Smoothing Out the Peaks and Troughs

“Booms and busts are amplified when a select few control the allocation of money.”

William Stewart, just a second ago.

Here’s my question — does crowdfunding have the ability to help smooth out the peaks and troughs of an economy over time?

In any market, or more generally any economy, enthusiastic demand for things causes expansions (peaks) and underwhelming demand for things causes recessions (troughs).

Being a cub of the Celtic Tiger, I’ve lived through one of the most emphatic boom-bust cycles in history. I think I’ve picked up some learnings along the way. So here is my biased opinion.

The issue, as I see it, is that when a recession looms, the supply of things being created drops because the creators (businesses) start being starved of the capital investment they need to create things. And without things to buy, people buy less things — effectively supply influencing demand. A lot of this is down to banks and institutions holding the big buckets of cash money.

So in a financial system where the money, and therefore the investing power, lies in the hands of a few, we see a scenario spin out kinda like what happened in Ireland not so long ago. An unplugged but overflowing bath followed by a swift righty tighty of the tap.

But let’s say this scenario plays out within a purely (hypothetical) democratic financial system where everyone has the ability to make their own investment decisions. The kind of system that crowdfunding is helping create.

So in this crowdfunding friendly economy a recession looms; there’s some fear, anxiety and hesitation amongst The People.

Some of us will rein in our investing activity. We’ll look at the menu and our appetite to save is greater than our desire to invest in companies — fair enough. But, it’s not a widespread slam on the brakes that happens when there is centralised control, when the ‘big boys’ make decisions on everyone’s behalf.

In our scenario, there will still be those who want to put their spare money to use in a meaningful way. This may be by investing in companies which have the vision and ability to spur the economy, create value, jobs and all that good stuff. The key point is that, knowing that there are people like that out there (heaps more people than there are financial institutions), many companies won’t feel the need to shrink into themselves until the tide has turned and the institutional tap is turned back on. Instead they go out to their crowd and with their help, make the brave decision to continue to push, advance and overcome.

So could crowdfunding help ease the lows of this warped capitalist system we live in?

I reckon it could.

Instead of grinding to a halt and waiting for monetary policy and government incentivisation to restart the economy, crowdfunding helps cultivate a landscape of continual opportunity. It may be an idealised vision but, even in this emergent era of crowdfunding, the potential of open, accessible, inclusive and decentralised investment is mighty.

We’re already seeing the effect of shifting the power away from the few and to the many on PledgeMe.

If you had told me a few years ago that people would invest in a startup like Ooooby with no discernible profit, I might have laughed at you. But it happened, and they’re thriving, and having an impact which in itself will help protect us from global financial bad weather. Wow.

While the fat cat sits there, no ironing can be done.

While the fat cat sits there, no ironing can be done.

So what’s missing in order to establish a more democratic economic system?

Well here in New Zealand we’re already seeing crowdfunding taking off in a big way. But the kicker that would tip the economy in favour of this kinda direction is education.

There are heeeeaaaps of people out there at the moment who give their money to banks and other financial institutions to look after. And that’s cool and everything, but there are other options for those with some disposable income and a desire to have positive impacts. Getting the word out about equity crowdfunding and lending, and creating a demand for it is probably the best next step we can take in this direction. So get sharing our How To PledgeMe guides, and let’s help iron out some of those peaks and troughs!

Back to the books: CrowdfundingU + fee change

Team PledgeMe has learned a lot over the last year. And now with 12 equity campaigns funded (out of 19 launched) we have a pretty clear idea of what’s working and what needs refining to help kiwis fund the things they care about.

As we do, we listened to our crowd. We asked them what would help get them ready to run equity campaigns, and what they thought would give them the best chance of success. We clearly heard that companies wanted more support in the lead up, more education around, and a better structured programme to ease them into a campaign.

Taking that on board, and mixing in our experience in crowdfunding…

we’re launching, CrowdfundingU!

Welcome to CrowdfundingU

CrowdfundingU will provide a structured 6 week programme for equity campaigners, running through all the things you need to know about:

  • What is Equity Crowdfunding
  • Documentation do’s and don’ts
  • Mapping your Crowd
  • Communicating with your Crowd
  • Pitching to your Crowd (from visuals to events)
  • Launching your Campaign

While comprehensive, the programme is not intense. It’s not some sort of boot camp where we wake you up at 5 AM and make you do press ups in the mud. We focus on the essentials on a one-to-one basis to make sure companies are ready for their campaigns before they hit the launch button. The sessions give an up to six week lead in time to launch, but can be condensed for folk who want to move quicker than the average bear (or tiger).

