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.

What's Up Wednesday

Stu Buchanan’s Real Book

Stu Buchanan was a most beloved jazz musician especially in Christchurch where he based and all around NZ. One of his former students, Nanako Sato, helped him launch a PledgeMe campaign in 2013 to fund his album “Hey! What’s the Time?”. While Stu has since passed away, Nanako is keeping his legacy alive through a book that contains Stu’s stories and compositions. We talk to Nanako to find out more about the campaign.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

Stu Buchanan was a beloved jazz musician, especially in Christchurch, where he was based, but also all around New Zealand. Throughout his 50 year music career, he had frequent appearances on various radio shows as member of several music ensembles from the 70s to the 90s, entertaining people at many bars, weddings, and jazz festivals. He taught or gigged with most of the musicians in Christchurch. Many people are still grieving his passing in 2014. He was much loved by those he inspired and encouraged by his music, music making, and his teaching. To have his original compositions book would be a fantastic and fitting tribute for his former students, colleagues, fans, and whanau.

I started this project, the making of the Stu Buchanan Real Book while he was still alive. With great time and effort, and with his permission, I have compiled his compositions from 1968 to 2013 into Real Book format. When Stu passed away in 2014, it was really hard for me to keep working on this project but gradually I have endeavoured to bring this work to completion. It is with intense feelings of satisfaction and relief that this project has almost reached its final production.

I think this campaign is important because I believe it will reach out to much wider audience than what I could achieve by email or Facebook.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

I organised and set up a PledgeMe campaign for Stu in 2013 in order for him to record his album “Hey! What’s the Time”, which was a great success and for which I know Stu was extremely appreciative. During that campaign, I realised that the target audience of his music was much greater than I had been aware. Consequently, I made some new friends and acquaintances with people who all shared in a common love and respect for Stu. Once again, my hope is that this platform will reach its wide audience.

Another thing I learnt from the previous campaign was that through PledgeMe, I was able to count how many copies to print. As I do not have a budget to print off hard copies, I undertook a survey last year, asking people to confirm their interest in a hard copy of a Stu Buchanan Real Book or their preference for a PDF version only. Surprisingly, even in this online age, people still preferred to receive a hard copy. In fact, most people (and especially musos) wanted both a PDF and a hard copy version.

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

What I am really excited about is reaching my goal so that I can print off the copies. I am organising a book launch party in May. I will post the details on the PledgeMe page as well as the RIP Stu Buchanan Facebook page.

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

I want to say thank you for reading this blog. Many thanks to those who have already pre-ordered the books and left lovely messages for me. You guys are amazing. And thanks in advance to the people still intending to contribute in the near future.

I sincerely hope people will realise that I will only be able to print off copies equal to the number of orders I get through this campaign as there is no other budget to allow for additional copies. I hope no one will miss out ordering this time, so please help older people or those around you with a computer phobia and offer them your assistance for the PledgeMe process as this may cause a lot of stress for elderly people, like my mother.

To order a copy of Stu’s Real Book, check out the campaign page here

What's Up Wednesday

Nina and Reta’s Cape Epic Adventure

To say that Nina and Reta are enthusiastic about mountain biking is probably an understatement. They are set to go to South Africa to compete in an eight day mountain bike race in just two weeks. We talk to Reta about their campaign and how they are using it to inspire folk (and especially female folk!) to get out on their own bikes.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

We love riding bikes. We love adventures. And we love challenging ourselves. When the opportunity arose to ride in Cape Epic – an eight day mountain bike race in South Africa – we couldn’t say no. As well as encapsulating everything we love, Cape Epic stands for a great challenge that we want other bikers (and especially female bikers) to be inspired by.

We have heard some great stories trickle through about the influence we have had on our crowd. For example, one friend – who is incidentally a grandmother – entered a four day mountain bike race called the Pioneer thanks to Nina’s persistent encouragement. By putting our goal of Cape Epic out on PledgeMe for our crowd to see, we hope to get others to follow our journey and, even better, get out on their own bikes!

