Our new board member: Jessica Venning Bryan

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Drumroll please! After a strenuous application process, rigorous interview timetable obstacle courses, and some diligent due diligence  we’re happy to announce that the super amazing wonderful Jessica Venning-Bryan is joining the board of PledgeMe!

 

Can we all pause and give this amazing woman a round of applause.

 

Great. Thank you.

 

So who is the Jessica woman who managed to, out of a crowd of 107 applicants, wow us enough to take up the coveted seat at the PledgeMe Bubble shaped board table?

 

Jessica has spent 15 years advising organisations like Lion, the Electoral Commission, Seafood NZ, Saatchi & Saatchi Global, and the Sustainable Business Council on how to engage customers with projects and brands. From beer to electricity, voting systems to employment, she’s delivered projects in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the UK.

 

She is currently GM Brand at Flick Electric Co., and was part of Flick’s founding team. She is also the Founder and Trustee of Cultivate Mentoring Lab, a not-for-profit that partners early to mid-career women with experienced mentors to help them grow their confidence and progress equally at work. She lives in Wellington with her partner and three children, and has a special interest in gender equality, justice reform, alternative families and gifted education.

 

But enough from me blabbing on. Here’s what Jessica had to say about herself.


 

What excites you about working with PledgeMe?

The most important thing to me in my professional life is working with great people. I’ve known Anna for some time, and have always admired her relationship-centric approach to business. Getting to know Nick, Breccan and Anake through the appointment process has been really inspiring, and I’m looking forward to working with them to help grow PledgeMe.

I completely believe in democratising access to capital, so being part of a platform that supports all New Zealanders to realise their aspirations is a great privilege and responsibility.

And I love the thrill of building businesses and brands. There’s nothing quite like growing a young idea into a flourishing, sustainable, impactful business.

 

Why will your skills benefit PledgeMe?

I know a thing or two about brand building and customer acquisition. I deeply believe in the PledgeMe approach to helping New Zealanders fund the things they care about, and I want to see the business become the most successful in its category.

I’ve always worked in highly-regulated industries, where building a consumer brand or story needs particular care. I love the challenge of these environments. I’m really looking forward to supporting the PledgeMe team to build their story – especially around new products – while maintaining the high levels of integrity that financial regulation demands.

One of my favourite sayings is ‘freedom through discipline’ and I think it’s really relevant to growing an early stage business. You need to apply big business discipline with start up speed, so I think having a director who has experience in both corporate and venture environments is extremely valuable.

 

What’s your vision for PledgeMe?

I want to see PledgeMe be the category leader in projects, equity and debt. Not just on market share and profitability, but on impact too. I really believe businesses can do good and do well. The community-centric foundation of PledgeMe is unique in the market, and it’s a competitive strength, so I’d like to help leverage that.


 

That all sounds pretty darn marvellous!

 

We’re really excited by Jessica’s energy, deep experience in marketing and branding, and her values aligned approach to business (and life). We think that having her voice around the board table will make us a stronger brand, and better people.

Support Trust and Transparency: PledgeMe’s values

Over the past six months Team PledgeMe has been working on our values. What are they, how do we express them, why are they important, and what’s the impact. We came up with a whole bunch of ideas, but whittled it down to five values.

Before we introduce you to our final shiny values, it might be good to work through why we think they are so important.

  • Because when you need to make a big decision, your values help direct you.
  • Because our values are our banner. They show the world who we think we are.
  • They keep us on track and keep us real.
  • They underpin what each member of the team does

Each of Team PledgeMe has adopted a value and will be introducing them to you over the next couple of weeks. Here’s the first from Jackson on trust and transparency…

support transparency and trust

“Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.”

— Douglas Adams

Even in the very early days of the webbernets, when Douglas Adams said the above quote, there was a huge issue of trust. Who could you trust? Why should you trust them? And what’s stopping any old noddy from putting bullshit onto The Internet?

Read More

How to: Find a board member (through your crowd)

It’s been a three month long quest, but we’re almost there replacing the vacant seat on our board. While we’re sad to lose dear Anake, this has been a great process for us to find new talent, mix up our board, and get really clear on where we’re going and who we need in the mix to get there.