So for all of you who want to learn more about CrowdfundingU click here. If you want to sign up you can do that there too.

Got questions? Ask Will, our Equity Champion, more questions here or tee up a time to chat.

This does mean our pricing will change

To reflect the change in the way we’re running equity campaigns we’re changing how we charge for them.

There will now be an upfront fee of $1,500. This replaces the fees for legal work and background checks we were charging previously. It also covers the one-to-one time you’ll get with one (or more) of the PledgeMe team through CrowdfundingU.

PledgeMe.Equity fees as of 01/02/16
CrowdfundingU $1,500 (zero rated) Paid before campaign starts
Success fee 5% of total raised (zero rated)
Credit card fee 2.8% + 25 cents per transaction (Only on pledges paid by credit card, average fee to date is ~0.3%)

 

To use PledgeMe’s Shareholder Portal there is a fee of $25 (plus GST) per month, first two months free. It’s optional to use this service.

And of course, you may incur additional costs launching and running your campaign, ranging from legal and accounting to design and communications.

The benefits

Over the past year we’ve found that running equity crowdfunding campaigns can be a daunting task. Having done two rounds for PledgeMe, I can confirm that it is indeed a little bit scary. So CrowdfundingU is designed to break that fear down into small chunks and make it manageable. Here’s how CrowdfundingU will benefit all you potential equity crowdfunders out there.

More structure

One of the big things we heard from our crowd was that they wanted a more structured process. Not a rigid set of guidelines, but something more than just a how to guide. CrowdfundingU breaks helps you get all the corner and outside bits of the puzzle locked down, to make the middle bit easier.

More support

Campaigns all come in different shapes and sizes, and from campaign to campaign we were figuring out how we could help companies. With the one-to-one sessions during CrowdfundingU it gives the companies space to ask us questions, and gives PledgeMe time to hear what the companies need and go away and work on it.

Pitch Kitchen

We’ll still be running Pitch Kitchens during CrowdfundingU, but these will be better informed and come sooner in the process to give companies good feedback on their pitch as they’re building it. Because of the better structure and increased support we’ll have a better idea of the skills the companies need present and so can arrange stellar lineups (from our crowd and theirs).

One year on for Yeastie Boys

Exactly a year ago we were ringing the bell to begin our PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign, at a launch party in Wellington’s Golding’s Free Dive. A meagre 31 minutes later we were celebrating the successful raise of $500,000 with a whole bunch of our 200 new shareholders.

Moments after the high-fives, backslapping, and congratulatory hugs died down I distinctly remember thinking: “Uh, oh!! Now I’ve got to actually go out and do what I said I could.” It suddenly dawned on me what a difficult year 2015 could become.

WOOOOO!

Photo credit: Bryn Price (who is an awesome photographer — you can follow him on Instagram or check out his site here — as you can tell from Jess’ candid expression of amazement).

 

It has been even more difficult than I could have imagined but, also, so much more rewarding than I could have dreamed.

Having 200 shareholders is the opposite of what everyone would have had me believe when we looked at our capital raising options.

What is pitched, by those more familiar with traditional investment, is the burden of looking after shareholders. The reality, for us, has been shareholders as a source of inspiration and a constant reminder that we’ve followed the right path.

When I broke both my arms on a trip to USA, in July 2015, who was there to do my washing and be my tour guide at the end of each work day? Two of our fantastic shareholders. I couldn’t ever imagine the folk behind a private equity firm washing my undies!

Who would touch Stu's undies. Gross!

Stu with his helpful undie-washing Portland shareholders.

Our shareholders are engaged in positive ways — from buying their beer to share with friends, to being brand ambassadors all over the world, through to providing excellent analysis and thought provoking feedback on our business.

In the year since we raised the capital to grow I have spent 40 weeks in UK, a couple in USA, and only a small amount in New Zealand. I’ve now moved my entire family (and a dog!) to England to pursue the great opportunity we see here.

We could never have pursued this opportunity without the capital invested and our crowd.

The most important thing we have done since raising capital is to take on Zane Smith — Yeastie Boys’ Master of Everything. Zane now runs everything in New Zealand and, although I’m still heavily involved from afar, I couldn’t have made the move to the antipodes (with no UK revenue coming in) without someone like Zane.

I consider myself an accidental entrepreneur — that is, someone who simply loved beer and fell into business — the urgency that I feel on a day-to-day basis probably pegs me as a natural business owner. I’m impatient about everything and it is never done as well as I’d like!