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

A friend encouraged us to create a PledgeMe campaign. We were drawn in by the fact that we are not simply asking for donations. We have been overwhelmed by the generous support that has come our way, and we always aim to give our supporters something back. This campaign has enabled us to create the opportunity for our supporters to win a year’s supply of Talley’s ice cream!

We also have a Facebook page where our supporters can follow our journey. We love creating videos – it is a great way to bring our supporters with us. We have also done a lot of fundraising in Christchurch. Some of our crowd have turned up to every single event! But by launching this campaign, we can reach those in our crowd who live elsewhere.  

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

We will be providing regular video updates to our Facebook crowd from the actual race. It is in two week’s time, so not long to wait now!

We are also very excited to announce the winner of the Talley’s ice cream draw. Our campaign closes on 1 March so we will be announcing the lucky winners shortly after (keep an eye on our Facebook page).

You may have noticed that one of our closest supporters is the Hirepool Horse. He will hopefully be spotted at the Cape Epic race, up to his usual antics as well as supporting us. After all, we plan to talk, sing and laugh our way to the finish of Cape Epic.

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

We want to send out a HUGE thank you to our crowd! We will definitely be thinking of you all in the hard times, as we try to push a little harder and deeper.

Finally, we want to remind you that if you haven’t pledged yet, this is a great opportunity to win a year’s supply of Talley’s ice cream. As well as helping us get to Cape Epic, you will be in to win an ample supply of some excellent post-adventure recovery food!

Ice cream for a year? Yes please! Head over to Reta and Nina’s campaign page here

What's Up Wednesday

Have your Cake and eat it too

Olivia is creating a film to share the reality of living a life full of anxiety (and cake). We chat to Olivia to learn why Cake is going to provide excellent food for thought to its viewers.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

I’ve suffered from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D) for the past 10 years. It nearly consumed me. There were days where I expected the worse to happen. Even though our lives can be unpredictable – I thrived on making my days as predictable as possible and act as if it would all fall apart. I ended up staying indoors and found my comfort through baking. I found that baking and crafting a cake can take hours. I spent the entire day making these delicious cakes, just to make the day go by.

At the age of 21, I bought a few items at my local supermarket and all I did was have a panic attack. I realised that I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t justify why I needed to stay inside. I needed to get help. Through the help of my psychiatrist, I learned to walk outside again. I joined Rata Studios – led by my amazing teacher/mentor Miranda Harcourt. It took a while, but eventually I walked into her classroom and didn’t feel that sense of dread that nearly consumed me. I gained a passion for acting, and for telling stories through the character’s that I played out.

However, I craved more.

I spent hours online researching about directing. I started making videos for people and gained some knowledge about filming. I wrote my CAKE screenplay in under 5 hours. I already knew the story and I knew that this this would be important for those who are currently feeling like they’re alone. I want them to know that they aren’t.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

There are many types of artform to express an emotion or an idea. For me, I think that’s creating a film. I believe that this story could help bring awareness to those who are suffering from not only anxiety, but for those who are too afraid to ask for help for any issue they may have.

Unfortunately, to create a film can be rather expensive. I have a lovely small crew of Wellingtonians who are able to relate somewhat to the screenplay. We want to make an important film and we want to tell it right. This PledgeMe campaign will enable me to pay my crew and rent the equipment we need to further this project.

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

Apart from finishing up last-minute documents for filming, I am also currently in the process of reaching out to the local newspaper to cover my story and to help spread awareness. I also intend to add a few more rewards in the last week of the PledgeMe campaign – so keep an eye out!

Also, the crew and I will scream until our voices crack if we reach our target! Thanks in advance for bringing us this joy! We finish filming the night before my birthday, so I think a glass of wine and a few cakes will be in order.

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

I just want to say how amazing these supporters are. It made me cry knowing that there are people out there who have suffered and want this story to get out. This shout out is for them. My other shout out is for my psychiatrist and my acting teacher. You’re both amazing and without you both, I would possibly still be in my house, dreading the day as it goes by. Thank you.

