A PledgeMe day that’ll live long in my memory

I’m not the best at reflecting. It’s probably why I only seldomly appear in our blogosphere! I get caught up in the movement, the progress, the growth, the next step. But on Thursday evening last week, I allowed myself to rest and reflect. Reflect on what has probably been my favourite PledgeMe day yet.

Early alarm for an early flight from Welly to Hammy. Myself and Kaye-Maree from Māori Women’s Development Inc – two bleary-eyed shadows of humans. But the welcome and energy from Christina, Ceara, Ian and the Kōkiri Accelerator teams was infectious. We shared with them our Tā Koha plans, and in return we dove deep together to explore the barriers to funding that they face as entrepreneurs and how crowdfunding can work best for their companies. We happily bathed in their insights!

Credit: Māori Women’s Development Inc


Kōrero flowing


No better way to follow up our session than with a tale from someone who’s deep in his crowdfunding prep at the moment. Panapa Ehau, founder of Hikurangi Cannabis, took the mic to inspire his captivated crowd. Their upcoming equity campaign aiming to empower their local community to collectively create economic, social and health impact for the many. Caring for the people and caring for the land.

Panapa shares the Hikurangi journey


While all this was going on, a Little Bird was busily counting down the moments til their big equity crowdfunding campaign took flight. Eight years in the making and three since their crowd provided a little help. Anna G and PledgeMe team waiting in the wings to ensure no unnecessary turbulence.

I’m back at Hamilton airport and the laptop unfolded just in time for 5…4…3…2…1…we have lift off.

Early birds catching the worm


Swift pre-flight switch from laptop to phone


Almost there!


Half a mil in an hour & a half


Excited mid-flight call from Leonard, Little Bird’s CEO. Apologies Air New Zealand. I could have sworn it was on flight mode!

Head back out of the clouds, feet firmly on the ground and moving swiftly back to PledgeMe HQ to present Tā Koha alongside MWDI’s Linda, to Angel HQ. Deep discussion with the crowd, and great conversation with a big crowdfunding supporter, Charles Hett.

So what is that magic that I feel being a part of PledgeMe community? I think that something special comes from empowering others. When we have success, it’s shared. Shared with those hardworking campaigners who are putting their stamp on the world. Shared with their crowds who’ve inked their stamp. Shared and celebrated by our sometimes-dispersed but always-there-for-each-other team.

That feeling won’t stop after today burns into tomorrow. It’ll resurface the next time I wander into the Little Bird’s Unbakery. It’ll reignite when I congratulate Panapa on changing the lives of his people. It’ll burst out when the first of our newfound whānau of inspiring Māori entrepreneurs fund their plans through Tā Koha. Knowing that, together with the changemakers at MWDI, we’ve had a meaningful impact by enabling others to realise theirs.

I’m grateful that I’m able to experience that feeling. And it’s a privilege to be sharing this journey with you all.

The biggest thing we realised in 2017

There’s a spate of blogs on the highs and lows of 2017. Instead of covering a whole spectrum of what we’ve learned, I’d like to share the biggest realisation I had in the PledgeMe office.

Last year I had a realisation.

While the work we’re doing is supporting greater access to capital, it’s not really democratising access to capital like we had been saying. Equity crowdfunding, as it currently stands, isn’t doing what it’s name states – making things equitable. That’s because the world in which we’re operating, isn’t equitable.

But, everyone can use that platform right? So there’s equality in access? Yep, that is true. Equality is when you treat everyone the same. Equity is when you realise that the social systems we operate in don’t allow everyone to start at the same place, and that you might need different policy settings or support to produce a fair society. It’s when you understand fair is people getting what they need, not everyone getting the same.

Used under a Creative Commons licence. Credit: @communityeyehealth


While access to our platform is equal, we aren’t making it equitable.

Most of our founders are of European descent; men founders raise on average more money than our women campaign creators; and while we do have regional campaigns they typically raise less money than campaigns from the main cities (Ocho is definitely an exception to that rule).  I know equity crowdfunding is relating to a different type of equity, but I don’t think it should.

As a group, we are deeply committed to democratising capital. We believe diverse companies and founders support stronger communities. In order to walk our talk around supporting diversity, we knew we had to do more.

I felt this most strongly when I went to speak at the launch of He kai kei aku ringa, the Iwi/Government Māori Economic Development strategy in Rotorua in June. The strategy literally means providing the food you need with your own hands.

For the first time, I opened a presentation with my Pepeha. Something that terrified me sadly more than it should have. Not only did I try to open in Te Reo Māori, I tried to share stories of Māori campaigners. Unfortunately, despite 1,200 successful campaigns, I didn’t have that many examples. And, I ended my talk by stating we needed to do more.

One of the attendees came up to me afterwards, and asked about our crowdlending product. Wouldn’t that be something to look at? Couldn’t we model something similar to the Grameen Bank, but co-create it locally?

