2,527 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
With record-breaking projects like the Pebble Watch putting the spotlight on crowdfunding, more entrepreneurs are turning to platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to raise money for their ideas. Unfortunately, few have access to seasoned crowdfunding veterans to guide them through the challenging process of convincing a large number of strangers to donate small amounts of cash.
Enter Elizabeth Gerber and her team of researchers. Gerber runs Northwestern University’s Creative Action Lab, whose mission is to “develop theory, tools, services, and work practices to support collective design work.” Gerber recently started the GoCrowdfund project, which aims to help entrepreneurs looking for advice on how to run crowdfunding campaigns.
Researchers at the Lab have interviewed – and continue to speak with – dozens of entrepreneurs who used a variety of crowdfunding platforms to run their campaigns. Many have succeeded; some have not. By aggregating this information and putting it into a comprehensive toolkit, Gerber hopes to help entrepreneurs avoid making the mistakes of their predecessors and use existing knowledge to create a successful campaign.
To help spread the word of their findings, Gerber and her team have launched a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise $8,000. The money will go to design firms to put together the toolkit – a digital booklet and two-sided poster – cataloguing the team’s findings. While the research was initially intended to come out as a formal report, Gerber realized that few would want to read an academic analysis of the crowdfunding space.
“We started to write up our research on this,” Gerber told Crowdsourcing.org. “In the process, people began saying to us, ‘This is wonderful, but we’re not going to read the academic paper that you write. How can you get the information out to us?’ So we said, well, maybe we should try to disseminate [our findings] to the larger crowdfunding community.”
The toolkit promises to be an easy way for individuals to discover the strategies needed to succeed in the growing crowdfunding ecosystem. Gerber says she was surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response entrepreneurs have expressed about the GoCrowdfund project, and by the wealth of knowledge her team was able to mine from the participants.
“People have been incredibly generous with information,” she said. “Shockingly few people have turned us down for an interview. I think that has to do with the fact that people are so excited about the potential of crowdfunding – especially the people who succeeded have been touched, if you will, by the participation of so many people they didn’t know. There is a real incentive to reciprocate and give back by sharing what they learned.”
When the SEC completes the rulemaking process for the JOBS Act, which legalizes equity-based crowdfunding, Gerber hopes to follow up on the original research.
“Our lab is trying to expand and make a taxonomy of the crowdfunding space to understand how money is exchanged, who is it exchanged between, what is the mediating platform,” Gerber explained. “We are going into that direction. I would say we have a toe in that direction, but not yet a foot.”
Gerber is most intrigued about the long-term ramifications that crowdfunding can have on people’s attitude toward starting their own projects.
“It gets people in the [entrepreneurial] mindset, and I think that’s the best thing about what’s happening right now,” she said. “It’s the new mindset that many different people can participate, fund, and potentially benefit from these kinds of investments. To me, changing the mindset is really what’s most important.”
At the time of writing, the GoCrowdfund project has two more weeks to raise just over $6,500. If Gerber and her team reach their goal, they plan to send to toolkit out to backers as early as August.