Collaborating with our crowd to increase impact

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

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

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Alex and Anna both speaking at TEDx in 2012

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

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What's Up Wednesday

Give Back, Shift Forward

Feb 10The number of young women taking part in sport and physical activity in NZ is declining. Costs like registration fees, sports uniforms and equipment mean that for lots of kiwi girls, getting active is becoming increasingly difficult. Luckily, Give Back, Shift Forward are determined to change all that.

Give Back, Shift Forward came out of a programme run by Lifehack and Enspiral. It’s a social enterprise dedicated to alleviating the cost of sports participation for young women in Wellington. And they’re doing it in a super-cool, innovative way: you buy sports gear for yourself, and the profits help young girls buy sports gear too! With everything from tote bags to fancy glass drink bottles, you can give money to an awesome cause and get an awesome product in return.

We love this business model, and we love what it stands for even more. So, we got in touch with a member of the Shift Sisterhood to hear all about their plans.

How are you finding the campaign so far?

We have been overwhelmed by the support the project has received! It’s compounded our belief that this is a really important cause that a lot of people can identify with.

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

The Shift team will dance and yell if we reach our target (although this will likely be in the privacy of our own homes!)

Anything you want to shout out to your crowd?

Aside from huge amounts of gratitude for your support we are super stoked to have you on board to support the wellbeing on young women.

To pledge to this awesome cause, check out Give Back, Shift Forward’s campaign here and help get kiwi girls moving and grooving.

Learning from Ooooby’s success

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

Will and Barry on the way to Waiheke

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

Doing good by giving good

This is going to be a bit heart-bleedy, all over the screen messy. But why shouldn’t I leave it all out there? Crowdfunding is about exactly that — putting it all out there and making yourself vulnerable. It’s popping the nice protective bubble and ripping off the band-aid. And it’s bloody terrifying.

Eat My Lunch gets me every time I check the page. I think about how difficult it must be for kids to learn without food in their tummies. I think about how one simple thing, food, can have a long term impact on a child’s life.

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Spending entire days learning is HARD. Even as an adult, absorbing information is a challenge. Add lack of food to the mix and it becomes next to impossible. If a kid goes without lunch for 30% of their school year, that’s 30% of potential knowledge missing. What a difficult start to build on, and what a simple thing to fix. Eat My Lunch are stepping up to fill that gap, and not only fill it for a child, but they feed you too.

Eat My Lunch are effectively investing in the futures of the kids they feed. And that is incredibly inspiring. Lisa, Iaan and Michael have taken this amazing leap of faith to crowdfund the next step in their work to improve the lives of many. I think of all the kids’ whose lives have been changed already in the short time Eat My Lunch has been running, and get quite emotional. What an amazing gift to be able to give with a tiny $10. It could be going to a kid who lives around the corner, who could grow up and run their own crazy / awesome / inspiring crowdfunding projects.

If you haven’t already… check out Eat My Lunch’s campaign and pledge your lunch!banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

EAT MY LUNCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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OOOOBY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NBR

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

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

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

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

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

Matakana Box

———————— & as of this post:

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

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

#stoptheGCSBbill

This campaign could have gone shockingly. I mean, the turn around time was tight, we didn’t feel like we knew enough about the ramifications of the bill, and we were ramping up into Social Enterprise week, talks, we were one staff down, you know – all the normal excuses not to do something.

But, we realised we couldn’t stand by. We couldn’t not do something. So, we reached out to our community – and made some magic happen. We had the lovely Jez Brown shoot a video, Promoki come on board as a partner around crowdsourcing and design support, and the marvelous Jackson offered his words and skills.

So we decided to try. The worst that could happen? Becoming a case study on what not to do…. Best? Success.

So what did we do?

  • we created good visuals, and a video (which – took longer than we thought due to some tech issues!)
  • we spent four hours locked in a room after launching getting in contact with everyone we knew – we wrote dozens of individual emails, FB messages, posts, and tweets
  • we messaged everyone we knew of who was interested in the area (even people we didn’t know personally – like Dame Anne Salmond)
  • we talked about the GCSB bill with everyone we knew, over coffee and brunches, at the supermarket, and walking to work.
  • we rocked out Google docs with people smarter than us to help with the messaging, the wording, the legalities (yes – we tweeted our lawyer, thanks @kiwiseabreeze)

And we were overwhelmed. We hit our funding goal in 24 hours, we had dozens of images sent through, we had offers of support up and down the country. And in the end – we managed not only to get a billboard, but 100’s of posters distributed to Dunedin, Christchurch, Napier, Hamilton, Auckland, and Wellington.

Lessons learned?

  • Plan more than we did.
  • Get a good team, and decide early who is in charge with what
  • Make everyone in the team an ambassador of the project
  • Ask your crowd what you should do with extra money, and keep them updated

And we got media – lots of it. Jackson “Some Guy” James Wood – is a legend. Thanks Public Address, StopPress, Idealog, No Right Turn – and everyone who mentioned us on twitter, blogs, media or even in real life.

But what do we really want?

To #stoptheGCSBbill and start the conversation.

So – can you share this? Tweet your local MP? Talk about this over a wine tonight with  your friends? You rock, but the people that pledged ROCK THE MOST. Thank you thank you thank you all.