Having appointed (and tried to appoint) a few board members over the years, we’ve realised that finding good governance beyond your founding team is hard. Like capital raising — something we know a bit about — it’s often seen as a ‘nice to have’ not a necessary. So I thought it might be useful to document the process PledgeMe took finding our new board member, so other startups (and stay-ups) could see it’s not so hard and it is so necessary to set your companies strategy and manage your risk.

Read More

Collaborating with our crowd to increase impact

It all started in early March 2012. Anna (that’s me) and Alex (that’s this guy) met at a cafe to talk about our journeys as leaders of organisations with a bigger vision that just financial value creation. I was, and I guess still am, the  co-founder of PledgeMe, and Alex had recently been appointed CE of the Hikurangi Foundation (now the Ākina Foundation).

Over a coffee, we decided we should hang out more, which turned into an offer of office space, which turned into them turfing us out after two years because they just couldn’t get rid of us (and we’d outgrown the office… and they refused to let us work in the closet).

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Alex and Anna both speaking at TEDx in 2012

Ākina has been with us every step of the way. From the earthquakes that shut the office down, to scolding us for the rainbow coloured sprinkles we’d leave on the boardroom table, to literally holding me up when I crowdsurfed at our million dollar party, right through to the launch of PledgeMe.Equity and our first campaign to crowdfund crowdfunding.

Read More

Peer to Peer and Financial Specialist

PledgeMe is searching for a peer to peer lending specialist.

While the salary is limited and the hours long you will get job satisfaction through your exposure to the exciting world of regulated financial markets. Help us navigate these crowded waters with your critical thinking, experience in the financial markets and crowdfunding, and general awesomeness. Together we’ll scale the Ivory Tower of Debt which looms ominously over the peasants in the village. Once it topples, we will have a bridge to the people which you will help us protect. BYO battle armour and broadsword.

Responsibilities

Finance

  • managing the financial and operational aspects of the company including:
    • forecasting and budgeting
    • cashflow management and capital raising
    • payroll and staffing;
    • investor registration, verification and payment processing;
    • account reconciliation
  • reporting monthly to the Board
    • financial state of the company
    • sales pipeline
    • upcoming opportunities and challenges

Debt Crowdfunding

implementing and managing a peer-to-peer lending product

  • main point of contact for interested campaigners
  • guiding campaigners through the process
    • providing education & understanding of crowdfunding, capital raising (specifically borrowing), risk and crowd activation.
  • attending and speaking at events.
  • assessing applications, reviewing campaign documentation and providing feedback to campaigners.
  • sales generation and new lead discovery
  • managing the sales pipeline
  • carrying out organisation background checks
  • contributing to the strategic direction of our investment products

Experience

  • Bachelor degree in Finance or Economics or Accounting
  • Minimum two years experience in business lending
  • Minimum one year experience in the crowdfunding industry

Other stuff

Role can be based in Auckland or Wellington.

If you would like further information or apply for the role, please send Anna an email with the subject line ‘Peer to Peer and Financial Specialist applications’. Please attach a covering letter telling us why you would be good for this role, as well as a CV, a recent photograph, and a drawing (hand drawn or via an image creation programme, must be OC, OP) of a tiger fighting a bear (clearly showing who would win). Applications close Sunday 6 March 2016 at 3pm.

Directing PledgeMe

An acquaintance once told me a good director (on a board of directors, not like Steven Spielberg director) is like having someone on the roof of your car, shining a light onto the road ahead. They aren’t driving (that’s the CEO) or actually in the car (that’s the team) but they make sure you are heading in the right direction, and might occasionally reach into the car to pull the handbrake if they need to.

With Anake leaving our board of directors, we’re on the lookout for someone to jump on the roof of the car that is PledgeMe. That someone needs to be able to shine their fullbeams on our mission to help Kiwis fund the things they care about, our strategy, and oversee our management team.

