What we learnt in 2016

Another year older, another year of helping kiwis doing the things they care about. And, in some ways another year wiser. Or at least, another year of learning under our belt.

While not every campaign makes their goal (and we feel that, deeply), we see so much more happening through the platform than money being processed. We see friends supporting friends, new friendships made, things other than dollar bills being offered, and hard work turning into more (but better funded) hard work.

I’m writing this while on holiday (turns out, I’m not so good at completely shutting off). After two weeks of almost screen-free days, I feel like I can properly reflect on the last year’s highs (and lows) with a bit of distance and sort-of hindsight. And, instead of just talking about all the good things, I’d like to share some of our learnings, too. Because, if we want Aotearoa New Zealand to be a better funded and more equitable place, we have to share not just the highlight reel, but the lessons learnt.


 

You need to look at the numbers. And, sometimes you’re looking at the wrong numbers.

In 2016 we had over $5 million processed in successful campaigns: over 150 project, 5 equity, and 2 lending campaigns. This brought us to over 1,100 campaigns funded since we started in 2012. We had a 16% increase on dollars pledged to successful campaigns than the previous calendar year, but a decrease in the number of campaigns.

For a lot of this year it didn’t feel like that would happen. We had a super slow start, for a whole bunch of reasons. Despite that we still grew on the dollars pledged to successful campaign side. And, even more awesomely, we grew even more on the revenue side. We added a new revenue stream (in a way that we hope helps our campaigners) meaning our revenue increased 30% from the previous year.

We also broke the record for the fastest campaign to reach the $2million cap in New Zealand, and broke our own records for most funded campaign when that happened.

We had so many different crowdfunders – from an urban winery to a refugee catering company, from the Spinoff’s War for Auckland to 8 teams from Diocesan School for Girls.

So, even though our numbers were patchy (nothing new there) and our numbers declined in some areas (fewer project campaigns, but more large campaigns), we still grew in size and impact. You need to regularly step back from the day-to-day and see what the numbers are saying.

 

New shiiiiiit. You have to constantly be improving (and listening to your team).


We launched PledgeMe.Lend, and had our first two successes (Eat My Lunch and Denheath). This was mainly due to a mammoth effort by our team member Barry in convincing our board it was a good move, creating a simple offering, going through the licencing process, and managing the technical build. And, we’re stoked. PledgeMe.Lend extends so much further than just Auckland based “high growth” companies. It could help community organisations, schools, companies based outside of Auckland, anyone who has a revenue stream to help repay the loan and interest, and it could help their crowd support them too.

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We also launched a private version of PledgeMe.Equity and had our first two successes there too (with over $400k pledged). Originally, I was against this idea. I thought that it undermined the transparency that I thought underpinned crowdfunding. But, with the help of my team, I realised that private crowdfunding is still transparent, still a place for questions and feedback, but just with a smaller circle of potential pledgers. It’s great for companies that are super early stage, for companies that don’t want to go too wide (or get too much media coverage).

 

You can’t just go it alone.

It’s easy to think you know best, and you don’t need any help. But when you’re starting (and growing) a company, you should be constantly finding people to help and accelerate what you do.

Recently, we hired Tan, our first sales person! We’re excited to have one person whose sole job is to get campaigns through the door, so we can do what we do well – helping them reach their goals.

The hiring process is hard though. We don’t always get it right, especially in areas we don’t know a lot about. So we’re constantly improving, refreshing, and figuring out how to do work and team better. And, that means being open to flexible working, supporting folk with families, and checking our assumptions around what (and how) work should be done.

We also announced our partnership with the Akina Foundation, to help more social enterprises crowdfund. We’ve grown up a lot since we first met this crew, but we’re still as aligned with their values as we were on day one. So, we’re excited that we finally managed to put a ring on it.

 

You can’t just talk about diversity.

We realised we weren’t walking the talk around diversity with our board, so we wrote a blog about it. Then we went through a rigorous process to find and hire a new director (in the end, we had over 100 amazing applicants, and we hired two directors: Mel and Jessica). We wrote a blog about the process, to help other people find new board members.

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Leading on from this (and some other work that I’ve been doing) I helped co-instigate an unconference for Women Who Get Sh*t Done in New Zealand. We had 120 women and kids come along for a weekend of learning, sharing, and growing. In 2017, we’re hoping to have three events up and down the country, scaling the number of women we can get along.

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Sometimes you need to retreat to move forward.

