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.

One year on

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

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

PledgeMecake

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

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

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

AWESOME FOOD AND AWESOME TEAM

 

What does the next year hold?

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

 

Bubbling with innovation

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

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

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

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

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

bubbles

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

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

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

Advancing by retreating

We’ve been talking about having a team retreat for a while. So long that our Slack channel was optimistically predicting April. But it wasn’t until the other month starting with ‘A’ that we managed to get (almost all) of the team in the same city. (We missed you, Jessie!)

Damn that's a fine-ass team

So a couple of weeks ago, seven of the team gathered in Wellington and headed out to to the KiwiConnect (they’re a shareholder. Wahoo!) house in Whitemans Valley. We wanted to spend a weekend hanging out super casual and discussing some of our goals for the upcoming year. Oh and eating awesome food. The house was amazing and I’m shocked half the team didn’t end up staying there forever. It’s definitely a step up from standard Wellington living.

AWESOME FOOD AND AWESOME TEAM

Here’s what we learned:

  • Branding is hard. We did a good two hour session throwing around all the things we hold near and dear and wading through feedback from our crowd on what makes us special. We’re still working through our final four brand values, but here’s what we’ve got so far:

→ Empowered by your crowd, powered by PledgeMe
→ Trustworthy and transparent in everything we do
→ It’s about more than the rewards and the return
→ Seriously fun humans

  • Rory is the master of the box game. Seriously, as Lana puts it “he has the moves of an 8 year old girl”.Cheesus that's a lot of cheese
  • There is nothing like cooking as a team. You get to learn a lot about people (and about food — who knew pickled fennel was a thing? Turns out Jackson did), and the way to your teams heart is really through their stomach. There was lot of cheese consumed (one wheel was bigger than Lana’s head).
  • Trello is where the party’s at. Seriously. We walked through the ins and outs of how we can use Trello better to manage our team (and lives) and these were Jackson’s top three tips:

1. Use it
2. Seriously. Use it.
3. It’s just like using post-its. Except better.

  • Banjo-riffic timesYou need a mix of work and play. We spent time lazing around reading, sharing stories of things you’d wouldn’t know about each other and working on PledgeMe’s strategy. We find strategy is best developed over S’mores and guacamole (maybe not at the same time, but if you try it, let us know).
  • The best way to force your “boss” to delegate things is when they’re sick and you refuse to let them touch anything. I was forced to sit on a bean bag in the corner most of the weekend (no box game for me…) and watch the team organise everything. It was super empowering to see the team just make everything happen around me.

If you’re thinking about running your own retreat here are a few things to think about:

  • Get outside of your day-to-day, even if it’s just an hour away. It helps you see things differently and makes it more of a break than work.
  • Have everyone propose a meal. It makes the vibe more communal and you all get to learn new recipes. though, if your recipe is the weakest link, you may be pushed off the list and you might just be Sous Chef the whole weekend.
  • Use a Google Doc to coordinate recipes and timings.
  • Encourage people to bring things they just like doing. We had banjos, running shoes, and knitting needles at our retreat.
  • If you can find a whiteboard use it.
  • Appoint someone “Chief Grocery Master”, so they can coordinate all the shopping list and recipes.

Sometimes you need to get ahead by taking a step back and seeing things from a different perspective. What better way to do it than with good people, good food, and good times.Seriously, food.

Breaking Ground

[A couple of months ago a bright-eyed Irish lad approached us. He had experience in financial markets and a thirst for a challenge. Barry is now PledgeMe’s Rad Debtor, looking at crowdlending and debt crowdfunding for us.]

Nine months ago, I peered across from the other side of the internet and a bright blue bubble caught my eye. We shared a glance and I approached nervously. My voice quivering, my hands shaking, my pits sweating — “hey what’s the story, PledgeMe?”

Barry sees PledgeMe from across the bar…

An artist’s impression of Barry’s first glance of PledgeMe. Original image by Beer by Bart and used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

Read More

Introducing Mikey

Team PledgeMe is growing! And we’d like to welcome Mikey Clarke onboard as our brand new Tech Wrangler.