We’re going to crowdsource applications because… you know… we’re a crowdfunding site. Typically, the hunt for a new board member goes on behind closed doors, but, we’ll be searching for the right person with our crowd’s help. Who is our crowd? Well that’s you! So if you are interested, or you know someone who might be a good fit, have a read of the job description below and apply using the Weirdly form below. If you have further questions then get in touch with either Nick (Chair of the board) or Anna (you know, me).

Details at a glance

Position: PledgeMe Board Member
Length of term: 1 year with the option to renew annually
Applications open: 15 January
Applications close: 10 February
Interviews: 15 February
Directors’ Fees: $1,100 per month (paid in shares / cash annually).

How PledgeMe does governance has evolved significantly since we started up almost four years ago. We started out with the two co-founders setting the direction, doing all the things, and trying to prove crowdfunding was actually a thing New Zealand needed.

Then, we realised we needed outside support. We got a group of smart people together for monthly advisory panel meetings to test our ideas, get feedback, and discuss the best ways to grow PledgeMe.

When we decided to start equity crowdfunding, it became apparent we needed to get serious about governance. It became more formal, with our initial investors in equity crowdfunding becoming our original board members.

After almost two years on the board one of our original board members, Anake, is leaving to focus on his family and other commitments. We’ve decided to go out and find a new director with a fresh perspective. We’re aiming to bring more diversity to our board, and need someone who is ok with the fast pace of a startup and who has the rigour required for being a director on the board of a financial service provider (FSP for you acronym lovers out there).

The sorts of skills you will need

Here’s a list of skills, experiences, and general things we reckon will indicate value-alignment.

Someone who’ll ask good questions

You don’t need to know the answers, but you do need to help us ask the right questions and work toward constructive solutions together. It’s not only about the questions, it’s about sharing your experience and reviewing our work, and chipping in with your informed opinion about the best path forward.

Someone who is ok with a bit of risk (but can manage it too)

PledgeMe likes to do things differently. We want to push boundaries, move quickly, and make a difference. You need to be comfortable with a constantly evolving playing field. To change the world you’ve got to be a bit uncomfortable, right?

Someone constructive

We want to make sure we have a diversity of opinions in our decision making — that’s why we have a board. We don’t have to always agree, but we do need to come to solutions which work. You’ll need to be able to identify and tell us about risks. This needs to be done in a constructive and consensus-focussed way.

Someone who is good with kids

You don’t have to have any. We don’t need a babysitter. In our experience, the best board members are the ones who are great parents / aunties or uncles / mentors. Startups are pretty similar to a teenagers, sometimes you need to protect them from themselves but often you just need to let them make their own mistakes in a safe space.

Someone comfortable with tech

You won’t have to dive deep into the Ruby or be our new scrum master, but we need someone who likes using Google Docs, responds to emails promptly, and who knows how to use platforms like Slack, Trello, and Loomio.

Someone who is comfortable with the financial and legal side of things

You don’t need to be an accountant or a lawyer. But, you should be able to read a balance sheet, and be comfortable with the requirements of being a director. We’re also looking for the new board member to bring experience / skills in branding, scaling operations, and/or a legal brain (though, we’ll still call on our lawyers, Buddle Findlay, as needed).

Who is on the board?

Blog - Board - Nick
Nick Lewis — Nick is an experienced entrepreneur with a history of work in the investment banking space (from JP Morgan through to co-founding Woodward Investments in New Zealand). He is the Chair of our board and independent board member, and started off (back in the day) on our advisory panel.

Blog - Board - Anna
Anna Guenther — Anna is our Managing Director, co-founder and CEO of PledgeMe. She sounds American but she’s definitely a Kiwi. If pushed, she’ll say she’s technically from Dunedin, but will later admit she grew up in Boston. Having roamed around the world, she now calls Wellington home. Anna completed her Masters on crowdfunding and has worked for everyone from NZTE to MIT (and all of the acronyms in between).