13413558_10157254630785556_3308911908737007131_nMy team decided I needed a holiday so bad, they did a secret crowdfunding campaign to send me to Samoa. The time away then (and now) has provided me with the space I needed to really review, plan, and relax. And the space to not burn out. The reward of me wearing my onesie to Samoa was not ideal though….

 

Apart from forced interventions, I regularly get time out with other entrepreneurs to help with this, including my quarterly female founder retreats that I wrote about here.

 

You don’t get to keep the awesome people forever.

Some of our amazing PledgeMe team moved on to new adventures in 2016: Lana to be the GM of Raygun, Jackson to AirBnB, Will to Canada / the US, Rory to running a design shop.

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I think that’s partially another sign that the way we work is different – people move from role to role, learning, doing, and improving. We’re stoked to have the team rocking out all over, and often coming back to visit and help us out when we need it. But we do miss their smiling faces on Team Skypes.

 

You also can’t get good media coverage forever.

We got our first real slamming in traditional media this year. Previously, it had just been kept to the comments sections, but this was different, and it honestly stung. But, it gave us this opportunity to update our crowd and talk about where to from here. And, as one of our board members put it, we weren’t going to have a good run forever, so we might as well start learning how to deal with less than effusive coverage as well as the good stuff.

 


 

My final learning, and something I’m grappling with at the moment is: It’s easy to make something complicated, it’s hard to make something simple. We need to be constantly striving to make things easier, simpler, and better for our users and for New Zealand.

What will 2017 bring? Well, according to our strategy, an attempt at doubling our revenue, getting the word out about PledgeMe.Lend, and helping more kiwis fund the things they care about.

What did you learn in 2016? We’d love to hear.

Custardy countdown

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-2-12-02-pmDenheath Desserts is the quintessential kiwi start up story. A business that started as a small cafe in Pleasant Point with an amazing custard square recipe has now become an international custard square exporter.

How did it start?

Lisa started working at the cafe as a kid, making the squares as part of her work. Her mother loved the custard squares, and basically bought the cafe for the recipe. She grew the cafe, and her dying wish was for the company to grow and start exporting.

Lisa and her husband Donald took that wish and ran with it, expanding their operations first in New Zealand and then internationally. They started by going to cafes in Canterbury and giving away free samples, and were soon doing daily deliveries up to Christchurch (with Donald leaving at the crack of dawn every morning). 

Now, they are exporting to Australia, South Korea and Japan, and tailoring the square sizes to suit each market (some are perfectly chopstick-sized!)

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But, they want to grow bigger. They want to export to New York, they want to sell in more New Zealand stores countrywide, and they want to grow their team in Timaru (and improve the technology used by their business).

The money they are raising from their crowd isn’t for shares or rewards though, it’s loan notes. So the money will be repaid over time with an 8% annual interest rate.

They are passionate about local economic development, and are unashamedly South Islanders. They’ve often been told that to succeed they need to move to Auckland, but with the cost of living lower in Timaru, and the cost of shipping from their port on par with shipping from Auckland, they want to stay. They want to employ local people, support their local economy, and stay in the region they love.

And, we believe that in a world where things like Brexit and Trump can occur, that kind of attitude is what’s needed. Actually providing jobs in the regions is the antidote to the underbelly of urbanisation.

Where to next?

Today, they create 10,000 custard squares a day and export to Australia, South Korea and Japan.

With your funding, they are aiming to create 35,000 custard squares a day and expand their exports to New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

As a side note, we had a custard square eating competition when they were touring the country:

And, Tan, our latest hire (good hire) was victorious:

If you’d like to support this local business with big dreams, check them out here: pldg.me/custard

What's Up Wednesday

The Taco Cleanse!

nov-16

Imagine it: a world without prejudice. A world where coeliacs, vegans, vegetarians and omnivores can all eat together in harmony. A world where the food they’re eating looks after the planet and the people making it, while still tasting really, really, good. That is the world that the team behind Boquita are creating – and they’re bringing it to central Wellington!

Boquita is brought to you by the team behind La Boca Loca, some of our favourite alumni. They’ve been feeding the fine people of Miramar with top-rate tacos for years, but now they’re ready to branch out and bring the taco goodness to all Wellingtonians.

