) we arrived in beautiful cool Queenstown. Barely a cloud in the sky, dotted with parachutes and gliders weaving between the hills.

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Innovation Queenstown, Queenstown Resort College, and the University of Otago hosted 12 entrepreneurs for the first stop on our South Island roadie. We had everything from a fashion start up  to brewers to winemakers learning about the fundamentals of equity crowdfunding. We shared stories from our learnings, and heard more about the local experiences of the founders from Queenstown, Wanaka and Cromwell. Of developers working in hostels, ex Google employees finding work internationally but not in NZ, and entrepreneurs desperate to create companies that solved local and global problems.

We had the invite of a place to stay from one of our alumni, Craig, who created the Wonky Donkey man, and spent the night talking about life, creative funding, and watching shooting stars from his spa pool.

In the morning, we thought that the ice on the windshield would be easy enough to scrape off. Only after a first attempt did we realise that the ice was actually on the inside of our caravan, making us a bit late for our first meeting of the morning.

While our Chair completed some work skypes in the van, we met with a local entrepreneur to talk about her start up and Queenstown. After one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had at Bespoke Cafe, we jumped in Ting’s car to see the magical spaces she works from (at Sherwood). We were sold.

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On the way to Invercargill we stopped in Cromwell, to visit Brendan who had attended our session the night before. He’s starting up an urban winery in Dunedin – bringing Central Otago grapes into the inner city to make his wine, and then bring it back to Central until it’s ready to consume. We got to taste test it a bit early.

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In Invercargill we were met at the Pride offices, and quickly shuttled to the Community Trust of Southland board room, where 35 locals converged on the offices to hear more about crowdfunding (and experience some beautiful local brews, care of Nash and Invercargill Brewery).

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We talked about crowdfunding for not for profits, had a gentleman break out his bubble blowing hat (he told me he was a better bubble blower than I was!) and met founders, social entrepreneurs, and event organisers.

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After a few (awesome) Invercargill Brewery beers, we headed out for dinner at Louis’ with some of the attendees. We learnt about the local economy, films, attempts to keep young people local, Swedes (the vegetable, not the people), and why everyone there stayed in Invercargill.

In the morning, we headed over to Invercargill Brewery (in our PJ’s) for a shower and a tour.

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Day three Post_3 - smallAfter our tour, we met up with the Love Local crew to learn more about urban farming, vegetable bags, feeding locals who live below the poverty line and Brexit (because, Brexit even affects folk in Invercargill!).

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Thanks so much to the 50 entreprenuers, founders, and doers that we met with over our first two days on tour. Here’s to you, you inspiring people.

Next up: our talks in Dunedin, Timaru and Christchurch!

Big thanks to Jucy for sponsoring us to take this entire road trip, and to Innovation Queenstown, the University of Otago, Queenstown Resort College, Pride Real Estate, Innov8 Invercargill for all supporting this leg of the trip.

What's Up Wednesday

Kink: A Portrait Exhibition

Jun 29

Antony Kitchener is no stranger to unique photography subjects. He has documented everything from the struggle of the homeless and marginalised at Wellington’s Compassion Centre Soup Kitchen, to the Clown Doctors at the Wellington Children’s Hospital – a project that won him a spot in the finals of the 2014 New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year competition. We even discovered he’s photographed our very own Chief People Wrangler Tash in the past! (pictured below).

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But now, Antony’s taking on a different project altogether. For the past three years, he has been working on a series of subtle, stylised portraits of Wellington’s BDSM community. While initially uncertain of how he would find this project, he describes himself as “blown away” by the openness and trust of the people he photographed. Antony discovered that BDSM was about much more than just kinky sex – it was about identity, acceptance, and above all, community.

Portraits of Kink

And yet the broader Wellington community was far less accepting. After no luck finding a place to exhibit his pictures in his hometown, Antony began looking further afield. He was delighted to receive an offer from Melbourne’s Brunswick Street Gallery to exhibit the works – but he needs funds to rent the space and set up the exhibition. That’s where you come in.