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Breccan McLeod-Lundy — Breccan manages all things tech for us with the help of the awesome Rabid team. He is passionate about what the next level of crowdfunding could be, and has a beautifully analytical brain. He’s the only board member left in his 20’s…

Blog - Board - Anake
Anake Goodall — Anake, our departing board member, has a strong background in both the public and private sector. This busy man is currently on the boards of Meridian and the Ākina Foundation as well as ours. During his time as CEO of Ngāi Tahu, he developed an intergenerational asset allocation programme around their then $700million portfolio. He’s South Island based. Read our farewell to him here.

04 team and board

 

You? We’d like to add some diversity to the board. That could come in a few forms: gender, age, location, physical ability, orientation, the list goes on… More on this soon.

How our board rolls

The Board has the primary responsibility to oversee the conduct of PledgeMe and to supervise management (who are responsible for the day-to-day activities). In performing its functions, the Board primarily considers the interests of PledgeMe to which its fiduciary duty ultimately resides, and then to its shareholders. It also considers the legitimate interests of other constituents such as employees, suppliers, and customers.

Number of board members

We currently have four board members, and aim for between 3–5 board members at any time, with a mix of skills, backgrounds, and expertise. A quorum is currently 3 board members. Nick was deemed our independent director under the NZX rules, but we aim to get one more independent director. Aiming for 40% female representation, with wider general diversity (age, location, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation).

Chairperson

The Chairperson shall be appointed by the Board on an annual basis (May meeting). The current Chairperson is Nick Lewis.

Term

New directors are appointed at PledgeMe’s AGM or through a resolution passed with the shareholders during the year. Nick will manage the staggering of the board terms, based on interest, their performance and the filling of skill gaps.

Board membership is set to a 1 year term with the ability to renew annually.

Directors’ Fees

Set at $1,100 per month paid annually in arrears and paid in a mix of shares but with enough cash to cover tax implications.

Frequency

Monthly board meetings and occasional discussions on Loomio, though this can be moved to purely online (via Loomio) as needed. 10–15 hrs per month. Board members are required to respond to discussions and emails within two working days.

Board Responsibilities

The Board retains the responsibility for managing its own affairs including the responsibility to:

i) Appoint the Chairman of the Board;

ii) Appoint, review and/or replace the Chief Executive Officer

iii) determine the timing and agenda for Board meetings.

iv) annually review the skills and experience represented on the Board in light of rapidly changing business requirements.

v) recommend the criteria and potential candidates who meet the criteria to the Board.

vi) on the recommendation of the Chair, appoint, determine the composition of and set the terms of reference for Board committees;

vii) approve the terms of reference for the CEO and Chairman.

viii) implement an appropriate process for assessing the effectiveness of the Board, the Board Chair, committees and directors in fulfilling their responsibilities.

ix) assess the adequacy and form of director compensation and make recommendations to the shareholders to approve the director compensation at the Annual General Meeting.

x) assume responsibility for Company’s governance practices and ensure they meet the needs of the shareholders, employees and customers; and

xi) monitor our compliance with our licensing obligations under the Financial Markets authority.

APPLY

So that’s the role and the kind of person we’re looking for. Think it’s you? Then please fill out this application form powered by Weirdly.

UPDATE: Some people have been having trouble filling out the embedded form. If it isn’t working, not saving, or crashing then please click through here and complete it.

Farewelling Anake

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Anake and the team, very focused on important business as per usual.

This week, we are very sad to announce that the lovely Anake Goodall is stepping down from our PledgeMe board. After two years of hard work, sage advice, and cupcake decoration, he’s decided to move on in order to focus on his family work. So, we went out to the rest of the board to hear what they’re going to miss about Anake.

Our CBB Anna believes one of Anake’s key strengths is his forward-thinking ability. “I often think that Anake has a hundred year plan for PledgeMe (and for me). He has a way at looking beyond the immediate, and really contributes to the strategy and evolution of what we do. That said, he’s got no hesitations at pointing out things that need to be handled immediately, and has contributed a lot to the documenting of policies (with his red pen on hand to point out any typos I might make).”

