I was asked to give a speech last night, at the formal partnership launch of the Ākina Foundation and SAP. Normally, I rely pretty heavily on pretty pictures to prompt me and distract the crowd. But, I was told slides weren’t allowed. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t go off the cuff or rely on my trusty PowerPoint powers. So, I wrote an actual speech which I practiced and referred to (as you can see above!). Here it is:
Kia Ora, my name is Anna Guenther, I’m the co-founder and Chief Bubble Blower of PledgeMe, New Zealand’s first crowdfunding platform. Though, my lawyers refuse to use my title on any official legal opinions. Same with SAP for the invites for this event….
First off, thank you to SAP for hosting this event and partnering with the Ākina Foundation. Your support means the world to them.
Big thanks to the Ākina Foundation in turn for partnering with us, and asking me to speak tonight.
And, lastly, thank you to Alex (CE of the Ākina Foundation) for personally and professionally supporting us over the last four years, even if we often debate the definition of “social enterprise”. For those of you newbies in the room, that is a debate that is often had.
I’d just like to check, who in the room has heard of crowdfunding?
Good good. Most of you! To reiterate, crowdfunding really is as simple as it sounds. It’s about going out to your crowd for funding. You set a clear goal of how much money you want to raise, a deadline by which you need to raise it, and you offer something in return – be it rewards from your project or shares in your company.
In the past four years we’ve had just under 1000 successful campaigns, and over 8.6 mil pledged through the platform to help kiwis fund the things they care about.
And, we’ve realised that kiwis care about a lot of things, ranging from projects like the woman who wanted to publish a manual on how to teach yoga in prisons to some of the social entrepreneurs in this room. Like Conscious Consumers, who raised $90k to launch their app to help change the way consumers consume, or craft beer crews like Yeastie Boys who raised half a mil in a half an hour to fund their growth in the UK.
We’ve also realised that the people who support these campaigns are motivated by more than a reward or a financial return, they really do care about the impact of the campaigns they are supporting. And, they often support with more than just money.
One of my favourite examples of this is when Brianne West crowdfunded her company, Ethique Limited, last year in Christchurch. She was a serial entrepreneur who decided she wanted to do more than make a product, she wanted to make a positive impact on the world. So she decided to create a solid hair care business. Her reasoning being that it made no sense for shampoo to be made up of 70% water when you go into a shower full of water. And by making solid bars, she’s already stopped more than 50,000 bottles from going to landfill. Her customers love that she does well and does good at the same time. So when she went out and asked her crowd to help her raise $200,000 in investment, over 75% of her investors were current customers. And four of them were chemists. And when she moved from her home kitchen into her factory with the money raised, one of the four chemists that pledged to her campaign helped her figure out how to double the batching system for her product (which was probably something she’d struggled with in silence for a few weeks before asking for help).
That’s the beauty of crowdfunding. It’s an enabler, a platform, it’s so much more than the funding.
We’re excited that this change isn’t happening quietly or secretly in a board room. It’s happening transparently, online, enhancing community rather than replacing it. Allowing everyone to see, to follow, and to collaborate.
And, that’s the most exciting part for me. The collaboration. Being a reformed public servant myself, I feel that social enterprise is innately aligned with public service. We want to make a change, that we can see, and we’re not afraid to collaborate to solve the complex problems. Because if the problems are solved, we all win.
One of my favourite examples of this happening with competitors was in the comments section of the National Business Review. Yeastie Boys was getting ready to launch their campaign, and as you can imagine anon had a lot to say about a craft beer company that didn’t own a brewery raising money. But what happened next could only be described as a craft beer love in. The entire industry came through praising the company, and the model, and talking about how they were collaborating to launch into the UK. The problem they’re solving? Access to good craft beer.
So how can government and corporates help?
Fuel the fire.
Match fund campaigns that come to you if they can prove they have a groundswell of support.
Put your crowd, your name, and your support behind these entrepreneurs.
Amplify the work that is already happening.
Collaborate in all directions.
And for all that’s good in the world, use technology.
Because this work is tiring. We’re trying not just to do well, but to do good. I’d like to tautoko Alex for a speech he gave recently acknowledging how hard this can be, doubly hard he said. But, I’d like to also add, it’s more than doubly rewarding when you see the positive impact you and your team can make.
We see the work that PledgeMe is doing as democratising funding in New Zealand. Enabling more kiwis to fund and get funded.
And we’re pleased to announce we’re about to take it another step further, and democratise debt. We’ve applied for a license from the Financial Markets Authority to provide a platform for companies and organisations to offer loan notes if they show they can repay. It could help anyone from our launch campaign, a social enterprise looking to start their service in a new city, to schools who want to put solar panels on their roofs with the help of their parents, paying them back from the savings over time.
I’d like to leave you with one final thought.
AirBNB is one of the largest accommodation providers, without owning a hotel. Uber is one of the largest transportation providers, without owning a taxi fleet. Could crowdfunding be one of the largest funders, without managing a fund or owning a bank?
Let’s all help kiwis fund the things they care about.