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Peoplefund.it Grows from Green Roots
© Image: Screenshot by Eric Mack/Crowdsourcing.org
editorial

Peoplefund.it Grows from Green Roots

Every now and then crowdsourcing.org likes to profile new or unique crowdsourcing platforms and companies. This time, we posed some basic questions to Jake Lea-Wilson and the Peoplefund.it team about the UK-based crowdfunding platform and how it grew out of some more narrow crowdsourcing ventures. Last month we reported on Peoplefund.it's first fully-funded green projects and now we learn a little more about the platform that made that possible.

Crowdsourcing.org: So, what is Peoplefund.it?
Peoplefund.it is the latest crowdfunding platform in the UK that brings together people with big ideas with people who want to see them happen. If you think you have an idea that “might just change the world” then Peoplefund.it is the place for you to fund your idea. We look at all ideas from startups and charities to films and tech products.

How and why did you conceptualize and launch Peoplefund.it?
The website was set up by KEO Digital, a digital media company that pioneers community solutions to everyday problems. KEO Digital was set up around the online community of River Cottage (a UK-based television programme). It has upwards of 300,000 members who are all interested in food, gardening and an outdoor lifestyle.

In 2009 we set up a site called Landshare, which brings together people who have a passion for home-grown food, connecting those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food. Since its launch it has grown into a thriving community of almost 70,000 people with some fantastic successes.

The next platform we launched was Energyshare. This is a social network where you can connect with other people and community groups, find out how to generate your own renewable energy or support others to get a project off the ground. In 2011 it was supported by British Gas and helped fund 4 groups with money to start their own green power generation projects.

As a result of these other projects we were confronted with a demand from people coming to us with their ideas. Rather than just pick one we decided to set up a platform that would allow ANYONE to set up their own projects. Peoplefund.it was designed and developed in a few months and came to light in November 2011. We learned that grass roots projects can lead to big things.

How is your site unique in crowdfunding?
We are unique amongst the crowdfunding platforms because not only can you pledge your money to the project owner but also your time and skills. This makes us ideal for startup companies who need advice, capital and skills to make their business a reality. We also have a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to digital community projects. Our previously established networks add up to over a million people who all have interests in this area. This is a massive bonus for all projects owners and can boost the funding of projects immeasurably.

Where are you now?
We are now at a point with Peoplefund.it that we’re just starting to be noticed. We’ve had several projects fully funded and have several more on the way. We’ve been picked up by mainstream press in the UK and blogged about all over the world. We have specific aims for our first year online and thanks to our background and experience we know we can meet them. The size of the site, amount of projects and the community can only get bigger.

Where do you aim to be in a few years time?
We aim to be the biggest crowdfunding platform in the UK with several projects being funded every day. We will expand our support network to help start up businesses and we will have partnerships with large project funders and advisers.

What have you learned about crowdfunding in general?
When you put the effort in, crowdfunding can be enormously successful. Just look at our first fully funded project: The Bicycle Academy who raised over £40,000 in just six days. They were successful because they established a network and worked hard for each pledge. Crowdfunding is not a paste-and-wait game.

What has surprised you?
The biggest surprise is why people don’t crowdfund more. Not only does crowdfunding get you the capital you need to start your business or manufacture your product, but it also creates a network of support for your product or service. You can establish a market and are therefore more likely to be successful.

What measures do you have to ensure transparency?
During our startup period we have been supported by several organizations that ensure our transparency and success. We are backed by NESTA and Forum For The Future. As a requirement of this support we have made the platform we use open source. It’s simple, we started as a collaboration ourselves and we support those who want to do the same.

Who are the makers of Peoplefund.it and how do they work together?
The team behind Peoplefund.it consist of a whole team of developers, 3 producers, 2 designers, a managing director and an executive director. We work collaboratively in phases of site development which we are constantly improving and adapting over time.

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