But they’re not just asking for your money. They’re offering something wonderful in return: The Taco Cleanse. Scientists in Austin, Texas, have confirmed that a taco-centric diet is beneficial to well being – and who are we to argue with science?? So by pledging to Boquita, you can partake in the taco cleanse – replacing as many meals as you like with tortilla-based goodness. We’re yet to find a better path to a bikini body. But if you’re not 100% sure if the taco cleanse is right for you, the team at Boquita have put together some helpful questions:

  1. Do you experience recurring feelings of hunger on a daily basis?
  2. Do you experience a range of emotions?
  3. Do you like food?
  4. Do you enjoy eating your food with your hands?

If you answered yes to all of these, a taco cleanse may be right for you. But if you’re still on the fence for some reason, we had a chat to the taco team themselves to find a few more reasons why you should be pledging:

1. How are you finding the campaign so far?

Lots of fun! One of the things I love the most about crowd-funding is the incredible boost we get from having our community get behind what we are doing, even we’re doing things that are a bit out there – like launching Wellington’s first Taco Cleanse and opening New Zealand’s first 100% plant-based taco joint. We have an incredibly supportive, generous community of customers and friends at La Boca Loca, and we’re thrilled to find out that they’re as excited as we are about Boquita.

This isn’t our first campaign with PledgeMe and what we’ve learned is that these campaigns are so much more than a way to raise money. They’re about building a community of support around an idea, and giving everyone who wants it the chance to be a part of making something new happen.

Having people in our community put their money behind our ideas and plans is a huge boost in morale, and in the past we’ve also found that those people went on to be great champions for our projects once they launched.

We hope that will happen with the Taco Cleanse and Boquita as well.

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

Yup! We have some new rewards which will be added in the days to come, and we have a live event planned for next week – a chance for Wellington to learn more about the science behind the taco cleanse! More on that soon.

3. Anything you’d like to shout out to your crowd?

Just a massive thanks for being awesome! And remember that taco cleanses are more fun in a crowd. So if you’ve already pledged to take the Taco Cleanse challenge, make sure you get your friends to pledge too!

To find out more about Boquita and start your cleanse, take a look at their campaign page right here.

North Island Roadie: complete!

Earlier this year we did our South Island roadtrip. It was a cold 10 days, but a heart warming experience of supportive crowds, beds offered (despite our rocking Jucy caravan), stories shared, and relationships formed/deepened.

And, our second road trip around the North Island was no different, except for maybe the overall temperature – spring was definitely a warmer time to travel! We stopped in 8 towns (well, 9 if you count the fact we were in Wellington twice) over 9 days and presented to over 250 people.

In our first three days we met with over 100 people in Palmerston North and Whanganui (with a small pre-event in Wellington).

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The team at BCC really pulled out all the stops. If you are ever in Palmerston North, and want to be connected into the entrepreneurial crowd, this has to be your first stop. Not only did they organise pretty much everything (including spring rolls for the road), they kept us caffeinated and Dave lent us his parents’ house for the night. I think it may have been partially a ploy to get me offline, as they were out of reception range, but it was beautiful waking up on a lifestyle block in the middle of the North Island.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-3-12-04-pmIn Whanganui the local chamber sponsored our event, and we got some good media coverage. The folk at Double Farley let us use their beautiful space, and then the locals took us out for some tacos (we love tacos if the current La Boca Loca campaign is anything to go by…).

 

From there we went on to New Plymouth, where we spent the weekend with an old friend of mine. Barry surfed, and I tried the local cafe and macaroon scene.

Our Monday morning session in New Plymouth was packed out, with the BDO crew sponsoring and the beautiful Manifold space hosting. We had quite a few potential campaigners pitch their ideas to the crowd that attended, and a breadth of ideas and range of companies.

From there we drove back to Wellington for the launch of the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, and then flew on to Tauranga.

There we had a local journalist from the NZ Herald through, creating this short video on our event at Basestation. It was great to see so many people turn up on Melbourne Cup night, and we even had one current campaigner show up in roller-skates to talk about her project. 

Onward and northward we went, with three more fantastic crowds in Hamilton, Auckland, and Whangarei.

We met with company founders, not-for-profit champions, social enterpreneurs, artists, writers, musicians, you name it.

One of the coolest things for us was to meet some of our alumni along the way, including Ash from ONESIXSIX in Whāngārei where they crowdfunded the rates on their community space, and Adam in Auckland who crowdfunded his children’s book. It’s always so much more powerful to have people in the room that can share their personal learnings.