But you soon come to realise that it takes perseverance, and not visionary skills, to get a business kicked off in UK. Perhaps the next time we raise money, I’ll be able to hire the people who can take over the perseverance tasks!

BEERZ

When I look back at the year, we’ve done some things which we couldn’t (or at least wouldn’t) have ever done without our shareholders… we have:

  • more than doubled our staff (albeit only from 1 to 2.5),
  • raised our revenue by 50% since we started producing in UK, and that could have been a lot higher if not hampered by bureaucracy,
  • moved to a model of self-distribution and online retailing in New Zealand, which will result in significantly higher margins and better connection with our customers,
  • embedded the right relationships in UK to build our business from the ground up.

There’s a list, far too long to write here, of what I’d like to have done but haven’t been able to manage yet. But I’m not sure what I’d actually do if that list didn’t exist!

Most importantly, I couldn’t be much happier about changing tack on the way we have done things in 2015.

All this makes the year ahead tremendously exciting. With our processes and bureaucracy (mostly) sorted… Expect to hear big things from Yeastie Boys in 2016.

PledgeMe.Equity/Private

While most Kiwis were at the bach over the holidays, Team PledgeMe were hard at work adding new features to the platform, inventing new products, and searching for a new board member.

But the newest of the shiny new things we’re unveiling is the ability to run private campaigns on PledgeMe.Equity.

PledgeMe.Equity/Private means companies can go out to their crowd, and their crowd only, to secure investment. Companies can raise money through their personal and professional networks and customers, having a bit more control over who sees their information while still going through the PledgeMe process.

I’ve put together a brief FAQ to fill y’all in on what we mean by “private” campaigns.

Q: Why private campaigns? I thought PledgeMe is all about transparency!

A: We are. But we’re also about actively listening to our crowd! They spoke, we listened. We heard from the hundreds of companies we’ve talked to that some would like the ability to do a private round.

The two main reasons people told us they wanted to run a private campaign were:

1. running a friends and family round or an initial investment round (this will be especially helpful for very early stage start ups), and

2. raise through their crowd of customers without showing the world what they’re up to just yet.

Friends and family

Going out to friends and family can be difficult for many entrepreneurs. We’ve had feedback from a few startups who are very interested in using PledgeMe.Equity so potential investors can read, digest and make an informed investment decision in their own time (rather than over Sunday dinner at Aunt Edna’s place).

A private PledgeMe.Equity campaign would provide a structure and a system so both parties are best informed of the potential returns and risks. This is useful for entrepreneurs and interested investors alike.

Not ready to show the world our business

A few companies who PledgeMe has been working with are doing some pretty incredible things but they aren’t quite ready to tell the world (or the National Business Review). In most cases these are high growth companies or businesses with close competition around the same stage in the market.

Private PledgeMe.Equity campaigns will mean these companies — who have stress tested their idea, got a crowd of people ready to invest and who have a clear plan — can push go without any of the public/media focus that comes with a public campaign.

Q: What’s the real difference between public and private?

In terms of readying your company for accepting investment: nothing.

Regardless of running a public or a private campaign, a company is going to need to follow the same process to putting forward an offer on our platform. The only difference is that instead of the offer being visible to anyone on pledgeme.co.nz, it will only go out to those you choose to share it with.

One potential difference for a private campaign is that some of the costs around getting your campaign ready may be reduced or eliminated (compared to public campaigns). Things like pitch videos cost money and, depending on the private campaign, may not be necessary.

Q: What’s the advantage over using PledgeMe versus doing it myself?

PledgeMe charges a 5% success fee on the total raised for all campaigns which reach their funding goals. This cost isn’t for everyone and we know how important cash is for early stage companies. However, there are a few key reasons companies come to us and see value in our service:

• Company Hygiene. In order for any company to use our platform they have to provide a full list of documentation around the investment (which may not be on hand at Aunt Edna’s dinner table). So the process itself is transparent. Companies have to put together a proper business plan, constitution, financials and valuation with assumptions so investors can assess the potential risks and returns.

Taking the personal pressure off asking people close to you. Allowing people to make a decision on their own, but with a clear deadline, is really the best thing for both parties. It means investors don’t rush into something, and it means companies can concentrate on their crowd as a whole, rather than a few people at a time.

A strong foundation for growth. Since you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s the first time around you will carry this knowledge and experience forward for any additional rounds you may do — and your company is already structured to allow for this growth so your eyes can remain on the prize.

When is this going live?

It’s live now! Come have a chat with me if your company want to talk (privately) about this.

Flick me an email here or schedule a meeting directly into my calendar.

Are you an Equity Enthusiast?