In the mood for some Cake? Head over to Olivia’s campaign page here

What's Up Wednesday

Te Kōtare – a project to make Jenny Shearer’s dream fly

Jenny was a early childhood teacher who had a dream that all children would grow up in Aotearoa feeling comfortable moving through their own world and the world of tangata whenua. Jenny passed away before this dream happened. We talk to her whanau about how they are now making this dream a reality through a PledgeMe campaign.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

My wife Jen had a really strong passion for teaching children te reo māori – she was  a pre-school teacher, and took great care to fulfill this part of the curriculum. When she became unwell the first time, she reconsidered her work, and took some more time to focus on the songs she had been writing and teaching the children at her pre school (Little Earth Montessori, on the Kāpiti Coast). She worked really hard with local Māori to be respectful to the language, and to local history. In particular, she worked a lot with Matiu Te Huki, who is something of a local legend (and an international one, in fact) to craft the songs and the lyrics – Matui teaches waiata to children all around the Kāpiti area, and was amazing help.

So, Jen’s dream, was that these waiata could contribute to the education of children, and giving them more tools to live bi-culturally. We are not Māori, neither was Jen, but we are pākehā, and  we think that it is very important to live in a bi-cultural way – that’s the deal, and we can only have better lives by doing that.

It’s clear that as a language, Māori has a huge disadvantage – in that it is not as widely used as it could be, or should be – but it has this great advantage also, it’s beautiful and interesting and fun to learn.  Jenny just wanted to play her part in spreading a bit of that around.  Because she died, before we could get them recorded, it’s important to us, to honour her dream, and get them to as wide an audience as possible.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

Our crowd is quite interesting. Many many people came to Jenny’s funeral, you know, for an introvert, it was amazing just how many people were there and were affected by her passing. She was such an encourager to so many people. She died soon after we completed transcribing all the songs she had written, so many people knew about her dream.

PledgeMe seems to be a perfect way to follow up on that dream, and reach out to the various groups – her close and distant family, colleagues from the early childhood sector, old school friends, other parents. We are really seeing a great response from people with interest in early childhood and primary education, music, and te reo, which is just what we had hoped for!

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

We are still in the process of polishing off some of the recordings, and we are working on the songs having some real Wellington love behind them – while they are all recorded, we are approaching a number of fabulous artists, people like Warren Maxwell, and Lisa Tomlins, Al Faser, who is known for his knowledge and expertise in taonga puoro – we’ll be polishing off the recordings with these folk too. And more animations of the songs, we are super excited about that!

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

Yes!  We are so grateful for the support of Matiu te Huki, for the reasons mentioned before. And also for Lee Prebble – we had a really fun day in his studio, where so many music legends have recorded, he has been so generous in his support for this project.

And to everyone who has pledged and contributed in many ways so far, or about to. Honouring Jen’s dream in this way is the best that any of us could do for her.

You can pledge to the Te Kōtare campaign here

What's Up Wednesday

Aroha for plant-based cuisine

Yingjie was inspired by the range of vegan and vegetarian restaurants she encountered on trips to Australia. So much so, that she has teamed up with her co-conspirer and cooking enthusiast, Silvia, to start a vegan-based restaurant in the heart of Wellington. From plant-based power bowls to epic mylkshakes, Aroha is set to please. Yingjie gives us some insight into the Aroha campaign.

Why do you think this campaign important?

Eating plant-based food is a lifestyle people choose to be healthier, as well as being environmentally and animal friendly. The opening of Aroha in central Wellington will definitely change the landscape of vegan eating. The food offered at Aroha will also cater for people who are non-vegans, we want to inspire non-vegans to try plant-based food.

Lunch at Aroha will provide a variety of options on grains, plant-based protein; plant-based meat, cooked and raw vegetables and vegan sauce to enhance flavour. Aroha will offer interesting vegetables like Wakame seaweed salad, Shiitake mushroom stripes, Wood Ear mushroom salad – foods that Mother Earth offers in bounty, waiting for us to explore!

This campaign is important because, with the support of our crowd, we can open Aroha and get off to a flying start in our mission to rally enthusiasm about vegan food in Wellington.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

We appeal to the crowd to pledge anything from $5 towards our goal.

We have already invested over $240k to set up the business from scratch, after paying the design company, the equipment supplier, the trades people, we still need $20k to allow smooth cash flow running to the opening date on 20 February.