Ash and Barry in front of ONEONESIX

Ash and Barry in front of ONEONESIX

While we were on the road three of our South Island Roadie alumni were running their campaigns, and TWO hit their goals: Urbn Vino and Em’s Power Cookies. Both of them are food and beverage products from the regions, doing things a bit different. Here’s what Em said about our visit in July:

As you might be aware we did it!! Big thanks for helping me. This whole process has actually impacted more than I ever expected. A few months ago I was feeling disillusioned and burned out. This project has forced me out of my comfort zone and helped to give me a direction and general motivation with my business. As you know there is a lot of background work that goes with this, despite “just” doing a project vs. equity funding. Getting my business plan polished has helped with attracting a couple inner circle investors. And I probably wouldn’t have gotten there in this time frame had you not visited Westport.”

We hope more campaigns come out of our visit both to the South Island earlier this year, and the North Island last week.

We want founders and doers to realise that the money they need might be a lot closer to them than they thought, and that the process of crowdfunding might bring so much more than the funding. It can activate their existing crowd, strengthen relationships they already have as well as going wider.

Big thanks to everyone who helped make our latest North Island roadie a success, including:

  • Our sponsors: Whanganui Chamber of Commerce, BDO Taranaki, TUANZ and Hive.
  • The people that let us stay in their wonderful homes to stay (including, Nicola, who had only moved in at 8am the morning that she invited us to stay! We tried to help her unpack the next morning, we hope you can find all your utensils….)
  • The co-working spaces and venues that let us use their spaces, including: The Biz Dojo Wellington, BCC Palmerston North, Double Farley Whanganui, Manifold New Plymouth, Basestation Tauranga, Wintec, Enspiral Dev Academy Auckland and the Orchard Whāngārei.
  • Everyone who shared the event, or co-hosted it for us.
  • Barry, for putting up with a whole week of me (and doing the lion share of driving so I could try and keep on top of my inbox… Try being the imperative word).
  • And, most importantly, everyone who pledged to come along.

Hitting the road (again)

Earlier this year we went on a road trip to the South Island, meeting with companies and organisations from Invercargill to Westport (and lots of towns in between) to talk about equity crowdfunding and crowdlending.

It was an eye opening experience for us. We met so many founders and doers, who were extremely interested in how to do capital raising, and excited about the idea of going to their crowds.

Over 10 days, we met with over 200 people. We learnt a lot about the local initiatives, and shared some stories of inspiring things we’ve seen too.

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Now, we want to do it again, but across the North Island. Here’s our plan (currently):

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Do you want us to come to your town? Flick us a note and we’ll see if we can add a stop for you in.

Like last time, we need to raise $400 for each centre to cover our costs to get there.

We’re excited about the opportunity to meet you all.

xx Anna and team PledgeMe

What's Up Wednesday

The Wanaka Bag

sept-14

By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Every year, we are each (on average) responsible for 350 plastic bags, which are each used for a total of about 12 minutes before being thrown away to end up in a landfill. The group at Plastic Bag Free Wanaka were sick of seeing plastic pollution clogging up their town – so they decided to do something about it.

And so, they created The Wanaka Bag, a limited edition, eco-friendly and super-trendy handmade bag. Each one is unique, and hand-crafted by dedicated locals, who want to see Wanaka free of single-use plastic bags by 2019. With the funds raised from this first run of limited-edition bags, they can fund 1000 more Wanaka Bags to be produced commercially, and sold to stop the people of Wanaka creating more plastic pollution.

They’ve already shot past their $5,500 dollar target, but you’ve still got 19 days to get on board and support a future free of plastic pollution.

We loved not only the innovation of this team, but also their enthusiasm – and so we got in touch with Anna from the team to hear more about it:

How are you finding the campaign so far?

We knew our town would be supportive but we’re totally blown away by the support so far. We’ve even had folks from far and wide who share our love of Lake Wanaka and who have pledged. It’s very cool to think of them sporting one of our bags/bottles/karma cups on the other side of the world.

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

Creating 200 really high-quality bags has been a huge project in itself and keeping the town spirits up, the incentives high and the ball rolling has been a project in itself. Admittedly however, we didn’t expect the bags to get snaffled up quite so quickly so we’re currently conspiring amongst our committee to see what else we can offer to our amazing community so those that missed out on a bag don’t feel left out. We want everyone who wants to support to have a way to wave the banner.

Anything you’d like to shout out to your crowd?

As cheeseballs as it sounds, we just want to do a shout out to our town and community. We’re in a really unique environment and position, with a town so full of community-minded, pro-active and positive people. We get that not every town is like this, and we’re incredibly grateful for the wonderful locals who have jumped right in behind us to sew, support, sneak in and clean our sewing spaces, offer fabrics and food to share. You name it! No one has missed a beat! It’s one of those happy-glow moments where you can only revel in the warmth of the moment. Thank you Wanaka! The joy of bringing this opportunity is hugely amplified by having so much encouragement and support!