Equity enthusiasts

Between primo projects like Venture Up and exciting equity campaigns like Yeastie Boys, Ethique or Ooooby, things at PledgeMe have been pretty hectic this holiday season. If you’re subscribed to our newsletter, you’ll know just how busy we are. But we also know how busy you are – far too busy to sit around reading emails from us that you’re not interested in. Our crowd is as diverse as it is wonderful, and while we know some of you could spend hours reading up on interesting investments, others just want to pledge to a brilliantly bookish campaign every once in a while. We get that.

So what are we doing about it?

We’re working on improving the quality of our newsletters, to be sure we’re sending you the right stuff for YOU. To do this, we need to make sure you’re getting relevant campaign information. And we figured equity was the best place to start.

What does that mean?

We’ll be segmenting our newsletter list, and sending out equity-focused content to a special equity crowdfunding group, which means better emails for you that you’ll be more interested in. So if you’ve no interest in investment and you’re more of a project pundit, no worries – you can disregard this post and just stick with our lovely fortnightly newsletter, which we’re tweaking to make sure it’ll only be full of stuff you want to see. But if you’re an equity enthusiast, you should fill out the form below and we’ll add you to our super-special equity list, and send you intriguing investment opportunities on the regular. Plus, by checking the boxes you can tell us what specific sorts of equity campaigns you care about, which will streamline your inbox even further.

Subscribe to our equity mailing list

* indicates required
What kind of campaigns do you want to hear about?

What's Up Wednesday

Crafters & Co Limited

December 2For this week’s What’s Up Wednesday, we talked to our newest equity campaign, Crafters & Co. We are hopping with excitement to work with these brewtiful people, and we hope you are too!

Crafters is dominating the distribution domain, currently providing distribution for 11 craft breweries, 10 vineyards, over 20 premium spirits and a handful of non-alcoholic and retail products. Their warehouse is one of the biggest in the craft beer capital, and with a retail store right on Cuba, they’re Welly’s one-stop-shop for the best brews. They also have a successful online store which acts as a product library.

So why are they turning to crowdfunding? The answer’s pretty simple: to take it nationwide. Crafters wants to streamline sales and showcase the craft community to NZ and the rest of the world. And they want you, their crowd, to help them make it happen.

To find out more about this hopportunity and get the facts behind the fizz, we chatted to the crafters themselves! Here’s what they had to say:

How are you finding the campaign so far?

Its coming along, people are showing interest, we just need to get them to Pledge.

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

We have two open nights coming up with BBQ and tastings. One this Thursday 3rd Dec (5pm-8pm) and another on the 17th.

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Crafters & Co would like to thank all the Pledgers that have supported our campaign so far. We still have a way to go so share with your friends and colleagues and lets hit our investment target!

P.S We’re also bottling our Crafters beer today! Here’s a picture of the bottles in the back of #Crafter3…

IMG_0994

To find out more about Crafters & Co, you should come along to one of their meet and greets! Check out the events here and here. Otherwise, take a look at their campaign on PledgeMe.

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:

 

Learning from Ooooby’s success

Ooooby closed off their campaign last week (29 Sep) raising $286k from their crowd.  To celebrate Barry and I, equipped with a couple of Yeastie Boys, headed over to Waiheke celebrate Ooooby’s success — success #12 for PledgeMe Equity!

Will and Barry on the way to Waiheke

It was great to sit down and informally to talk through the highs and lows of Ooooby’s campaign. Chats like this allow PledgeMe to evolve in how we help companies raise funds through their crowd.

Here were some of the success indicators Ooooby and PledgeMe reckon helped them run a successful campaign.

  1. Did it the Ooooby way: Things were authentic and genuinely Ooooby from start to finish. This was highlighted by putting the mission — helping to rebuild local food systems — before money. Working through this took (a lot of) time but its outcome ultimately resonated with the founders and their crowd (note: but required a lot of #2 & #3).
  2. Brought in professionals: Ooooby relied on professionals to help in spaces and places outside the team’s core capabilities. Their lawyer, accountants, PR agent, videographer and graphic designer all provided very valuable feedback and content in preparing their campaign.
  3. Prepped their crowd: Prior to launching, Ooooby had started telling people they were going to be running a campaign. By the time they were ready to launch they had more than 800 interested investors wanting to know more about their offer. This was done through effective communication and properly generating campaign awareness.
  4. IRL events: Although it was a pretty full on week one — Ooooby nailed it by setting up real life events with their crowd. Additionally, these events created new/shareable content along with an important understanding of the questions and feedback they received from their crowd given the uniqueness of the offer.
    Crack photographer Barry G takes a snap of James and Pete.