And, they were right. We believe our crowdlending platform could be used to democratise capital, if we tweaked it. In fact, it is in some ways, the way things used to be done. Historically, communities funded community assets, and then benefited from the value generated from those assets.

How does microlending actually work overseas?

Internationally, the idea of using microlending as a means to bring people out of poverty really isn’t new. The Grameen Bank, arguably the granddaddy of microlending, started almost half a century ago in Bangladesh. We’ve been fans for a very long time. They have been so successful in their attempt to disrupt the cycle of poverty, their founder Muhammad Yunus received a Nobel Prize for his work in 2006.

The Grameen Bank makes small loans (known as microcredit) to those typically unable to borrow without requiring collateral. The bank originated from a research project to study how to design a credit delivery system to provide banking services to the rural poor – a group that was known as the unbankable.

The founding principle is that loans are better than charity to interrupt poverty: it’s about getting money for self determined solutions rather than someone elses idea of what’s needed. They offer people the opportunity to take initiatives in business or agriculture, which provide income to pay off the debt. The bank is founded on the belief that people have endless potential, and unleashing their creativity, initiative and leadership helps them end poverty.

Grameen offers credit to people formerly underserved in Bangladesh: the poor, women, less educated, and unemployed people. Access to credit is based on reasonable terms, such as the group lending system and weekly-instalment payments, with reasonably long terms of loans, enabling the poor to build on their existing skills to earn better income in each cycle of loans.

Every borrower goes through an education programme around what the loan means for them, and is required to bring five of their community through that process with them. That means, when they start repaying their loan their wider community understands what that means and can support.  This inclusive approach to debt means that borrowing is no longer an individual activity, and the community understands and supports the borrower personally (not just financially).

Peer-to-peer lending isn’t new either. It accounts for over two thirds of the crowdfunding market internationally (yep, more than Kickstarter-styled project crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding combined). And, peer-to-peer lending as a mechanism to support microlending isn’t new either. The likes of Kiva has been a major proponent in bringing international money into developing countries.

Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.”

Kiva never collects interest on loans and individual Kiva lenders do not receive interest from loans they support on Kiva. Borrowers might pay interest to local field partners, but not to Kiva. Field Partners are nonprofit organizations, microfinance institutions, schools, social enterprises and are responsible for assessing borrowers and providing training, financial literacy and even health services. Partners must be focussed on alleviating poverty and not be charging excessive interest rates.  Kiva has a very high repayment rate (currently 96.9%), and is internationally recognised for the work they do. Here an international community supports the borrowers financially, but not personally.

How could it work here in Aotearoa?

We believe there is a gap in the market: lending money within OECD countries to parts of the population that have been disadvantaged or excluded through structural inequality. We believe a community can support borrowers both personally and financially, creating a circular and supportive economy. We believe with the right tools and approach, communities can be part of the solution to to provide local opportunities, in a way that empowers rather than excludes. We believe this includes:

  • Co-creation – anything that is done should be done with the community, not to the community.
  • A focus on removing structural inequality – we need to name it as the problem it is.
  • Simplicity– people need to be able to understand what they’re getting into.
  • A transparent platform – people need to see what’s happening both for themselves and others.
  • Matched funding – we believe government has a role in matching the funding raised.
  • Education – not just of the entrepreneurs, but of the wider whānau and community. Both in person, and online.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Māori Women Development Inc (MWDI) to create a new way for communities to fund indigenous and regional entrepreneurs. We believe supporting tangata whenua to access new forms of capital using platforms and tools that have worked can create a whole range of new opportunities – some of which we might only scratch the surface on.

Who are MWDI?

Founded in the 80’s out of the Māori Womens Welfare League an organisation dedicated to the health and wellbeing of Wāhine Māori, MWDI provides loans to Māori women and their whānau to help them to start, expand, or restructure businesses.

MWDI have the ability to lend up to $600,000 per annum and also provide a series of programmes to support wāhine Māori including coaching, financial capability and business development programmes that are delivered regionally. They are constrained by how much they can lend, it needs to be between $10,000 – $50,000, and they can only lend money to women that have not been able to access bank loans and can provide security to back up their loan.  

We have partnered with MWDI to ensure enterprises have access to education and support.  We also see the potential in increasing the number of Māori entrepreneurs and enterprises who might choose to use this platform and provide more whānau and community members the opportunity to invest in businesses that are doing good and have the potential to make a significant social and environmental impact.

What are we doing?