To provide even more encouragement and support, head over to Plastic Bag Free Wanaka’s campaign and get pledging while you still can!

I used to think sales was slimy

I used to think sales was a yucky thing that men in suits with slicked back hair did. Really, every time sales came up I’d fight the urge to gag, but would then go on to do exactly that. Sales. Getting people using our platform, educating our users and the public, and gently bringing our view of the world and their view of the world together.

Sales can be genuine, sales can help people, and sales doesn’t need to make anyone feel used (or abused). And, you don’t need to call salespeople ninjas.

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(We promise you don't have to look like this. Photo cred: Ryan McGuire)

 

The thing that really got me thinking differently about sales, was this article about Adam Grant’s study on salespeople. In the study, Adam Grant shows that extroverts don’t come out ahead in sales, ambiverts do. You have to be equal parts talker and listener, to really solve the problems of your customers. Adam also wrote two of my favourite books of all times (Give and Take, and the Originals) so I listen when he blogs. Which made me realise what I thought I knew about sales was probably wrong. 

 

In the last few months, we’ve realised that while we were doing sales pretty well on our own, we needed someone to come into the team to own (and drive) the whole sales process. So we’ve been tweaking our thinking on how this could work, and what you’ll find below is our plan. The role will be part salary / part commission based. How much you make is really up to you, but here’s the main points:

  • $40,000 base salary
  • $100 for every CrowdfundingU paid for
  • $900 for every launched equity or lending campaign
  • 0.5% of the total amount raised by a campaign
  • 20% sales bonus (of your base salary) if you make your sales target in the first year.

 

Are you interested in working with us? Read the job description below, and then send me an email by 5pm Friday 30 September with:

  • your take on how crowdfunding will change the world,
  • why you’d like to work with us and
  • a bit more about your approach (and success) in sales.

 

We’ll be setting up interviews for the first week of October, and hope to have someone on board from early November (if not sooner!).

 

PledgeMe Sales Manager

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POSITION DESCRIPTION

Role: Sales Manager (though: you can set your own title)

Location: Auckland

Rate: $40,000 base salary + commission

PledgeMe is a New Zealand focussed crowdfunding platform, that launched in 2012 and offers project, equity and lending based crowdfunding.

What we do

Crowdfunding is as simple as it sounds, you go out for funding. You set a specific goal, a deadline, and offer your crowd something in return for their pledges. We have three types of crowdfunding: project, equity and lending. Project campaigns offer rewards, equity campaigns offer shares in a company, and lending campaigns offer loan notes from companies or organisations. Campaigns need to meet their goal by their deadline to be processed, this pushes the campaigner to share and their crowd to pledge (or it doesn’t happen).

Mission

To help Kiwis fund the things they care about.

What it means to be our Sales Manager

PledgeMe has a great market reputation and attracts a regular stream of Equity (and increasingly, Lend) leads, but dedicated resource is needed to convert those leads into committed campaigns. Our Sales Manager is responsible for nurturing Equity and Lend leads so we have more campaigns launch and succeed, ultimately growing PledgeMe and helping more kiwis fund the things they care about. 

Part of the nurture process is signing leads up to participate in CrowdfundingU. CrowdfundingU is an important revenue stream and organisations that participate in CrowdfundingU are more likely to run successful campaigns.

From CrowdfundingU we need leads to make a contractual commitment to campaign with PledgeMe. But we also want to maintain our 50% campaign success rate. We’re looking for quantity and quality.

To achieve PledgeMe’s objectives, our Sales Manager will:

  • Generate leads alongside our Chief Bubble Blower, Rad Debtor, Board and PledgeMe Friends.
  • Work with our Chief Bubble Blower to prioritise leads based on likelihood to commit and run a successful campaign
  • Create design collateral with our in house designer
  • Nurture leads through the sales process, including selling in CrowdfundingU as a critical step to becoming campaign ready
  • Engage the Chief Bubble Blower and Rad Debtor when needed to provide expert guidance to businesses through the sales process
  • Identify barriers to organisations committing to campaign and work with the lead and Chief Bubble Blower to find innovative solutions to help close the deal
  • Secure commitment from leads to campaign with PledgeMe
  • Ensure businesses that commit to campaigning with PledgeMe complete all of the necessary contractual documentation
  • Identify improvements in the sales process to enable more businesses to commit to campaigning with PledgeMe.