    Crack photographer Barry G takes a snap of James and Pete.

     

  5. Original content: As I alluded to above, Ooooby created original video content during their roadshow… but it didn’t stop there! The team properly planned and excellently delivered a range of communications — images, videos, blog posts, press releases etc — from the outset and throughout.
  6. Collaboration: Ooooby strategise in Google Apps and communicate or chat in Slack. Which is great, because so does PledgeMe. Open communication and collaborative tools can help get the most out of everybody.
  7. Knew there’s no such thing as a crowd in the cloud: As the campaign progressed Ooooby focused on the network their business and this campaign had generated to drive investment. It was a huge success.
  8. The Ooooby culture: Culture is a pretty big buzzword for startups and in many ways it has lost its true meaning. Sometimes media portray company culture as working in a hip(ster) office with table tennis/foosball tables and free drinks every Friday. To me, culture is the intangible how and why a team does what they do day in, day out. After the campaign closed at 8pm I’m pretty sure Ooooby single handedly almost brought down Auckland’s internet and mobile networks with phone calls and Skype as everyone was thanked and reminded for their roles in achieving this.

It’s been amazing to see a technology with global scalability help to make tangible local differences by exporting bytes not bites (as well as delivering delicious local food to Aucklanders doorsteps weekly).

What's Up Wednesday

Kumara Fusion

September 30This week we’re introducing our new weekly segment: What’s Up Wednesday! Each week we’re going to chat to a current campaign creator and see how things are going for them.

And who better to start us off than Kumara Fusion! This quirky little company started back in 2012, after its founders Mr and Mrs Martinez decided they needed more non-nasty gluten-free alternatives. Thus, Kumara Fusion was born: “a vegetable-based delicacy made for and by the food conscious and intolerant”.

Kumara Fusion_Box3DGroup

With a delicious range of products catering to all needs, Kumara Fusion want to tap into the niche deli market. And they’re working hard to get there – we had a chat to them about how the campaign’s going so far:

“We’ve been talking to all kinds of people about Kumara Fusion. Today we had a national newspaper in for an interview and tomorrow we’re doing something on the Radio. We’re also very busy talking to our crowd about this campaign!”

It’s awesome to hear about all this engagement, and we can’t wait to see where their campaign goes from here. If you want to get on board and help support the future of fun food, check out their equity offer right here.

Funding Felt (and female founders)

Felt is a bit like Etsy but for locally made goods by Kiwi makers, designers, artists and craftspeople. Sort of like how some folk call us like Kickstarter but for New Zealand (or they did before Kickstarter was in New Zealand and equity crowdfunding was legalised). But, other than the underlying functionality of the website we are both worlds apart from our global cohort.

Doing something with a local focus makes what you do tangible, real, hyperlocal, meaning you’re not just building an online platform but an offline community that can really truly care about you as a platform of accessible people not a platform of international pixel pushers.

Which is why we’re so excited about Lucy, Felt’s CEO, launching an equity campaign for Felt on PledgeMe this week (it’ll be live here from 5:30 PM on Wednesday). She’s already travelled up and down the country to meet with her potential investors, has over 700 people signed up interested to invest, and is in the final countdown to launching her campaign.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.27.40 pmHer quotes from supporters are beautiful, and her pitch heart felt (which, makes sense, since her twitter handle is @iheartfelt). We were really lucky to see her pitch in action in Wellington and Auckland, and to meet some of her community of crafters and supporters.

We first met Lucy over 6 months ago when a shareholder put her in touch to discuss doing an investment round. At that point, she’d already done a lot of thinking about raising money, but had been planning to hit go pre-earthquake and to pitch to individual angels. Their world changed quite a bit when the Christchurch earthquake hit, but in some ways waiting was for the best because as Lucy puts it “the legislation changes allowed us to do what we really wanted — get our community of makers and buyers involved in our company”.

The community that Felt has created is a veritable who’s who of kiwi makers, but with sales made all over the world. Including to Antarctica.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.51.24 pm

Lucy came to our pitch kitchen in Christchurch in May, and since then has been working to complete her business plan, pitch video, and financials. The biggest hurdle was finding the time to work through the plan, but Lucy definitely made it happen in her own way, with her crowd of supporters around her commenting in Google docs. 

I, personally, am excited to get another female founder up on the platform. Especially one from the South Island, and doubly especially one from Christchurch. That city continues to inspire us with their attitude towards doing things differently.

If you’d like to be kept updated in the lead up to the Felt launch, sign up to their list here and check out their campaign when it goes live at 5:30 on Wednesday.