Mikey!

Read More

What’s a social enterprise and why are some Kiwis so scared of them?

A social enterprise is an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximise improvements in human and environmental well-being — this may include maximising social impact rather than profits for external shareholders.

I love social enterprises. I tend to care more about companies which have three bottom lines instead of one: people, planet and profit.

The thing about social enterprises is they’re different — this scares a lot of people.

Social enterprises challenge the norm because there is no legal company structure which truly recognises this approach. People and teams literally have to figure out how to maximise their multiple bottom lines in their effort to make New Zealand (and beyond) a better place. Again, this scares people.

We currently have two companies running campaigns doing it differently. These social enterprises are using the two different channels of project and equity crowdfunding to fund the things they care about.

EAT MY LUNCH

What’s the most impressive thing you’ve done in the last three months?

Well Lisa King and Iaan Buchanan, Co-Founders of Eat My Lunch (EML), have served up 50,000 lunches to hungry Aucklanders in the first twelve weeks of opening their kitchen. Seriously, it has all happened out of the kitchen of their own house.

EML is doing things differently. They operate a ‘buy one, give one’ model. So you pay $10 and you get a lunch is delivered to your workplace and they deliver another lunch to a Kiwi kid at a low decile school who may have gone without it.

In their first twelve weeks they’ve fed more than 25,000 kids.

This is a business with purpose beyond pure profit and this confuses some people. I had a conversation with someone last week about EML who told me:

“A company like this shouldn’t be saying they’re a business and do charity work. What they’re doing is profiting off children.”

I don’t quite see it this way. EML are solving two problems:

  1. Many Aucklanders want a healthy lunch option but few pack their own, and
  2. There are many Kiwi kids who go to school without lunch.

Lisa and Iaan are providing people with a healthy option and using that money to do a little bit of good for some of the thousands of children who wouldn’t otherwise eat.

Instead of just doing the bare minimum of making a profit, they’ve decided to also help solve another social problem the country has.

‘Buy one, give one’ has been a successful business model in other shapes and forms globally. Companies can be built, turn profitable and make a difference beyond a financial return for shareholders. People shouldn’t be talked out of doing this, they should be recognised for doing things differently. Doing things better.

eml_hero

OOOOBY

Ooooby (it stands Out Of Our Own BackYards) is a company which has built an online platform to help communities deliver fresh local fruit and vege directly to people’s doorsteps.

The company was founded in 2010 through the realisation and understanding that the world’s globalised food structure was failing us at a local level. Tomatoes from Australia, grapes from Italy, apples from Canada — when much of the food we need is grown and produced locally!

Ooooby have helped deliver more than 70,000 boxes of fresh fruit and vege to more than 5,000 happy customers.

Ooooby’s founders and core team put mission before money when they launched their equity campaign. Ninety percent of company shares of Ooooby Ltd have been transferred to a charitable trust dedicated to helping our local food systems. Investment into Ooooby comes with the caution that any dividends paid must be put towards projects in this spirit.

This is different than any equity crowdfunding offer New Zealand has seen before.

It’s interesting reading the NBR comments about this story, Ooooby’s social and environmental focus was is bound to rub the old fuddie-duddies the wrong way. By the way this article was great and made very evident this offer is not a ‘normal’ investment, so thanks NBR.

Here is a good comment (and of course it’s anonymous):


NBR

What Anonymous User #3 has neglected to understand is that the growers supplying Ooooby receive 50% of the market value (e.g. what it’s sold for) compared to a standard 30% with supermarkets.

Also as outlined in their Information Memorandum they have a very defined plan on how this money will be used.

Spoiler alert: it isn’t on Fijian getaways — it’s on building this business and making greater impact.

Ooooby’s achievements and mission are admirable, alternative, and really challenge New Zealand’s current offering of entities.

Social enterprises, impact investing and this whole new space of people doing, and investing in, things for more than just money lacks understanding with a lot of Kiwis. Whether that changes now or never, PledgeMe is working with awesome people and companies to help them fund the things they care about… because we care too.