We’re co-creating a platform with the wider community.  With MWDI we’re looking at completing research, creating a first version (if that’s what needed), going out to the wider community to share our plans, and then launching our first campaigns.  We’re going to hit go with our research mid January. Here’s our proposed timeline:

  • Jan 2018 – Research
  • Feb 2018 – Co-design Workshop & Prototype
  • March 2018 – Hikoi – through the regions to support 200 early stage entrepreneurs
  • April 2018 – Education ProgrammeDeliver programme (online and in person) to participants and their five whānau.
  • May 2018 – Campaigns Launch


Here’s what we think the process for the platform will look like (but, first, we need to test it):

Instead of Crowdlending, we’re planning to call it Whānau Lending, and we will call this platform Tā Koha.

Koha = 1. (noun) gift, present, offering, donation, contribution – especially one maintaining social relationships and has connotations of reciprocity.

The platform will be focussed both on supporting funding within communities, as well as across communities. In the words of one of our friends, we see this as a chance to “redress in a small way the tilted scale, the imbalance between communities”

We need as much input with this as we can get. This could come in the form of:

  1. Signing up to attend one of our workshop sessions – this can either be in person or online to assist our team in the co-creation and co-design of this platform.  We are really interested in your thoughts:
    1. do you think crowdlending/crowdfunding works for Māori?  If yes, why, if not why not and what can we do to improve?
    2. If you wanted to contribute to a campaign – what would motivate you to do this?  As a hapu or Iwi partner – what would make you feel compelled to invest. What return on investment might you expect?
  2. Registering interest to: complete our survey, support campaigners once launched, or launch a campaign
  3. Sending us links to your favourite micro lending / P2P platforms overseas
  4. Reaching out to Barry to share your thoughts, or just tell him, Kaye-Maree and the rest of the team they rock!

Questions? Get in touch with Barry on [email protected] or comment below.

Anna, Kaye-Maree, Barry, Teresa and Linda (the team co-creating this platform)

Takeaways from our Crowdlending 101 webinar

This week we achieved a new first: we hosted our first webinar! Anna and myself teamed up to share some of our crowdlending insight – what it is, how it works, the inspiration we’ve gotten from overseas and at home, and how to take the first steps towards launching your crowdlending campaign.

powered by crowdcastHere were some of the big takeaways from the session:

  • Anna can’t pronounce my surname. It’s Greh-hin.
  • Webinar’s are quiet. You’re speaking into an echo chamber. You have to imagine the rapturous applause and the thunderous laughter after every delightful joke and quip!
  • A crowdlending campaign works just the same way as a regular project crowdfunding campaign – you set your $ goal, you set your campaign deadline and you’re aiming to reach your goal by your deadline by collecting pledges from your crowd. The big difference is the reward that you’re offering – paying back your pledgers with interest
  • You have a big say over what your loan looks like. You choose the interest rate you want to offer, the min and max loan that you want to raise, how long the loan will last, how often you’ll pay it back and whether or not you secure your loan with assets. It’s really about giving a voice to the people that matter – your organisation and your crowd
  • Having a partner in crime is helpful. It takes away some of the lone-screen loneliness
  • Our two successful campaigns so far, Eat My Lunch and Denheath Desserts, were both successful partly because they let their campaigns speak to their values. For Eat My Lunch it was replicating their Buy one, Give one impact model for their loan, by offering both a financial reward (interest) and a social reward (more hungry kids fed each month) to their lenders. For Denheath Desserts, it was sharing their story of local pride and seeing almost 40% of their lenders come from the local area.
  • I, em, say “em” a lot. Something to practice, or un-practice.
  • The stories from overseas that have caught our ears have been wide ranging. From a local surf school in rural Ireland raising €10,000 to refurbish their school, to Mexican grub chain, Chilango offering their crowd burritos as interest and raising £2million to open three new London stores.
  • The first questions to answer before diving into preparing for a crowdlending campaign are:            1) is our organisation ready to borrow; and
             2) is our crowd excited to support us?
    Taking our CRED assessment will help you understand if you’re in a good financial position to borrow from your crowd. Drawing up your list of the first 50 people who you believe would support you by pledging, sharing or both and listening to their perspective is the best way to begin to build confidence in your crowd.
  • Try not to fall off the screen when you’re in the middle of answering a question
  • Give enough time for participants to type their questions.. Fill the gaps between asking them to ask, and them asking. I was told to do this by a friend before going live…and then promptly forgot.
  • When you are repaying your loan, we look after the flow of money from you to each of your lenders.
  • For organisations who’ve informally borrowed from their crowd before, PledgeMe.Lend can be a good way to involve that closer crowd but also get you working to spread the story to a wider audience and empower your closer crowd to help with that story-spreading.
  • Most of your pledgers will be either people you know and people who know you.
  • Watching it back at 3x speed is well worth a watch

We’re going to be running more webinars over the coming weeks to help spread our knowledge and crowdfunding insight to any curious campaigner

International Inspiration & Home Truths: Sports clubs

Our series “International Inspiration and Home Truths” shares some of the crowdlending stories we’ve heard from far and wide, brings that inspiration back to Aotearoa and hears from the enthusiasts who’ve helped us to imagine what crowdlending could look like for a range of kiwi organisations. The next type of organisation spilling over the top of our box of inspiration is sports clubs.