 

What you’ll need in your hipster tote bag

To be successful as PledgeMe Sales Manager you will need:

  • Enthusiasm for crowdfunding and be able to communicate what crowdfunding has to offer effectively to leads
  • Superb people skills – ability to nurture leads through the sales process (rather than hard sell them!) but still drive outcomes
  • Broad understanding of and interest in businesses of all shapes and sizes, including business financing
  • Ability to close a deal.
  • To back yourself! Your remuneration is tiered based on a successful sale and campaign so you’ve got to be confident you can do the job!

How we’ll pay you

Our Sales Manager will receive a base salary of $40,000 plus sales commission structured as follows:

CrowdfundingU Launch campaign Successful campaigns
PledgeMe Equity $100 $900 0.5% of total raise
PledgeMe Lend $100 $900 0.5% of total raise

 

And if your sales targets of $6 million for the year are met, you’ll get a 20% (of base salary) bonus too.


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One more thing…

We hold our values pretty close to heart in the office, and they are:

  1. Support transparency and trust
  2. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
  3. Be seriously fun(ding) humans
  4. Do good and do well
  5. Be constantly evolving


We want someone to come into the team who resonates with those values, but brings their own perspectives and skill sets. We don’t all need to think or act the same way, but we all need to be care and pushing towards the common mission of helping Kiwis fund the things they care about.

How to PledgeMe.

$2 mil in 2 days

ParrotDog made history two weeks ago, as the quickest equity campaign in New Zealand to hit the $2 million mark.

How did they get there? It wasn’t luck. It was 5 years of growing their business and brand, five months spent creating their campaign, 5 weeks communicating it, and a clear vision of where they wanted to go (and what they needed to get there).

Here’s five things that we saw that they did really well, that could inspire some of you aspiring crowdfunders out there:

1) Have a plan

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We talk about having a campaign plan, and even have a Google Doc that we share out, but the Parrot Dog crew went next level with their planning. They had a wall chart with daily tasks.

Matt Stevens was the mastermind behind their plan, which had a page for every day in the lead up. It included everything from when they needed to have their directors indemnity insurance in place through to when they’d post on social media (Mondays and Thursdays).

Everyone was part of delivering the plan, and everyone could see it as it took up a whole wall in their office.

Remember: it always takes longer than you think to pull together a visually pleasing business plan, and a kick ass pitch video.

 

2) Get in touch with your crowd

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You can’t raise your money, if your crowd doesn’t know what’s happening.

The ParrotDog crew created a newsletter in the lead up to their campaign, with their first major announcement being that they were crowdfunding. After that, they had specific key messages they wanted to talk about each week, from announcing what the funding was for to the location of their brewery through to a copy of their IM.

Here are the newsletters they posted out to the world

They talked to everyone from their suppliers to their mums, and started asking folk to sign up to their newsletter weeks in advance of their launch.

 

3) Be yourselves

This was a big one for the ParrotDog crew. They didn’t want to become flashy or corporate. They wanted to bring their own strengths, but not try to become something they weren’t. So, they refused to do a traditional press release to announce their campaign – they made a quirky video instead.

ParrotDog Beer. nice. | Press Conference from ParrotDog on Vimeo.

Everything they did was on brand, and really showcased who they are as people and as a company.

4) Have a clear goal

PD event 8

The ParrotDog crew were super clear on what they needed money to do – build a bigger brewery. With a brew bar included, it really inspired their fans (especially those based in Lyall Bay) to get in and support. Having a really tangible plan, and vision that your crowd can embrace (or drink) is a big part of having a successful campaign.

5) Meet people #IRL

PD event 11

We sort of pushed the Matts into this, hosting the ParrotDog crew in our space for a meet and greet with potential investors a few days before they launched. It was a great opportunity for their crowd not only to ask questions in a group setting, but meet each of the team and ask them questions individually as well. With just a few days notice, the ParrotDog crew had over 90 people attend either in person or online. Many of the people there that night were the first pledgers to get in to the campaign.

 


Well done again to the ParrotDog crew, for funding their vision and inspiring a new wave of Kiwi crowdfunders.

 

 

We get by with a little help from our PledgeMe.Friends

We first wrote about the idea of PledgeMe.Friends in our blog two weeks ago. Here’s a bit more about how we see our new friends-powered referral system working.