Board chair Nick also praised Anake’s clear-headedness, saying “he has the enviable ability to rapidly cut through the noise to get to the nub of an issue, while maintaining a nearly spiritual calm about him.” Our other board member Breccan agreed, explaining why he valued Anake’s measured approach: “it’s surprisingly rare to find someone who you still feel so positively towards while they’re disagreeing with you. “

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Anake and his carefully-crafted poo emoji cupcakes.

But Anake isn’t just thoughtful and business-savvy – he’s also great fun. We asked Anna about one of her favourite memories of Anake:

It would have to be after our Strategy day in April last year. We had a full on day of strategy discussions, and everyone was a little bit brain dead at the end of our day. I had organised a light session making cupcakes with one of our alumni to end the day, but most of the board was too tired / busy to come along.

Not only did Anake come along and decorate cupcakes with us, but he got right into the theme of the cupcakes – poo emojis.

 

When we chatted to Anake about his time at PledgeMe, he also brought up this “memorable post-match function at the cupcake bakery”. He went on to talk about how PledgeMe had changed in his time here:

It’s been wonderful to watch the PledgeMe team grow out into a genuine rounded team of dedicated and enthusiastic and committed members, from very modest beginnings in the early days. This has been possible as a result of the humbling support of the company’s growing shareholder base, and their active support of the PledgeMe promise.

Crowdfunding is a really dynamic space and we know from overseas experience that it is only going to become a bigger and more significant part of our national and local economies. I’ve really enjoyed being on the leading edge of this trend and will continue to watch it closely and support it as I can.

Anake’s next step is working on some of his personal projects, as well as a “very (very) large pile of unread books”. We’re happy for his bookshelves’ sake, but the board has also expressed how much they’re going to miss Anake. For Nick, it will be “his wise counsel, his gentle wit, but most of all, his presence.” Anna added that “he’s been supportive of me in some of my hardest moments, and I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without his support, guidance, and quirky humour.”

So Anake, from all the PledgeMe crew, we want to say a huge thank you. Thank you for your commitment, creativity and endless kindness. PledgeMe wouldn’t be what it is without you.

And as sad as we are to see Anake go, we’re also excited to find out what kind of amazing person will take on his role. If you’re considering getting on board or know someone who should, take this advice from Anake himself:

I really recommend board roles in companies like PledgeMe for those interested in, literally, building the future infrastructure of our community. Anna and her team, and the PledgeMe board members, are all smart and committed people so the next director up will be guaranteed lively conversations and lots of learning opportunities right out there on the leading edge. And a lot of fun and laughter too!

Reinventing debt with crowdfunding

Just before Christmas we took a big step toward launching a new way for Kiwis to fund the things they care about. Applying for a peer-to-peer lending licence was the first public step we’ve taken toward offering a new product: PledgeMe.Debt.

To get this far it has taken months of research, picking brains, and blending ideas, now our application rests in the capable hands of the Financial Markets Authority. So while we wait for them to go over all the paperwork we wanted to give you a heads up about what this means because it’s not at all as scary as the name implies!

What is it?

PledgeMe.Debt will allow organisations (more on what that means below) to reach out to their crowds so they can fund bigger and better campaigns. An organisation’s crowd can lend it money and the organisation pays their crowd back with interest. It is a really simple way PledgeMe can further democratise what gets funded in New Zealand and offer an alternative to big ol’ banks.

It is going to work similarly to our existing project and equity platforms. Organisations will offer a campaign, their crowd will pledge, and if it is successful they’ll receive the money to go do the thing they said they were going to do. The difference with PledgeMe.Debt will be that the organisations will pay back the money they receive plus interest (and potentially other rewards).

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The back story.

Debt crowdfunding is a growing space. Internationally it makes up two-thirds of the crowdfunding market — a market that’s doubling every nine months.

Modern debt crowdfunding started in the UK in 2005, with Zopa launching the first personal lending platform. After the Global Financial Crisis in 2008/9, debt crowdfunding platforms started popping up to provide fairer, more accessible and more transparent ways of funding. Moving into the twenty-teens, there has been further developments, the emergence of specialist platforms, IPOs for a handful of platforms, traditional institution buy-in, and government endorsement — particularly in the UK.