Sport is an essential part of many of our lives. A good chunk of us build our identities around the sports we play, watch and follow. Whether it’s rugby or racing, surfing or squash, there’s a little bit of us that belongs to that sport. Our team are no different: for Tan it’s tennis, for Kelsey it’s football, for Barry it’s futsal and for Anna…well, is cheese a sport?

At the core of our sporting-lives is a community of people that get the same buzz that we do ourselves – club members that get such joy out of being involved with and having a sense of ownership over our clubs. Sports clubs are constantly building crowds of members, players, fans and followers.

So have sports teams borrowed from their crowds before? Indeed they have. German football club Hertha Berlin F.C. broke crowdlending records a year ago when they raised €1million in ten minutes from their fans and members. As part of their “Hetha 4.0” strategy, they wanted to refresh their online identity and become the most innovative and inclusive club in Germany.

It’s not just big professional outfits that crowdlending can work for. Fin McCool Surf School on the shores of Donegal in Ireland borrowed €20,000 from their crowd to refurbish their clubhouse last March.

What could happen closer to home?

Imagine, a kiwi surf lifesaving club borrowing interest-free from their members to refurbish their wind battered clubhouse. Rallying their crowd to improve their common home whilst rewarding them by paying them back over time.

The enthusiast who’s inspired us

Geoff Lewis got us thinking about crowdlending for sports clubs when he and Anna crossed paths last year. He’s a proud member and President of Thorndon Tennis and Squash Club in Wellington.

Who are you, and what do you do?

We are the Thorndon Tennis and Squash Club.  As a tennis club, we were established in 1879 making us, we believe, the oldest tennis club in New Zealand.  Even Wimbledon started only a few years before the Thorndon Club! Our vision is to be a thriving, dynamic tennis and squash club in the heart of Wellington. To help achieve our vision, we are striving to upgrade our facilities, some of which are showing their age!  One important project is to upgrade our two existing lawn tennis courts into modern, high-quality playing surfaces for all-year-round use.

What do you think about crowdlending?

Upgrading our lawn tennis courts requires a substantial capital spend. We are hoping to fund this partly with grants from gaming trusts and partly with additional income from a larger member base and from using one existing court as a mid-week parking facility. To bridge the timing gap between the capital spend not covered by grants and future income, we think crowdfunding via loans from our members and supporters is the way to go.  Our lenders will earn interest on their funds, feel good about helping the club, and feel secure about getting their money back over time.

What are your concerns about crowdlending in New Zealand?

Crowdlending in New Zealand is still relatively unknown. At the same time, more stringent financial regulations in New Zealand require a professional approach to raising funds.  We think for a modest-sized sports club such as ourselves, it makes sense to use a crowdlending platform like PledgeMe to ensure that all the legal and technical boxes are ticked.

What excites you about it?

If crowdlending helps Thorndon Club to build two brilliant new tennis courts, and upgrade other facilities such as our four squash courts, it will be a very exciting achievement for us and for the inner-city community of Wellington who I’m sure make great use of them.

A little bit curious about how crowdlending can work for your local club? Chat to us!

International Inspiration & Home Truths: Craft Beer

Our series “International Inspiration & Home Truths” shares some of the crowdlending stories we’ve heard from across the globe, and brings that inspiration back to Aotearoa. You’ll find out what’s happening overseas, but also hear from some of the enthusiasts who’ve helped us to imagine what crowdlending could look like for a range of kiwi organisations. The second area we’re diving into is craft beer (one of our favourite things).

The UK is dominating the craft beer crowdfunding market

BrewDog are arguably leading the way internationally on the crowdfunding front. They’ve done four rounds of Equity for Punks, and have raised over £26million ($49million NZD) from 50,000 investors for their Scotland-started craft beer company.

It all started with two men and a dog. Their first pitch video in 2009 shows much younger, less hip versions of the founders James Watt and Martin Dickie. They stand earnestly in front of their brewery kit sharing their big plans for their beer.

Equity for Punks from BrewDog on Vimeo.

They took a huge leap, from starting in 2007 to becoming a publicly listed company in 2009. Their first round closed in February 2010 and saw the punk founders raise over £642,000 from 1,350 investors. Their early supporters not only got shares in the company, but also beer discounts and an invite to the annual general meeting, which you could literally call a piss up in a brewery. Though, now it’s a piss up over 10 different bars. Here’s a video recap of their latest AGM:

#PUNKAGM17 Recap from BrewDog on Vimeo.

