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Crowdfunding On Your Own Terms: A Q&A With IgnitionDeck's Nathan Hangen
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Crowdfunding On Your Own Terms: A Q&A With IgnitionDeck's Nathan Hangen

White label crowdfunding platforms have been generating a lot of interest recently. Last week, we covered Invested.in's seed round financing, and a campaign on IgnitionDeck, Robert's Space Industries, has raised over three million dollars, with days still left before the end of the campaign. IgnitionDeck is a WordPress plug in that lets users create their own crowdfunding campaigns. We reached out over email to Nathan Hangen, who built the platform with his friend, with a few questions about IgnitionDeck.

Anton Root, Crowdsourcing.org: How did the idea for IgnitionDeck come about?

Nathan Hangen, IgnitionDeck co-founder: That question is probably best answered here.

Why do you think it's important for people to be able to crowdfund on their own, bypassing portals?

There are a lot of reasons we feel this way.

From a philosophical standpoint, it's not in an entrepreneur's DNA to seek permission from establishments, whether investors, record labels, or Kickstarter admins. Yet when an entrepreneur enables a gatekeeper (portal) to be placed in their way, they are essentially seeking permission from someone that doesn't deserve to be granting it. We're not saying that portals don't have a place in crowdfunding, in fact we believe that they are very valuable, but we do worry that granting too much power to a portal like Kickstarter will allow them to pick the winners and the losers. We believe that the artist should take responsibility for their own failure/success via direct link with their audience.

From a financial standpoint, 5% is an incredible amount to pay to a platform, especially as more and more campaigners fight for equal attention. Unfortunately, it's going to be difficult to escape payment processing fees, but 8.5% really adds up quickly. For instance, a client of ours recently launched an IgnitionDeck and a Kickstarter campaign together, and to date has raised 2.7 million dollars using IgnitionDeck. If they raised this money on Kickstarter they would have had to pay $135,000 of that in commission, unnecessarily. Having additional options is always going to be valuable.

From a practical standpoint, we believe there will be a time when entrepreneurs raise money in as many places as possible. We fully expect to see crowdfunds taking advantage of multiple platforms at once in order to maximize exposure and the raise. The problem with platforms is that they are very limited as to what they provide. What the crowdfunding portals do offer is done very well, but the crowd is quickly innovating beyond their capabilities, stretch goals being a perfect example. We believe that we can out-iterate the larger platforms in order to provider better choices and greater opportunities.

Do you charge any fees aside from the $59 your plugin costs (maintenance, support, payment processing, etc.)?

Currently no, the exception being custom builds, which we do time to time in order to test new features. Eventually we'll offer different bundles and packages, and price points may change, but for now, we're keen on rewarding our supporters with free upgrades and unlimited domain licenses. We wouldn't be here without the 600+ people that have supported us, and we're very happy to admit it.

What makes your plugin a more valuable tool than some of the white label crowdfunding services out there?

I'll be honest and state that we don't spend a lot of time looking at the competition, so I can't speak specifically to their feature sets. We're aware of a few competing products, and we've spent time testing a few of them, but we're not focused on competing with anyone other than ourselves and the expectations of our users. Every plugin seems to offer a different type of solution, and we try to make it clear that if you go with IgnitionDeck, you're going with a product built based on a philosophy of empowering entrepreneurs, not helping people create Kickstarter clones. Since IgnitionDeck is our primary focus right now, we believe we're more tuned in to the market than other might be, and our future iterations will reflect that. We're here for the long-haul.

What are some challenges you've come up against or foresee, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Well clearly the market is growing quickly, and with that growth comes increased expectations. As I mentioned earlier, things like stretch goals are being invented before platforms have time to adapt, and since our team is still small and bootstrapped, we have the challenge of trying to stay current without rushing our product out of beta and into production. It's forced us to pick and choose what we work on, and in many cases, have to apologize for not yet having features that people have come to expect.

The payment systems is a big one, but we're very close to adding 3 new gateways. The 100% funding model is another. Lastly, there is a large group of people that want to use our product to build Kickstarter clones, and we've received a lot of complaints that it doesn't allow them to do that. We've learned to get used to those complaints.

Keeping up with customer service has been another issue, which is why we've added another part-time team member to help us with that. We fully expect to add additional designers and developers in the near future so that we can implement and test new features more quickly.

Lastly, and I can't say much here yet, but we've developed a target on our back and some of the platforms are feeling threatened by our presence. That said, we see this as a sign that we're on the right path.

Do you think people will migrate to services like yours, making big crowdfunding platforms we see now obsolete?

Like I said above, I expect that in the future you'll see people raise money in the same way that Planetary Annihilation and/or Roberts Space Industries has done, using their own platform as the hub and then adding campaigns on as many platforms that will accept them. We have our own plan for tackling that issue, but unfortunately I cannot reveal it quite yet.

Do you plan to also offer equity crowdfunding, once the JOBS Act rules are all clarified by the SEC? What about equity crowdfunding outside of the US?

We thought about this for a while, and even had some partnership opportunities in the space, but for now we're opting to avoid that side of the fence. Perhaps when we have more resources (and patience), we'll take a second look.

What are some features you're working on now and hope to implement in the near future?

There are a lot of really simple things, like level titles and limits, that we want to add in the near future. We've also got integrations for Amazon and Stripe on tap. We're very anxious to get a 'pay what you want' level type in place, and even address things like stretch goals. From there, the major push will be foreign payment gateways so that we can enable crowdfunding in as many currencies as possible.

How many individuals have purchased the plugin? Have you followed how successful they've been?

We're right around 600 now, without really any advertising or marketing, many of whom we have spoken with either during or after their campaign. I send a personal note to every single supporter and encourage them to keep us in the loop; many have. We want our supporters to know that we aim to help them be as successful as we can.

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