Antony is trying to raise $2,500 to cover the cost of the exhibition – and with his rewards offering everything from darkroom prints to a full photoshoot with an old-school camera, it’s no wonder he’s already well on his way. We wanted to hear more about the man behind the camera, so we got in touch to find out why you should be pledging to Antony’s campaign.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

The campaign has been going great so far. Better than I expected. This is really a first test for me to see if I can get photography projects funded, so it’s proving rather useful. I think the key thing for me is learning how to pitch a project idea, and finding what the best medium is for spreading word of the campaign. So far I’ve been using my personal networks, and sending email updates about the campaign. I’m not a particularly big user of social media but I can really see how engaging with social media on a regular basis would be beneficial for these types of projects.

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

I’m hoping to have a small article in the Gay Express, which is New Zealand’s magazine dedicated to the LGBT community. I’ll be continuing to hustle my networks via email and Facebook, especially in the last week of the campaign and until the very end.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

I’d like to thank everyone who has supported this project so far. Obviously its a tricky subject to engage with, but the exhibition would certainly not go ahead with the generosity and support of my crowd. Its great that crowd funding platforms like PledgeMe exist to enable creatives and entrepreneurs alike to see their projects come to fruition.

To find out more about Antony’s work, take a look at his website or check out his awesome campaign page here.

What's Up Wednesday

The Lucy Foundation

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Over one billion people worldwide live with disabilities, making them the largest minority in the world. And yet many people with disabilities face huge inequality: they are less likely to be employed, have less access to healthcare, and often gain lower levels of education than those without disabilities.

But The Lucy Foundation wants to do something about that. They know that empowering people with disabilities benefits the social and economic life of their entire community, so they’re working to create a culture of inclusiveness and diversity – with a little help from everyone’s favourite brew.

Through their Coffee Project, The Lucy Foundation will work with five families affected by disability, who live in the small mountainous village of Pluma Hidalgo, Oaxaca. They will collaborate with them to produce specialty coffee in a way that is disability-inclusive, and with the help of local organisation Piña Palmera, will export that coffee to be sold in New Zealand.

But they need your help to make it happen. In exchange for helping them fund the necessary equipment, The Lucy Foundation are offering everything from a traditional Oaxacan tortilla press, to the chance to have your name tattooed on campaigner Robbie’s leg! We thought this was some pretty impressive dedication, so we got in touch with The Lucy Foundation to hear more about this inspiring project.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

It’s gotten off to a good start, we’re leaning on our personal networks to help get the word out along with some of the bits mentioned below.

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

We’ve been featured on Bfm, you can catch Jess explaining the project in a bit more detail here. Attitude TV (New Zealand producer showcasing possibilities for people with disabilities) are also featuring us in an upcoming blog post (date TBC).

We’re posting a feature on each of the families we’ll be working with over the coming weeks, so that pledgers and supporters can get to know the people who will benefit from their generous contributions. We’re also holding a fundraiser auction in Hamilton on July 2nd. The theme is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable items.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

A big thanks for the support so far! As important as the fundraising is, so too is the message of inclusion, equality and human rights. So if you’re a supporter of the cause but can’t contribute financially, the further we can spread the message the better, you can help by liking, sharing, tweeting, or telling people about what we’re doing.

To find out more about The Lucy Foundation and pledge to their amazing coffee project, check out their campaign right here.

Don’t just observe. Do.

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Emerging out of a social impact get-together one evening last week, a question that keeps popping into my head parked itself in the middle of my mind. “Will these good conversations be turned into good action?”

Surrounded by great people from near and far, with the skills and experience to come up with ideas that can help to alleviate social issues like child hunger, the concentration of poverty, access to housing and domestic violence, a cynical voice in my head wondered “what will come out of this evening of commentary?”

One bright takeaway was a shared thought that I really believe in: that real social change doesn’t start with coordination from the top, from the observatory. It happens on the ground, in the places that are affected, by those that have been affected and want to wipe away the issues that plague their community. Social entrepreneurs, who truly understand the issue and can delve into the causes and rally their community to take action by acting themselves, are the ones who can make meaningful changes. Through pragmatism rather than perfect planning. Through walking rather than talking. There’s a disconnect between well-intentioned governments and institutions and the areas where social problems exist. Everything needs to be measured and justified and ultimately, gets slowed by the checks and balances of large organisations.

At the very core of government involvement is the democratic dilemma: that long term plans fall by the wayside in favour of short term stopgap initiatives. The misfit between short term government cycles and long term sustained social issues creates an incentive misalignment. For me, government’s inability to really confront social issues will remain — there’s always an easy excuse: complexity of measuring, risk aversion, lack of clear financial or social return, the effort required, the opportunity cost of addressing a single cause, etc — because it’s a slow moving machine.