So this new way of lending is a growing space that is allowing a whole bunch of organisations to do amazing things.

Why we’re excited

We think we’ll be the first platform this side of the equator to run project, equity and debt crowdfunding campaigns on the same site!

We truly believe that crowdfunding is the future of making things happen; raising money, growing crowds, and making decisions that serve communities, big and small. Debt crowdfunding is a large unserved piece of the New Zealand crowdfunding pie and the time to sate the hunger is now.

Adding debt crowdfunding to our platform strengthens our ability to help Kiwis fund the things they care about. While equity is just for companies, debt allows a broader range of campaign creators raise larger amounts of money. It’s a more transparent way to raise money, compared to traditional avenues. Having this choice in crowdfunding options gives PledgeMe an edge when it comes to Kiwis seeking funding.

How is PledgeMe.Debt different from what’s happening already?

In 2014, debt crowdfunding began to trickle into New Zealand. Harmoney launched its peer-to-peer lending service which matches individual borrowers and lenders anonymously through their marketplace.

PledgeMe.Debt is going to do debt crowdfunding a little differently.

We’ll be offering a transparent campaign-led platform. Campaigners will be able to reach out directly to their crowds of friends, family, supporters, and customers.

This means growth companies, social enterprises, not-for-profits, schools, co-operatives and communities — organisations wanting to involve those around them to achieve their purpose — could be able to borrow from their crowds.

Unlike many peer-to-peer platforms, PledgeMe isn’t backed by a bank. This means borrowers will have a greater say over what, when and how they borrow and their crowds will be the decisive factor. This means the relationship campaigners will have with their lenders will be a lot different and, we believe, a lot more beneficial.

Who will be able to raise money?

Put simply, any organisation that can prove they will be able to repay the loan will be able to use PledgeMe.Debt.

One of the reasons we want to offer debt crowdfunding is that there is a demand for alternative funding sources. We’re seeing that in all sorts of organisations from companies to social enterprises, not-for-profits, schools, co-operatives and community projects. PledgeMe.Debt provides an attractive and realistic option for any of these groups.

Here’s the kind of scenarios that PledgeMe.Debt will work for.

Companies

Companies with a strong customer base and a few years of success in their back pockets, with intentions to grow their product/service. Using PledgeMe.Debt they will be able to serve new markets and achieve a new level of engagement. They may be looking to bridge a gap between equity raises, buy new equipment or bring in new expertise that will enable them to do more good. SMEs in New Zealand already borrow a significant amount from banks every year for these same reasons. For many it makes more sense to go out to friends, family, supporters, and customers for this money and activate a crowd rather than borrow from a bank!

Social enterprises

Social enterprises which are changing our world by activating communities and changing perceptions could really capitalise on PledgeMe.Debt. For many social enterprises, especially early stage ones, selling a large chunk of the company through an equity raise doesn’t fit with their values and borrowing from a bank seems like a misfit with their motives.

Charities / not-for-profits / NGOs

Charities, NFPs and other NGOs wishing to educate and serve more people, scream their cause from the rooftops and grow and strengthen their relationship with their funder base may be eligible to debt crowdfund. Currently options for raising money are very limited for these groups.

Schools

Schools which want to improve facilities, become more self-sufficient and help teach students about basic economics and business can use PledgeMe.Debt too.

Co-ops and communities

Co-ops and communities that have a plans to reinvigorate their area and build capacity are perfect candidates for PledgeMe.Debt. If their vision is for sustainable communities, eco-villages and sharing economies built on pooled resources, trust and interdependence crowdfunding will support and reinforce their efforts.

When will we be launching PledgeMe.Debt?

We’re waiting on approval of our licence from the FMA. Once this is (fingerscrossed) granted, we’ll be rolling out the tech side of things for testing. It’s being worked on currently, so we’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

We’re already looking for organisations and campaigners who will benefit from PledgeMe.Debt and hope to have our first campaigns up later this year.