Not ones to shy away from bold statements, in 2015 during their Equity for Punks IV round the founders took to a helicopter and dropped taxidermied “fat cats” onto the city of London. Over the following 12 months they raised over £19m from their crowd, making it one of the largest crowdfunding campaigns in history.

Equity for Punks IV – Death to the Fat Cats from BrewDog on Vimeo.

But, their latest move into the crowdlending space is arguably their most exciting move yet.

“This is funding for the 21st century”

Their BrewDog Bonds II were launched late 2016, and they raised their maximum goal of $10million from 2,699 investors in less than 30 days.

The BrewDog Bond from BrewDog on Vimeo.

Their mini bond offered their investors a 7.5% interest rate over four years, as well as beer discounts. The bonds were focussed on accelerating growth, both in the UK and in America where they are currently building a new factory in Ohio.

Today, Brew Dogs have held the title of the fast growing food and beverage company in the UK the last four years, and have been profitable since 2008. They have revenue exceeding $70million, over 800 “passionate people” working for them and 50 brew bars all over the globe.

Recently, BrewDog’s sold 23% of their company to TSG Consumer Partners for £213m, which gives their investors from their first round in 2010 a 2,800% return (though, they are capped at selling 40 shares in this round of shareholder buy backs).

And the UK influence has sailed across the sea to Ireland

You don’t have to be a monumental punk-backed beer behemoth to borrow from your crowd. Local independent brewery from County Wicklow (where Barry’s clan are from!), O Brother Brewing, borrowed a modest €20,000 from their crowd to expand their brewery and create an experiential tour for the passers-by.

One of the three-brother strong team, Padhraig O’Neill reflected on their experience “The idea of peer-to-peer lending really appealed to us. Promoting our business and the hassle-free process was great, it is the future of business finance.

Closer to home

While these have been intriguing developments in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve been really excited about what it could mean for craft beer companies closer to home. Because craft beer and crowdfunding seem to be a match made in a beer-fuelled heaven.

We’ve seen two swift and well supported campaigns through PledgeMe for Wellington-based craft brewers. First up with Yeastie Boys, who raised their half a million goal in half an hour in 2015, followed by the Matts at ParrotDog raising their goal of $2million in two days the following year.

So we’ve asked some of our smart friends (and alumni) to tell us what they think. What could crowdlending mean for the beer makers in (or from) Aotearoa?

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Stu McKinlay, accidental entrepreneur, Benevolent Dictator and co-founder of Yeastie Boys. I make people happy with delicious beer in pretty designs.

What do you think about crowdlending?

My initial thoughts around crowdlending is that it’s fantastic to see the modern market adapt to the opportunities that present themselves from us being so connected. To me funding and lending through the crowd is simply an extension of the way many people used to fund businesses and projects, via their friends, but the process can be sped up now thanks to technology.

Could something like the BrewDog bonds happen in New Zealand?

It will happen in New Zealand! I have no doubts.

What are your concerns about crowdlending in New Zealand?

The concerns I have about crowdlending are pretty much the same as crowdfunding… simply that people are educated around what the risks and rewards are.

What excites you about it?

I’m always excited by things that create more opportunities for competition… crowdlending, like crowdfunding before it, gives so many more people the opportunity to build their business in a way that would not have been available to them a few years ago. With people who would have never known that the business even existed, let alone been looking for capital. It builds a community around business growth rather than having a bunch of banks doing everything.


Inspired? Curious? Want more than a sip? Chat to us!

Back to basics: How do you get started with a crowdlending campaign?

Lending can seem pretty scary, so we’ve decided to go back to the basics in this series and explain everything you need to know. We started with a brief history of lending and how lending works. Second up: how do you get started with a campaign?

What do you need to get started?

The first thing you need to check is your structure: are you set up as an organisation? Crowdlending the way we do it is only for those folk that have set up some form of organisation – be it a company, a school, a charitable trust, a co-op, a club.

The second thing you need to check is: will you be able to repay your loan? We’ll ask for some basic financial information in our CRED to check this, but you should be honest with yourself first. If you borrow money, will you be able to repay it? We don’t want to let you get into a situation where you definitely can’t repay your crowd.

Finally, you need to know what the money would be used for? How is it helping your organisation? The pitch to your crowd will need to be clear. Which means you need to be clear with yourself.


How does the CRED work?

Your journey begins with our Campaign Readiness Evaluation for Debt (aka the CRED). To get an insight into your organisation and your ability to repay the loan, we’re gonna ask you some questions. If you have your organisation’s financial statements at the ready, it will only take a few moments…five minute long moments to be precise!

The CRED works by pulling out a handful of financial measurements from your statements – the most important ones being how solvent your organisation is (have you funded yourself through equity and profits or through debt?) and the liquidity of the company (how effectively you manage your short-term cash flow). And your combined score from all of the measurements is compared to our ready / not ready threshold.