I have just resigned from my professional job in IT to fully dedicate my time to Aroha. This is not only because I want to follow my passion for plant-based food, but also for the positive impact on sustainability and animal welfare.

Together, we can make the world a better place. We believe our community will thrive when we help each other. That’s why we are offering our (delicious) food as rewards for your help.

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

The construction work at Aroha will be completed on 5 February. We will then start our trial cooking to ensure everything works. We will publish some photos of Aroha then. Join our journey – check our pledgeme page, facebook page or our website for updates.  

We will also have a stall at the Vegan Vault Night Market this Saturday 3rd February at 171 Victoria Street. Please come along to taste our food!

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

We want to send our love and appreciation to everyone who had already pledged. For the people who are planning on pledging, we send you a huge pre-thank you!

We want to let our crowd know that we are committed to do our best to provide people in Wellington with delicious plant-based food!

Tummy grumbling at the sound of delicious plant-based food? Give Aroha some aroha here!

What's Up Wednesday

Car(e) for the Community Driving School

The Puketapapa Community Driving School see driver licences as an important passport to living in our current world. And when one stops to think about it, PCDS is absolutely right. A licence provides independence and a mode family transportation; it is a requirement for many jobs and can be a source of pride. We chat to the team behind PCDS to learn why they have launched a campaign to crowdfund for a second practice car.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

Almost half of New Zealanders sitting restricted driver licences are failing, with a lack of practice behind the wheel being blamed. Many people – especially those for whom English is not their first language – struggle to pass the theory and practical tests. We know that many learner drivers get stuck with their learner licence for many years because of a lack of mentors, a practice car and/or the means to pay for driving lessons.

So, after two years of tedious preparations in setting up our very own driving school, we successfully launched Puketapapa Community Driving School in December 2017 to make driver training more affordable and accessible to our communities.

To date, 35 learners started practical driving lessons. We have over 80 learner drivers on our waitlist, including almost 40 former refugees. But having only one practice car means that learners have to wait longer for available mentor and car at their preferred day and time. This campaign will help us to fund the purchase of a second practice car. 

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

We appeal to our crowd to contribute from $5 towards our goal of getting another practice car so we can help more learners especially former refugees and young people who are at risk of getting caught by police when they drive with learner licence without a supervisor.  

One Somali mother who failed her restricted test five times expressed, “In Africa we don’t have to drive, but here in NZ you really have to especially if you have children.” A Burmese father, who failed his restricted test twice, is grateful to be able to practice and prepare better for his upcoming test with the help of PCDS.

The NZTA recommends at least 120 hours of practical driving experience for a learner driver to be prepared to sit restricted test. Getting another car will enable us to do more bookings and help more learners pass their restricted and full licence tests. We believe our community can thrive together, if we just help each other out through initiatives like PCDS. 

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

On Monday 5 February we will mark the two month anniversary of the launch of PCDS. Pledgers who donate $50 and above and share our campaign with the hashtag #DrivingYourSuccess can take up the opportunity of one free driving lesson. This is a great opportunity to get to know us and the work we are doing – with the support of you, our crowd! 

Anything else you would like to shout out to your crowd?

Book. Volunteer. Donate!

Please help spread the word about our campaign and keep telling friends that by booking through PCDS, not only do they gain expert advice and support, but will also support young people, new migrants, ethnic women and resettled communities (former refugees) gain their driver licence. 100% of our profits will be used to subsidise their learner driver training and licensing.

If you are really interested, we would love you to colunteer to help a young person, new migrant or former refugee learn to drive. With the help of volunteer driver mentors we are able to offer subsidised training to young people, new migrants, ethnic women and resettled communities (former refugees).  

Right now though, PCDS needs all the help we can get to support those who find it the hardest to gain their drivers licence. If you can give up one fancy coffee or lunch, and instead pledge $5 or more to our campaign, we promise you will have a happy heart in the knowledge that you are helping someone gain a very important skill that will make a huge difference to their daily life. 