If you think debt crowdfunding might work for you or if you’re curious about how it works, drop me an email. Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

International debt crowdfunding stories that have inspired us

What originally caught our eye were the Burrito Bonds of London Mexican food chain, Chilango. They raised £2m from 700 investors and garnished the bonds with extra burrito rewards. Still a bit peckish for growth, they followed it up last month with a £3.4m equity raise.

Gibbon, the simian name synonymous with slacklining, decided to shift away from bank borrowing to fulfil demand for their product Stateside by going out to their crowd of devoted followers.

Pod Point wants to make moving around less damaging for the earth. A social enterprise making electric vehicle chargers, they’re Open Charge Bond raised £385,000 to fund the roll out of their Open Charge network of public, electric vehicle chargepoints.

Not technically a crowdfunding campaign but rather an insight into the power of debt for not-for-profits, Autism Plus, a charity that supports adults and young people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health conditions, borrowed from Charity Bank to transform derelict barns into a chocolate factory and horticulture enterprise, run by people with autism and other disabilities.

A Seattle adventure and nature travel tour company borrowed US$25,000 through Community Sourced Capital to design and fit an adventure hub for travellers to come together to learn, chat, share and plan. What’s more is that they provide proof of the model, having repaid their loan fully over 18 months.

A Californian school district issued municipal bonds (loans to fund state organisations) through a Neighbor.ly campaign, using the money raised to renovate and upgrade thirteen schools.

2015: The year in review

Can you guess them all?

The year of twenty hundred and fifteen has been a year of steady growth for PledgeMe, crowdfunding, and general awesomeness in New Zealand. We started the year a team of three squished in between the Ākina Foundation and the Morgan Foundation and we’re ending it with nine across two offices!

This is in part thanks to the huge support PledgeMe has had from our crowd coming to the party and pledging on our second equity crowdfunding campaign. A bit more on that later, because so many amazing things have happened over the past 12 months and it would be a shame to skip over any of them. So, let’s start from the start.

January

First AGM with our new shareholders: This was a pretty big moment for us! After our first equity crowdfunding campaign late 2014, we got in all in investors and have a bit of a catch up about our plans for 2015. It was also the same day as Yeastie Boys launching…

Yeastie Boys: Our first big big big successful campaign. Half a million raised in half an hour. Hot damn! It was great to kick off the year with a bang and Stu coining the term “love money” made our year!

February

Superheroes STEAM ahead: This was one of our favourite campaigns. It involved a series of career events to educate girls in school (and their mums) about careers in STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts & Maths). Nanogirl (Michelle Dickenson, who has crowdfunded through us many many times) was one of the speakers.

The Crowd: PledgeMe’s very own magazine started being made. We made a crowdsourced, crowdfunded magazine about crowdfunding! Check it out here and keep an eye out for the second edition in 2016.

March

Mobile optimisation: With the capital from our first equity round we improved the website to make it work better and look prettier on phones. So many of you are now using your handsets to pledge that this was a no-brainer. Looks pretty!

Scoop (part 1): The crew at Scoop Independent News launched a campaign to help them reshape the way that they provided their services and help get in new customers. That lead on to Scoop (part 2) later on in the year.

Little Bird: This campaign was as amazing as it was delicious. The Little Bird Organics team crowdfunded their expansion into Britomart and with their amazing treats and help from the crowd, the unbakery made its goal.

April

$5 million pledged: A major milestone for us!

SellShed: The SellShed guys wowed everyone with our biggest equity crowdfunding raise to-date. The boys pulled in over $700,000 from their crowd to fund their next steps.

Moustache: If there was a prize for the most delicious campaign, Di would win it. #SaveMoustache did what it set out to do and Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar was saved to purvey their cookies and milk another day. Here’s the blog she wrote when she hit her goal, note: it may contain traces of cats and tears.

savedmoustache

Parent Interviews: The world’s youngest every equity crowdfunder sold shares in his company. Parent Interviews, which started off as a school project for Indy raised $50k to expand its marketing plan and ensure eventual world domination.