Steps to take

If you can tick the three boxes above, and understand how the CRED works, you should head along to PledgeMe.Lend and create a request. Here’s how you do that:

  1. First up you’ll be asked to complete your CRED as outlined above: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/loans/cred
  2. Next you’ll be asked to fill out your basic lending request. Don’t worry, none of this information is set in stone!
  3. After that, we’ll be in touch to set up CrowdfundingU. If you’re a smaller campaign (under $100,000) we’ll just run you through a two to three session programme. If you’re looking to raise more, we’ll help you through the complete CrowdfundingU programme to make sure you’re ready to go out to your crowd in a big way.
  4. CrowdfundingU covers everything you need to do from creating your documentation, understanding how not to be false or misleading, learning how to create a comms plan, through to what you should include in your pitch video.
  5. Once all your content is created, we’ll do one final check on your page, your leadership team, and your plans. Then we’ll hit go!
  6. Before your campaign is live, you’ll need to have a plan around communication. Some comms will come naturally out of celebrating milestones, and some will be pre-planned (weekly updates, pitches to media, etc).
  7. Hopefully, you meet your goal by your deadline!
  8. PledgeMe checks all of your lenders (to make sure they are who they say they are) and sets up the loan contract between you and your new lenders.
  9. We’ll be in touch regularly, especially to remind you when your loan repayments are happening, and can help with any questions as you go.

How do you figure out your repayment terms?

Really, this is up to you. You can set the interest rate at something you think (or better yet, know) will be of interest to your crowd and is also affordable for you. We can help you figure out what the right balance for you and your crowd might be.

You can choose to repay your loan over one year, two years…anything up to five years. And you can choose to make repayments every month, four times a year, twice a year or once a year. You can also choose whether or not you want to secure your loan with specific assets that your organisation owns

What does it mean if you can’t run a campaign?

It doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to run a campaign! It just means right now it’s not right for you. You could look at running a project or an equity campaign, or just wait until your revenue and equity has increased (or your costs and liabilities have decreased) to a point where repayment looks possible.

Don’t take it to heart, we still think you’re pretty rad. Promise.

Got questions?

Hit us up in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you like, what confuses you, what else you need in this crowdlending journey. If you’d prefer to chat to one of us direct, send us a line on [email protected]

Back to basics: How does lending work?

Lending can seem pretty scary, so we’ve decided to go back to the basics in this series and explain everything you need to know. First up: how does lending work?

A (very) short history of lending

Lending isn’t new by any means.

The first loans were lent in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, where pawnbrokers first started offering loans that were secured by animals and tools from the person borrowing. Through the Middle Ages the form of lending changed, including the introduction of indentured loans where the rich lent to the poor, who worked off those loans over time.

In the 18th century, Mayer Amschel Rothschild set up the first international banking system by sending his sons to five European cities to create a network for transferring money. Up until 2004 the Rothschild Bank Offices set the gold price daily.

In the late 18th century building societies started, where membership payments financed the building of member houses. Move forward to the 19th century and The Philadelphia Savings Fund Society was started so that everyday Americans could get loans and save money.

In New Zealand, the first colonial banks were started in the 1840’s. But, lending was not accessible or even seen as a function of the banks. Commercial loan-houses sprung up to fill the void, particularly for farmers who were unable to access funds. “Indeed the common subject of the talk of the settlements was the way in which the banks were retarding development. The matter was made the subject of special consideration by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce in 1858.” (Bedford, 1916). Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until the 1940’s that lending to individuals started in New Zealand, with the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) opening “New Zealand’s first personal loans department to grant loans to private individuals”.

Modern technology started entering the banking sector in the 1960’s, with the first purchases of computers.  Since then, New Zealand has been at the leading edge of technology in finance.

But, what is a loan?

It’s an exchange of money.

You can think of it as “today-dollars” being exchanged for “tomorrow-dollars”. Someone who has money today but doesn’t need it, connecting with someone who needs money today but doesn’t have it.

The money is typically put towards something productive by the borrower (it could be goods to sell, or machinery to make something of value, or property) that will help to repay the money-giver (known as a lender).

The length of the loan is set so you know when repayments are to made, and the lender is usually rewarded with interest. To give your lenders a bit more comfort you can choose to use stuff to secure the loan – assets like machinery or property. If things don’t work out as planned and you can’t repay your loan, then that stuff gets given to your lenders as compensation.

How does crowdlending work?

Crowdlending rewrites the lending script. The usual single lender is turned into many supportive lenders. So instead of one financial institution lending money to you, your crowd become your  collective lenders. The interest that you choose to pay on your loan will reward your crowd, so that the benefit stays with the people that matter within your community.

Who can borrow money from their crowd?

Companies can borrow from their crowd through PledgeMe.Lend. Organisations (like schools, clubs, not-for-profits, co-ops and community groups) can borrow too.