2014_07_08 PledgeMe equity launchOne thing we’re blessed with here in the PledgeMe office is a great circle of friends – be it our alumni, our shareholders, our personal networks, or our professional contacts. We’ve been around for a few years now, and have gotten to know people up and down Aotearoa New Zealand. We’ve talked at 100’s of events, met 1,000’s of people, presented to over 10,000 attendees and helped over 1,000 campaigns fund through our platform.

And, now we need your help. We need help finding and nurturing crowdfunding campaigners that might not come to us direct. Companies, organisations and teams that you think would be a natural fit for going out to their crowds, but they might not see it.

They might be so deep in the delivery of the work that is in front of them, that they haven’t had time to think about raising money to expand, or time to learn more about crowdfunding.

Great campaigns are already coming through our doors – but we know there are so many more awesome campaigns out there that just don’t know what they don’t know.

Project successes in last week

Things like ParrotDog are happening, things like Eat My Lunch are happening, things like The SpinOff are happening. These are all campaigns, across our three types of crowdfunding, that have done what our platform does best: activate their own networks to make their plans happen. And, their plans are so much more than just about making some investor they’ve never met a 30 times return. They’re about strengthening communities, building brands, and making a change in the world (even if it’s a beer based change).

But, these campaigns can be hard to find, hard to nurture, and hard to support. So that’s where you come in.

We’ve launched PledgeMe.Friends. We think there’s really nothing more powerful than our own crowd. You’ve shown us time and again that you back us: when we ate our own dog food (twice), when we made a magazine, when we wanted a new board member, and when you all decided I seriously needed a holiday.

What we really need most right now is more companies and organisations we can help through project, equity and lending campaigns. That’s where you come in:

If you are the first person to shoulder tap a company to run a campaign, and they end up running a successful campaign, we’ll give you a $500 success fee (either direct to you or pledged towards the campaign for you). The campaign needs to meet its goal by its deadline, and it needs to raise more than $50,000.

How is this going to work?

  • Fill out this form here (or email us on contact@pledgeme.co.nz)
  • If you’re the first person to recommend that company, we’ll get in touch and ask for an intro (if you can do it)
  • The more details about how we can help the better
  • You could even help them get to their goal – support, share their campaign, be their cheerleader (with benefits).

Yep – you can be from the company. If you aren’t the first person on board to recommend someone we’ll let you know, and send a high-five your way.

What does a potentially successful campaign look like?

  1. Something that has been around for a little while (eg. people have seen the work the creators are doing)
  2. A great crowd around the company or organisation – be it customers or friends
  3. Great communication – they should pride themselves on being awesome at communicating with their crowd
  4. A plan (or ability to create a great plan) – something that a crowd can get on board to make happen

Here’s to the next great campaigns that come through our doors. Hopefully with your help, friends!

Confessions of a Crowdfunding Enthusiast

Our latest guest post comes from crowdfunding enthusiast, Adam Millen. Engineer by day, children’s author by night, he went from backing campaigns to running one of his own. He’s hooked and planning another campaign. You can find out more about it at jackfeelsbig.nz/sophie. He tweets about crowdfunding @crazyideasnz and blogs at crazyideas.nz.

What would you do if your friends and family offered you a couple thousand dollars? They say they want to support that thing that you’re really passionate about, and the money is for you to produce something cool to share. What would you do with it?

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At the start of last year I had the idea of creating a book to teach kids the names for their feelings. And I crowdfunded it. I’ll tell that story, but first – why? Why do I care about crowdfunding ideas? Why should you care?

I care because I’m excited about the way that crowdfunding forms a bridge between people’s ideas and reality. A bridge for ideas that otherwise would never have come to be.

You should care because you could be one of those people! And it’s really rewarding to do! Both the creating and the backing.

So let me tell you my story. It actually starts even before I had the idea. I had backed crowdfunding campaigns and I already knew that I wanted to create something, but I didn’t know what.

Then, at the start of last year I stumbled across inspiration. I read an article laying out how important it is to teach young children to name their feelings and I saw a gap – it would be easier to teach these words if there were books with stories that specifically used these words. It seemed like something that I could put together. I couldn’t draw well enough for a kids book, and I don’t have the equipment for printing and binding. But I could find people to do those. I could use my engineering brain to analyse a complex concept and break it down to simpler parts. And I could come up with a suitable scenario to illustrate each feeling. I got pretty excited about this useful thing that I could create!

Coming back  to my first question – what would you create? Have you had ideas like this? Have you seen something missing from the world? Maybe you thought “someone should definitely make that”. Maybe you could be the one to do it!