Jessie started: In what would turn out to be the most pivotal hire of the year, Anna went out on a limb and hired the fresh-faced Jessie as PledgeMe’s very own Wunderkid. While the odds were in favour of her rage-quitting within a matter of hours, she stuck the course and is still with us. She actually is a Wunderkid too! Jessie recently won the Wellington Regional Slam poetry competition and went to the national finals.

May

Nothing: nothing interesting happened in may. Nothing at all. I don’t think. Maybe it did. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

June

Birthdays: It was PledgeMe’s Three and a Third birthday in June… well that was actually in May… but we only got around to celebrating it in June because we were so gosh darn busy. We celebrated in style by having three (and a third) parties in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

Jen left: Our Project Wrangler and serial PledgeMe campaigner, Jen left the fold to pursue her career in improv. She seems to be doing really well, but I get the feeling she’s just making it up as she goes along.

Tash started: The super amazing Tash started wrangling them projects and has been doing a pretty fantastic job processing all the zany requests and crazy campaigns y’all keep sending us.

Barry started: When Barry first started talked to us, I fell in love. His Irish lilt made his hire a no-brainer… well actually it was his skills in finance and debt crowdfunding that made it a no-brainer. The fact that he could sing beautifully is an added bonus.

Scoop (part 2): Scoop celebrated their 16th birthday with us! Super fun.

July

Second Equity Round: We went out to our crowd again for an even bigger equity round! The crowd provided and we raised over $360,000 to help us grow crowdfunding in New Zealand. Because of this we’ve been able to grow grow grow and become the busiest crowdfunding platform in New Zealand. Woo!

The Good Spend Counter: Our pals at Conscious Consumers put in a lot of hard work to raise $94,000 to build an app that supports their work and rewards people for spending their money with businesses that are changing the planet for the better. That app is live now too!

August

Retreat: In August we retreated… no wait… In August we went on a retreat! It was great fun.

September

Eat My Lunch: Our biggest ever campaign in terms of the number of people who pledged successfully raised just under $130,000 to help feed kids in low decile schools. This amazing social enterprise blew us away with their commitment and drive to hit their goal and keep them kids fed.

Mikey started: the multi-talented Mikey started as our tech wrangler. His coding skillz have taken PledgeMe to the next level and we’ve been knocking back bugs and notching up site improvements like it ain’t no thang because of Mr Mikey. Keep an eye out for more amazing changes coming soon.

Ooooby: New Zealand’s first crowdfunded impact investment nailed their campaign raising over $286,000 of impact investment to grow their unique business. Pete and the rest of the Ooooby team were great and we’re super stoked to have worked with them.

October

Debt: after our second equity round we started investigating crowdlending/debt-based crowdfunding models and what it would take to move into this space. Barry has been working on a little something in this area… keep on reading to find out more.

Australia: Anna headed over the ditch for a fact-and-friend-finding mission to see what was happening with equity crowdfunding in Australia. Our fearless leader wrote this report about what she found out.

Scoop (part 3): In what must be a record, Scoop went out to their crowd a third successful time in one calendar year.

Sew Love Tour: It was a nailbiting finish for Sarah Sew Love’s campaign to take the Sew Love tour on the road. But she got there, perhaps with a little luck of the Irish.

November

One year of equity crowdfunding: In November we hit another milestone after having our license for equity crowdfunding for one year. 12 successful campaigns later, we’re pretty happy about how it is going and are really looking forward to helping more companies expand and grow in 2016.

Anika Moa: New Zealand’s most amazing creator of albums for babies and all-round lovely human being, Anika Moa crowdfunded her album Songs For Bubbas 2. Huge campaign that was a lot of fun to see get over the line.

December

Debt license: Wonder what Barry has been working on? Well he’s been getting our application for a license to do debt crowdfunding/crowdlending ready. And guess what? We’re about to hit the send button on the mountain of paper work. So get ready for a new way to fund the things you care about!

 

 

And that, my friends, is about it for us here at PledgeMe for the year.

Happy holidays!

Aus-merica

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:

 

P2P

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.

IMG_4069

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 (anna@pledgeme.co.nz). 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.

 

And…

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