The things you need to think about

When it comes to your crowdlending campaign the important things to think about are:

  • What will we spend the money on?
  • Can we repay the money borrowed? If that will be hard, it could be too risky to go down this route.
  • Who are our crowd? Are they excited about supporting us?
  • What would motivate our crowd to support? Interest? Extra rewards?
  • Can we dedicate time to create our campaign and tell our crowd what’s happening?
  • What do we want to get out of our campaign beyond money? Strengthening the bonds with our supporters? Publicity & awareness? Finding brand ambassadors who’ll share our story with their worlds? Creating a do-it-ourselves way for us to bring our ideas to life?

To suss out if a loan is right for you, ask yourself

  • Do we do something that generates money (sell stuff, run events, hire out your venue, have paying members), so that we can repay our crowd?
  • How much interest could we pay?


If you’re interested in learning more about crowdlending, sign up for our weekly digests on lending during the month of May.




International Inspiration & Home Truths: Community Energy

Our series “International Inspiration and Home Truths” shares some of the crowdlending stories we’ve heard from far and wide, brings that inspiration back to Aotearoa and hears from the enthusiasts who’ve helped us to imagine what crowdlending could look like for a range of kiwi organisations. First up is the transformative world of community energy projects.

How can a sustainably-minded community create a more resilient energy landscape for themselves? The Great Dunkilns community in Gloucester, UK decided to take the problem of funding into their own hands by, along with conscious investors throughout the country, collectively lending £1.4million to construct a community scale wind turbine on their turf. The energy produced is being used to power local houses, with the excess being sold back to the grid. The money earned from the energy is used to pay back their lenders their investment plus an annual interest rate of 7%.


There’s been some big government support in Britain too. Swindon Borough Council, to deliver on their vision of developing a low carbon economy by 2030, co-funded a common solar farm – the £1.7million contributed by the crowd was double-matched by the council.

How could empowered local communities power New Zealand?

Imagine, an off-grid wind turbine – built by and for the local residents of a wind-battered coastal community – being funded by that community and the many renewable believers all over both islands, North and South. Now imagine many of these renewably-powered pockets, from Dunedin to Wellington to Kaitaia, enabling New Zealand to achieve our goal of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2020.

We’ve seen a few great examples of clean energy crowdfunding through PledgeMe already, with Blueskin Energy crowdfunding to build a measurement tower, and Powerhouse Wind equity crowdfunding their single bladed wind turbine (below).

The enthusiast who’s inspired us

Renewable energy fanatic and our friend, Ian Shearer, first opened our eyes to the potential of crowdlending for community energy initiatives from his experience in the UK. Here’s Ian’s perspective on crowdlending:

What about crowdlending appeals to you?

I’m a community-minded person – always have been. I was involved with co-operative lending many years ago, which has partly paved the path for crowdlending. So that’s how I began to see the mechanism of crowdlending come together. But what really appeals to me is being able to invest in my passion, to invest in renewable energy.

What good things have you seen achieved in the community energy space?

What first brought me into the community energy world wasn’t necessarily my passion for renewables. It was my involvement with small communities in Scotland, and seeing the desire of these small communities to own their own the systems to enable them to power themselves. Community Energy Scotland were an extremely progressive organisation and they recognised crowdlending as the way to go to not just make community energy projects viable, but also to allow the people in the local area to benefit financially from the success of those projects. They were one of the first to take that step to help small island communities create and fund self-reliant wind-powered energy systems.

Biggest benefit beyond the money?

Collective ownership of something that matters to you.

Compared to the UK, what major obstacles do you see lying in the way of community energy crowdlending in New Zealand?

Two things really. A first successfully funded project that leads the way for others to follow. And secondly, once we find some traction, not being able to trade your investment may be an obstacle to grow the involvement of investors.


Are you inspired by what you’ve read, and interested in turning to crowdlending for your community energy outfit? Chat to us!

Why are we doing Lending Month of May?

Here at PledgeMe, we’re launching a whole month of Lending related goodness. Why? Because we think lending has gotten a bit of a bad rep.

Over the month of May, we want to connect with Kiwis who are curious about crowdlending, and help demystify it for them.

How will we do that?

  • We’ll explain what it means in a super straight forward way; borrowing money doesn’t need to be as complicated as it’s been made out to be. We’ll compare traditional forms of debt to crowdfunded loans and we’ll also talk about the wider peer-to-peer space.
  • We’ll create case studies on how it has worked in the past.
  • We’ll host a webinar so we can answer your questions real time, and then blog about it.
  • We’ll be speaking at other people’s events (if you’ve got one, let us know!) and host our own.
  • We’ll be writing a weekly blog series showcasing how crowdlending can work for various companies and organisations (more on this below.)
  • We’re creating a podcast series
  • We’re putting together a mini-documentary on our people behind the bubble

First up: what is crowdlending??