It’s up to proactive problem-tacklers to lead and let government follow with their support — social enterprises and not-for-profits solving real and immediate issues by simply doing.

Now, with the full crowdfunding arsenal of Project, Equity and Lend, we want to give social enterprises and not-for-profits the chance to fund their causes through their communities. We want to let them thrive in an environment that they can co-create with their crowd. They choose their cause, their community and the social, financial and emotional rewards that they can offer to investors.

For investors seeking social impact, be proactive. You can’t rely on the quick and effective distribution of your tax money to help solve the immediate social issues that government struggles with. Instead choose your cause, the community you identify with and feel strongly about and support them in return for social, financial and emotional reward.

Social enterprises are changing New Zealand. You only have to look at the number of hungry bellies that Eat My Lunch have filled over the last year.

Crowdfunding exists to empower the doers of our world. Don’t just commentate on what someone could do to address existing social issues. Take a leaf out of the doers’ book — support them by pledging and empowering them to do.

Ethical Lending

Our friend, Raf Manji, Christchurch City Councillor and progressive banker, shares his thoughts on how the financial system is broken and how crowdlending can help to create a more supportive and sustainable marketplace between borrowers and lenders.

Raf Manji, progressive banker

 

One of the great opportunities for crowdlending or peer to peer (P2P) lending is that it can create a form of agency that does not currently exist in the lending marketplace. P2P is generally an unsecured form of lending, between individuals, where the amounts lent are usually small scale and distributed over a number of borrowers, in order to spread risk. As it becomes more sophisticated, lenders are starting to focus more on credit ratings and scores and use data to discern whom best to lend to. This is starting to drive a shift in interest rates and how those are calculated, with lower rates for better risks.

But what if lower rates actually lessened the risk of non-payment and default? I have just finished reading a very familiar story, where a borrower took on a short-term loan for an unexpected family need, and ends up being bankrupted. What kind of financial system promotes that? Well, sadly ours does. The need for short-term loans, outside a traditional borrowing format, such as a mortgage, can often be the straw that breaks the back of highly indebted borrowers. However, this straw is not the loan itself but the outrageously high interest rate that is attached. I would argue it is the unreasonably high interest rates (by that I mean anything over 20%) that cause default, not the actual loan itself. In other words, the default outcome is baked into the deal from the beginning.

We hear stories all the time of how a small loan balloons into an unpayable debt, and bankruptcy arrives soon after. Why would any rational lender promote this approach? Well, the interest rates are so high that they actually do get the principal back and a reasonable rate of interest, prior to the loan going bad. One might ask, why don’t they just charge a manageable and reasonable rate of interest in the first place, and not cause such personal misery to those least able to afford the loan?For me this comes down to the ethics of finance. Those who have easy access to capital, benefit both from lower rates and higher returns. The current financial system is heavily weighted against those who are not engaged in the tax-free housing Ponzi scheme and who rely purely on basic wages to survive. The low-grade “instant finance” lending system that services this end of the market is parasitic and unconcerned as to the outcomes they create. They argue they are providing capital to those who are unable to access traditional bank lending. That’s true and raises issues about our mainstream banking system. They would also argue that they price interest rates according to the poor credit of the borrowers. Of course their credit is poor! They live on wages and are often already in debt. The strain of that debt simply compounds away, with stagnant wages no match for the power of compound interest.

So far so bad, but what does P2P have to offer in this space? I would venture that it can offer a new form of ethical lending. This ethical lending is about the broader concept of helping people out, as you might do for a friend, not simply profiting from someone’s short-term cash squeeze. I would argue a lower interest rate would not only probably increase the likelihood of the loan being repaid but would be a fairer cost for the money provided. How interest rates of 20% plus (standard even for credit cards) can be charged, in an environment where, to all extents and purposes, the cost of money is negligible, is simply wrong. I propose that we look at creating an interest rate system where the rate falls each time a repayment is made. So where the initial rate may start off at a high level (I think 20% should be an absolute maximum), it reduces by a certain amount, for example, a half to one percent, after each payment, until it comes towards a reasonable level. How these numbers are crunched remains open.