To help more people like Hakim and Ramzan Bibi (pic, above) to go through the Puketapapa Community Driving School, donate to their page here

What's Up Wednesday

All Bi Myself wants you to join Mia’s journey

All Bi Myself is a web series about Mia, a 22 year old female who comes out as bisexual to her family and church. With two great episodes already produced, All Bi Myself needs your help to fund the rest of the series.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

This campaign is important because it represents someone who we simply do not see in the media. We have found that bisexuality too often misses out – both in mainstream media and in the LGBT community. All Bi Myself aims to fill that gap – we want people to see themselves in a character like Mia (the star character in our web series).

Everyone involved in the campaign is doing this as a passion project. We’re not out to make money but we do need funding to pull it all off!

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

We were actually inspired by ‘PSUSY’ – a NZ web series that prides itself as showcasing “flawed and gross” women. It launched a PledgeMe campaign in 2017. We are big fans of the team behind PSUSY and were inspired to also use PledgeMe as an alternative to funding.

We love the idea of getting our whole fanbase involved. It is awesome to know that people who enjoyed episodes one and two want to get behind us as we make the rest of the episodes in season one. We also love that we can offer our crowd rewards for supporting us, rather than simply asking for money.

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

Within our crowd is a fantastic posse of small businesses who have approached us to ask if they can donate in kind to our cause rather than giving us money. The great news is that it means we have some pretty cool rewards to pass onto our pledgers! So we definitely recommend keeping an eye on our PledgeMe page and our Facebook page as we have a few more surprise incentives to give away.

And since we are part of the film community, we are planning to thank our community for its support by releasing a ‘behind the scenes’ bloopers reel when we reach our goal. And we also have some pretty great rewards – the the opportunity to have your name on the credits of our episodes!

Finally, we will be hosting a bit of a countdown in the countdown to the close of our campaign. We would love our crowd from across New Zealand to join us by jumping onto the live stream on our Facebook page.

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

We want to send our unwavering and undying love and appreciation to everyone who has already pledged. As for the people who are planning on pledging, we send you a huge pre-thank you!

It is great to know that art can be created in new and different ways. We are all so excited to reach our goal, but to do so we need your help.

– Xoxo, AMB squad

Can’t wait for the rest of the All Bi Myself episodes to come out? Jump onto their PledgeMe page to pledge your support!

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)

Needed: A New Nick

One of our longstanding board members, Nick Lewis, retired in December 2017. Here’s our farewell to him, and the launch of our hunt for a new director written by PledgeMe co-founder Anna Guenther.

The fantastic Nick Lewis came into my orbit during my Masters of Entrepreneurship down at the University of Otago. He was a guest lecturer and flew to Dunedin to share his story both in start up world and investment banking. His anecdotes were pretty legendary: from starting his drug testing company in his twenties, through to raising investment on the golf course in 24 hours (even though he didn’t golf).

When we met, PledgeMe hadn’t even been thought up yet, but I was inspired by his words. Fast forward a year, one of my classmates told me I should meet up with Nick. I was in Wellington, he was in Wellington, and we sat down for a coffee on Lambton Quay.

What struck me about Nick then (and now) was his enthusiasm and support. I gave him our numbers there in the Wellington sunshine (embarrassingly low to look back on now) and he was glowing. Early validation, he raved, and things just seemed a bit easier with that external perspective. The hard stuff seemed somehow more achievable when someone as experienced as Nick saw the merit in it.

When we hit our first major hiccup, he took my stressed phone call. I think his calm feedback and great next steps (get a lawyer and communicate with your customers) saved us from closing up PledgeMe before we’d even really begun. From there Nick acted as an advisor, coming to our bi-monthly advisory panels and giving feedback and advice for pizza and beer. When we did our first investment round in 2014, he put his money in and came on our board. Over the past six years he’s been integral in growing PledgeMe, through the good times and the tough.

Last month, Nick retired. He refuses to say “resign” because he thinks that sounds bad. It’s just time for him to do new things with his life, and we’re so thankful for the time and wisdom he’s given us to date. And will give to us in the future (you’re not getting away that easy, Nick!).

But, with his departure we believe it’s time to add some new perspectives and skills to the board, so we’re on the hunt for a new director.