Crowdlending is pretty simple. It’s going out to your crowd for funding and paying them back over time, on your terms. You’re in control. You choose the amount of your loan, the interest rate that you’ll offer to your crowd, the timeframe of your loan, whether or not you want to secure your loan and the additional rewards you’d like to offer to your crowd.

It’s a transparent process, and on our platform, PledgeMe.Lend, we focus on loans for organisations and companies (rather than for individual people).

We’ve so far helped two companies borrow from their crowds – Eat My Lunch and Denheath Desserts, who’ve collectively raised $1.2 million from their supporters – but we want to help more companies, not-for-profits, sports clubs and schools.

We think crowdlending is exciting because the interest is being earned by your crow and going back out into the community.

Who’s crowdlending for?

Crowdlending can be for any company or organisation that has a crowd and could repay a loan to their crowd. It’s for those that would prefer to reach out to those people (and reward them) rather than going through a more traditional borrowing process.

It’s for organisations that have been operating for a couple of years, are revenue generating and preferably profitable, and have some equity on their balance sheet. It’s for organisations who’ve built a community of followers around them and want to activate that crowd.

Who are we?

Barry is the main person behind PledgeMe.Lend. In a past life, he was a banker. He’s taken his insight into how things have traditionally been done, and created a more inclusive way for organisations to borrow to fund the things they care about . He wants to help us reimagine debt: to see a loan – when used simply and honestly – as an enabler, that allows an organisation to take opportunities for themselves and make opportunities for those around them.

What we’ve seen happen around the world?

To help demystify crowdlending, throughout the month of May, we’ll be sharing stories of what’s happened overseas, and showing how those examples could work in Aotearoa as well. Like:

  • Intrigue Chocolate in Seattle raised over $40,000USD to improve their retail space as 85% of their shoppers were from foot traffic. Now, imagine a chocolate factory in New Zealand looking to expand their exports or improve their shop.
  • The Art of Coffee in Dublin borrowed €7,200 to buy a top-of-the-range sandwich machine and discovered a crowd of new customers along the way. Could a local kiwi cafe activate their crowd of customers to help them buy a brand-spanking new roaster to enhance the coffee experience they’re creating.
  • BrewDog are leading the way in the crowdfunding world, and their BrewDog Bonds last year are no different. What would it look like for a craft brewer in New Zealand to borrow money to make more beer with new fermentation tanks and bottling machines?.
  • Hertha Berlin Football Club in Germany raised €1million in ten minutes to refresh their online identity. Imagine if a sports club here went to go out to their members and fans to help refurbish their facilities.
  • Stellenbosch Waldorf School in Capetown raised 363,400 South African Rand to fit their school building with solar panels. Imagine if a New Zealand based school kitted out their roof with solar panels to help energise themselves and power some extra eco-education for their students.
  • Evergreen Escapes borrowed $25,000USD to create a hub for travellers to come together to learn, chat, share and plan. How about a not-for-profit food catering social enterprise closer to home buying a food-truck, so that they can serve a wider audience, without being held back by their inability to issue shares to raise equity funding.

If you haven’t already, you can go to our lending landing page and sign up to our newsletter list to get the content first. You can check out all our previous content there as well.

We’re always more than happy to chat about how this could work for you, so if you’ve any burning questions feel free reach out to Barry at [email protected].

Why I invest

We’re a curious bunch here at PledgeMe. Although less flickering-bulb-in-your-face-as-we-interrogate curious, and more so-what’s-your-story curious. We get to hear the reasons behind the ideas when we chat with campaigners and it’s so good seeing someone light up with passion when they lay their story out for us.

But it’s only recently that I’ve begun stopping and asking the other people that matter – the crowd – about their stories, about their motivation to support kiwi ingenuity. And the responses are so wide-ranging.

There’s a whole spectrum of reasons – profit-seeking, prestige, emotional fulfilment, social belonging – some quite visible and logical, some less so but just as powerful.


Many ways to shear a sheep

Fair to say, there’s many ways to shear a sheep. And there’s many reasons for doing so. For wool. For competition. For the moment. For the story. For kicks. For the sheep’s productivity and wellbeing. For the farm. For the shear enjoyment! Every shearer has their own why. Likewise for every investor.

Crowdsourcing the Why

I want to get your insight. I want to hear from our crowd. What thoughts and feelings swim through you before you invest? Regardless of whether you’ve just tried it once or you’re a serial campaign backer, I’d love to hear your one-line reason: Why I invest.

Why I invest?

Sure why don’t I set the wheels in motion. For me, money is only as valuable as the things it enables me and others to do.

I invest to empower companies who are making a real & positive impact on people’s lives and are doing it their own way.

Take a minute and tell us your “why” here.