The beauty of open, peer-focused and distributed systems like PledgeMe, is that they can experiment and iterate new ideas and findings, in order to reach an optimal outcome. For me, that outcome is where lenders make reasonable returns and borrowers pay reasonable and manageable costs for borrowing money. The current lending system is completely inequitable and broken and one of the jobs of PledgeMe has is to fix that and redraw the relationship between lender and borrower. No pressure!

Like a little piece of coal, we shine under pressure! 

 

What's Up Wednesday

Don’t Dream it’s Over

Jun 15

The world of journalism is changing rapidly. From online convergence to the rise of clickbait, journalists face challenges from all sides – so Freerange Press thinks it’s time for a reimagining.

This small, independent cooperative press is creating a multi-author book to explore the way journalism has changed over time – and to consider how it might operate in the future. The book will feature the voices of a wide range of highly-respected and influential journalists: everyone from Pencilsword creator Toby Morris to Pulitzer prize winner Peter Arnett. But in order to get this in-depth discussion of NZ’s mediascape out to the world, Freerange Press needs your help.

They are looking to raise $11,500 to print the 300-page book, and are offering amazing rewards in return – like an hour of feedback on your own publishing project! We were eager to hear more about NZ’s changing mediascape, so we got in touch with Emma from Freerange to hear all about it:

How are you finding the campaign so far?

We have had a great start! The support we have had so far indicates the desire for this book and the need to strengthen debate about the challenges and opportunities facing journalism in this country. This has been seen in pledgers’ engagement thus far –  via shares on social media through the comments from pledgers as to why people think this topic is important too, and why they are supporting us. The questions that the book asks implicitly – ‘What do we need from our media?’ and ‘What could journalism look like if we reimagined it?’ – seem to be striking a chord.

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

We will feature some scoops! This includes pull quotes and advance extracts from the book, plus some profiles on some of the fantastic contributors, who range from journalists and academics through to designers and students. We will also go into more detail about us at Freerange – a small, independent and cooperative publisher and how those who are interested can become members.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

A big thank you to all the pledgers for getting us this far! We are really proud of the amazing contributions that have been gathered to form this book – so many people have generously provided words and ideas on what is happening in journalism and how it might flourish again. We value your generosity very much as well, and ask you to spread the word and help us to bring this valuable contribution to journalism into the world!

To explore the future of journalism in NZ, check out this awesome campaign right here.

PledgeMe Roadie 2016: Heading South

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Things have moved quickly at PledgeMe in the last couple of years. With more ways than ever for entrepreneurs and companies to raise capital and grow their businesses, we’ve decided to hit the road to tell you all about it.

So, whether you live in Invercargill or Kerikeri, we’re coming your way soon for a session on how your company or organisation can raise necessary capital through your crowd. In late June we’re starting with the Tour de South Island and we’ll be making stops from Invercargill to Nelson (full timetable below).

Why are we coming?

As New Zealand’s first crowdfunding platform we’ve noticed some of our most amazing campaigns don’t necessarily originate in our major cities… which is why we’re hitting the road this winter and bringing PledgeMe to you!

What are we talking about?

Earlier this year we set up CrowdfundingU as a way to help Kiwi companies get ready to equity crowdfund. We’re bringing the first session in this six part series to your town.

Things that we’ll cover:

  • What are the types of crowdfunding for companies?
  • Who’s your crowd and how do you communicate with them?
  • What requirements or documentation do you need for equity crowdfunding and crowdlending?
  • What’s next….

 At the end of the session you’ll have a solid idea of whether and how crowdfunding could work for your business (or other type of entity if you aren’t a company and you’re keen on crowdlending).

Where are we going?

How much does it cost?

Tickets are $20 each or 3 for $50. We also have a sponsorship opportunity in each location for companies wanting to support us on more significant level and become a bigger part of the event.

But there’s a catch: we’ve put a minimum threshold of 20 tickets sold for us to lock in each our South Island stop offs – so we need you to buy in advance if you want to come along!

How you can help

  1. Come join us for an evening in your home town by grabbing yourself a ticket
  2. Share this with your crowd (or on Facebook / Twitter)
  3. Are you one of our fabulous alumni? Want to come on the road trip WITH US? Get in touch with the team to chat more.

 

We can’t wait to visit you :)