Details at a glance

Position: PledgeMe Board Member

Length of term: 1 year with the option to renew annually

Applications open: 16 January 2018

Applications close: Thurs, 8 February 2018

Interviews: 12-13 February 2018

Directors’ Fees: $1,100 per month (paid in shares / cash annually).


Interested? Send me your LinkedIn / CV, and a short email about what you would bring to the PledgeMe board by Thurs, 8 February 2018.


About the position on our board

We specifically want someone(s) with one or a few of these perspectives / skills:

  • Someone who can provide a solid financial / legal lense to the board, and/or
  • Someone with experience launching (and scaling in Australia) – we’ve been setting up over there with the recent changes to their legislation allowing equity crowdfunding, and/or
  • Someone with experience doing business with iwi – we’re looking at launching a collaborative indigenous microlending platform in 2018.
  • Someone who can help us with our marketing / communications strategy


We believe a good director:

  • Acts like a critical friend – kind, but pointing out gaps and helping to guide the way.
  • Has a base proficiency in technology – knows their Google Documents from their Zoom, and is able to attend meetings online if needed.
  • Is ok with dialogue – we need someone to come in who is happy debating like they’re right, but listening like they’re wrong. We’re building a new world order, and it’s not always going to be built the same we previously did business.


Our current board includes:

Melanie Templeton (interim Chair)

Melanie is an experienced senior commercial manager and leader, with a track record of leading the development and implementation of successful business strategies both locally and internationally. She’s also an avid organic gardener.

She has done everything from running her own award winning restaurants in Wellington in the mid nineties to being an accredited Business Mentor with BMNZ to launching and running digital banks in NZ, Australia and Poland!

She is also the Commercial Director of fledgling agri-tech company Regen NZ Ltd.  Finally, Mel won the Institute of Director’s Emerging Director Award in 2016.


Breccan McLeod Lundy

Breccan has been programming since he was six with a Commodore 64 and has degrees in philosophy and management.  He has an incomparable technical brain combined with human empathy like no other: as the co-founder of Rabid Technologies Breccan supports the development of new products and companies with a belief that partnerships and relationships are more important than simple transactions.

He often breaks out his ability to discuss complex philosophical ideas with the best of them (he did his degree in it – before he turned twenty). He’s also the only board member left in his 20’s…


Jessica Venning Bryan

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

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

Jessica has decided to leave the Board at the end of the financial year, wanting to find more time to spend with her growing family this year while balancing her other work commitments. If we spot another excellent candidate while looking for Nick’s replacement we may fill Jessica’s role at the same time.


and, me, Anna Guenther

Anna is our Managing Director, co-founder and CEO of PledgeMe. She sounds American but she’s definitely a Kiwi. If pushed, she’ll say she’s technically from Dunedin, but will later admit she grew up in Boston. Having roamed around the world, she now calls Wellington home. Anna completed her Masters on crowdfunding and has worked for everyone from NZTE to MIT (and all of the acronyms in between).  She is currently splitting her time between Wellington and Brisbane leading our new efforts in Australia.  Finally, the United Nations recently asked Anna to deliver a speech at their World Export Development Forum in Hungary.


How our board rolls

We meet monthly on Zoom and in person. We try to have regular sessions where we are physically present, but it’s not required every month. We have discussions online through Loomio and email. We regularly use Google documents.

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


Number of board members

We currently have four board members and aim for between 3–5 board members at any time, with a mix of skills, backgrounds, and expertise. A quorum is currently 3 board members. Melanie was deemed our independent director under the NZX rules, but we aim to get one more independent director. Aiming for no less than 40% female representation, with wider general diversity (age, location, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation).



The interim chair is currently Melanie Templeton.



New directors are appointed at PledgeMe’s AGM or through a resolution passed with the shareholders during the year. Board membership is set to a 1 year term with the ability to renew annually.


Directors’ Fees

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


Board Responsibilities

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

i) Appoint the Chair of the Board;

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

iii) determine the timing and agenda for Board meetings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Interested? Send me your LinkedIn / CV, and a short email about what you would bring to the PledgeMe board by Thursday 8 February 2018.