Matakana Box

———————— & as of this post:

Eat My Lunch has raised +$44,000 towards a goal of $180,000 in their Project Campaign to help fit out a commercial kitchen to feed more hungry Aucklanders (big and small).

Ooooby has raised $67,515 towards a minimum of $200,000 and a maximum of $800,000 through their Equity Campaign to help grow their team, enhance their systems and assist in setting up new Ooooby Hubs.

WANTED: One Chief Tech Wrangler

With our equity crowdfunding campaign almost over, we’re looking to grow our team! First person we want to get on board is a chief tech wrangler.

Check out the job description below and get in touch if you think you could fit in with these clowns:Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 2.05.59 pm

Read More

Ain’t no party like a PledgeMe party

So PledgeMe recently turned three (and a third). And we figured, what better way to celebrate our third anniversary than with THREE awesome parties, with all our wonderful supporters??
First stop was Ivy Bar in Wellington, where people ran in from the rain to celebrate with stand-up, slam poetry, and some absolutely beautiful cake.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 6.09.40 pm

Next we met some rad Auckland peeps in the lovely Lucha Lounge, where we chatted the night away and got to enjoy some wonderful music and killer conversation!

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 6.09.24 pm
Finally, we hit the shores of Canterbury for a wonderful sit-down dinner with our Christchurch crowd. It was bring-a-plate so cheese platters abounded – that might be why Anna looks so ecstatic in all these photos…
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 6.09.31 pm

We had such an amazing time hanging out and partying with all of you, and we just want to say a huge thank you to our whole crowd!! Your support, enthusiasm and faith for these past three years (and a third) has been unrivalled, and we can’t wait to see what the years to come will hold in store. If you’re keen to become even more of a part of the PledgeMe family, you should take a look at our current crowdfunding campaign and get on board!

And if you want to see any more of our party pics, check out our album on Facebook – and thanks again!!

 

Crowdfunding crowdfunding: ROUND TWO!

Last night at our three and a third birthday* we announced that we’re doing a second equity crowdfunding round. We want to grow crowdfunding in New Zealand and to do that we need our crowd’s help — that’s you!

PANDA-ME CAKE

Come have a slice of our cake by investing in PledgeMe

Our first round of equity crowdfunding last year was a huge success. We raised $100,000 in 23 hours so that we could mobilise the site, grow the team, and spread the crowdfunding gospel further.

We’ve totally nailed those goals in the past seven months. Our site is now optimised for mobile devices making it easier to pledge no matter where you are or what device you’re on. Our team has grown and we’ve bought some more key skills in house around customer support, design, accounting, communications, and more! And we’ve more than doubled the amount of money pledged through PledgeMe since we started three years ago in the last seven months alone. We’re now sitting at a cool $6.25 million raised compared to $2.8 million before we hit go on our equity campaign.

Now we want to grow crowdfunding even more!

In this next round we’ll be looking to raise a minimum of $250,000 so that we can do that.

If When our campaign is successful, we’ll use the money to bring in in-house tech skills, develop the product further to make it even easier to run campaigns and pledge on them, get even more team members on board, and further investigate debt crowdfunding, a secondary market, and expansion across the Tasman.

We hope to have the campaign up within the next two weeks. In the meantime, if you’re interested in investing in PledgeMe — we know there are at least 70 of you out there who missed out the first round — then please sign up to the newsletter below and we’ll send you more details when they’re ready.

Get the skinny on our next equity campaign

* indicates required





(NOTE: The above form seems to be on the go slow. You should recieve an email within a few minutes of hitting subscribe. Don’t get frustrated like I did and hit submit 50,000,000 times.)

*The party was awesome by the way, and is, in itself a reason why you should invest. We know how to throw a good party. We’ll be blogging about this tomorrow once the photos get developed ;). If you’re based in Auckland or Christchurch, you can still come celebrate with us, as we decided three parties was the best way to celebrate our third birthday.

Team PledgeMe celebrates their three and a third birthday. How could you not want to be part of this team?

Team PledgeMe celebrates their three and a third birthday. How could you not want to be part of this team?