I shut myself in my room over the Easter long weekend last year and wrote up a dozen stories and laid the groundwork for some more. I came up with a defined project. I would get illustrations done for 15 stories and publish them in three volumes.

Next I did some research on how much that would cost and got quotes from printers and illustrators.

If I set my crowdfunding goal at $20,000 that would mean I would need to pre-sell eight hundred copies of the book at $25 each. That balanced the fixed cost of fifteen stories worth of illustrations with the variable costs of printing, postage and crowdfunding fees.

I hadn’t done books before. I didn’t have an existing customer base or relevant community to go to. I had friends and family, but the $20,000 goal was not realistic. No worries. I just had to re-package.

I redefined and resized the project – to get illustrations done for just five stories, and with those in hand, publish “Volume 1”. For me, crowdfunding would be a stepping stone. Maybe the thing you’re passionate about is too big for a couple thousand dollars. Can you make part of it become a reality on this budget? It could be the first step to something awesome.

For my campaign, the main reward would be a copy of the book for pledging $25. For $5 and up, backers would be kept updated and would get to choose which five feelings went into the book. For $50 they would get a signed copy. There were options all the way up to a thousand dollars. The $25 reward point tends to be the most popular, but it’s important to cover the whole range to leave all of your crowd satisfied.

So what about your passion? If you packaged up a project with a budget of a couple thousand dollars, what would you share? Something tangible – like a print of a painting of yours? Or an experience like tickets to your big show? A virtual reward maybe – like an mp3 of your song? Public appreciation – like a place in the credits at the end of your documentary? Or involvement – like being part of the crew, getting inside access or VIP (Very Important Pledger!) treatment? If all else fails, how about some merchandise – like a tshirt with the name of the community group? There’s so many options if you think freely about it.

Ok. So I had my plan laid out. Next, I spent a weekend putting together a video. I had the technical know-how, and I had my idea pretty well condensed, both of which helped. My delivery wasn’t the greatest though, and it took hours of recording to get just a few minutes of not messing up my lines. And then a whole lot of editing!

If you’ve got an idea that you want to crowdfund, you’ll need to make a video. And you need to be in it. Why is this so important? People need to see your passion for this thing. If you don’t believe in it, why would anyone else? But I’m sure you can get excited about your big idea! You also need to keep it short and to the point, and it helps if your camera is stable and your shot is well lit.

The next thing I needed was a crowd. I made sure that I started talking to people even before I launched, trying to make sure I had a list of core backers that I could depend on to pledge immediately. My closest friends, immediate family and other friends who also happened to be in my target audience. When the campaign opened, it was people from this list that gave it a running start.

The sooner you start building you crowd, the better. Even before you have all the rest planned out, it helps if you make a habit of talking about what you’re passionate about. Post on social media, join relevant community groups. It all helps.

After that I reached out wider, direct messaging every single Facebook friend I had. The second push was enough that the first few days got me to about 30% of my goal. This is a typical start for a campaign that’s going to make it. It’s is a very exciting time. And then things leveled off. In general, a typical successful campaign will spend the next ten or twenty days steadily plodding toward the 60% mark. This part tested my perseverance. Someone who really liked the idea pledged $500! Then several days passed with nobody at all pledging. Then  I got an article on Stuff! But it didn’t bring in any new backers. There were definitely times when I wondered if I would even make it!

I made sure to send updates out during the campaign. I engaged with my backers and encouraged them to help spread the word. It was hard work keeping at it, even when the early optimism flagged.

Most campaigns that reach 60% by the 5-days-to-go milestone will get to the mark. As the countdown approaches, if you’ve got enough funding that it’s looking credible, the fence-sitters jump on board. The despair of the middle of the campaign is suddenly replaced with joy! All your hard work has paid off!

I reached my goal, and actually managed a little bit more. In the end about three-quarters of my backers were friends and family.

Even after the crowdfunding campaign was a success, I still had a lot of hard work to do! Producing and shipping a quality children’s book took plenty of time and effort. I spent most of my Easter long weekend this year personally delivering books to backers (a great experience in itself). Now I’m all done and I’m selling the book on my website. A book that might never have existed.

I’ve made my crazy idea a reality. How about yours? If you don’t have a project of your own, get on board with someone else’s. Help them make the video, share their page. Or back it!

Crowdfunding is going to be the bridge to reality for a whole stack of ideas that otherwise never would have gotten there. And that’s exciting.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for Adam’s upcoming campaign, Sophie Feels Big.