Upcoming Workshops in Sydney as part of Vivid

Hey Purpose gang!


After a gap of almost nine months while we were getting our new platform launched amongst other things I'm holding some of my award-winning* Crowdfunding for Good workshops as part of Vivid Festival in Sydney in June.

Crowdfunding for Good Workshops

Two introductory workshops which cover all the basics you need to know to succeed at crowdfunding over two action-packed hours, on Thursday June 9 and Friday June 10.

By the end of this workshop you'll know exactly what you need to do to succeed, what projects that succeed remember to do that those that fail ignore, what sorts of rewards work and so on. Tickets are just $30 ($25 if you're quick!) and available here.

Masterclass for Project Creators

A newly-created half-day masterclass for just 6 projects or organisations, each of which can bring two people. Over the four hours we'll work through the key decisions you need to make, what rewards will work for you and most importantly, how to architect your story and design an outreach strategy which will inspire the support you need. This is for project creators with a clear idea of what they need to raise funds for, and is limited to six projects so that I can give each of them focused attention and custom advice.

By the end of this workshop you'll have a detailed plan to run an awesome crowdfunding campaign. Only six tickets (each of which entitles two people working on the same project to come together) are available from here. The first two are $99 after which they're $129.

*okay I haven't won any awards for my workshops. But people really like them! Check the quotes on the booking page.

A world first scheme for Australian social enterprises to access finance

A world first scheme for Australian social enterprises to access finance

The social enterprise sector in Australia is growing strongly, but most social enterprises struggle to make it from an initial launch, no matter how promising, to gaining access to the capital they need to scale their operations and impact.

A gap exists in the social enterprise funding ecosystem between the most innovative social entrepreneurs on the one side and investors interested in funding them on the other.

StartSomeGood exists to help get more social enterprises across this gap so we’re thrilled to announce a world-first collaboration with one such investor, the Social Enterprise Finance Australia ( SEFA) to use crowdfunding to help you quality for a loan to fuel your growth.

A crowdfunder in the household

Kate grabbing a quick moment to work on her campaign My wife Kate has been running a crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood over the last three weeks, to launch the first offering from her yoga-focused social enterprise, Yoga for Change.

It’s been inspiring to watch her prepare, launch and run her campaign, and I couldn’t be prouder of her for her success in reaching her full goal of $2,000. This will allow her to set up her social enterprise, purchasing insurance, getting her first aid certificate and investing in mats to take to her classes, then running 5 morning classes at Hub Sydney from November 4-8, as part of The Changemakers Festival. (As of this writing the campaign has 16 hours to run so you can still contribute and get some great rewards!).

Watching the way she’s made this happen has given me a new appreciation for the work we’re doing at StartSomeGood to support emerging changemakers like Kate. As most of you know we have a 13 month-old who Kate has been taking care of full-time. So she only has limited snatches of time to work on her campaign when Bodhi is sleeping or with relatives. This is not so different from many of those using our site to pursue their dreams I think. While most wouldn’t have toddlers underfoot necessarily they often have full-time jobs they’re holding down while working on their social initiative on the side.

Watching Kate juggle her various responsibilities has made me see the importance of the way we approach things, and has been a good example of some of the techniques that help crowdfunding campaigns succeed. Here are a few things I’ve thought about:

You have to be brave

I remember when Kate's campaign went live. She'd be preparing for this moment for weeks. She had good rewards and a solid plan. She'd lined up her first donors. But when the campaign was suddenly live on the internet she looked at me and said "I suddenly feel scared." Crowdfunding is scary. You have to put yourself and your ideas out there. You have to do something people are often bad at, which is ask for help. You have to be personal and therefore vulnerable.

Only those who have the courage to try have the possibility of success.

It has to be easy (enough)

With Kate only having limited bits of time to make this happen it was abundantly clear to me how important ease of use and communicate is. A crowdfunding platform like StartSomeGood allows people to set themselves up and offer something to their community much more quickly and easily than setting up your own website and then driving everyone to it. That allows entrepreneurs to get on with telling their story and inspiring support without worrying about the technical stuff. Crowdfunding isn't easy, it definitely takes hard work as Kate would attest, but where we can make it easier that's what we'll strive to do!

Support and advice matters

One of our values is being a partner to all those looking to use our site. This means we’re not just a self-serve platform, we’re a collaborator. We offer advice, suggestions and encouragement to all the projects using our site to help increase their chance of success. For Kate I think our advice around rewards and storytelling has made a difference.

Offer real rewards

Kate’s campaign offers rewards of real value. Obviously passes to the actual yoga classes but also tank-tops with “Yoga: Be the Change” on them and lovely sustainable yoga matts. With a business Kate is able to access wholesale rates, allowing her to offer these mats at approximately what they cost at retail, making it really easy for anyone thinking they’d like a new mat to purchase one via her campaign. She didn’t try to ramp the price up to maximise her return, she priced it according to what the market was used to paying.

When setting her campaign up she was undecided about whether to offer metal drink bottles or tank tops. She put the question out to her community on facebook and got 20 responses running heavily in favour of the tank tops, so that is what she offered. That’s 20 people who had input into her campaign and probably felt a greater sense of involvement than they would have otherwise, making them more likely to then contribute (to get the tank top they said they wanted).

Be generous

As part of her promotion Kate has written guest blogs for a couple of yoga studies, to better reach the Sydney yoga tribe. She’s done a lunchtime talk on personal sustainability at the Hub, the better connect with the people who work there. She’s also been running free yoga classes for friends in our home studio for the past couple of months, encouraging their generosity in return when her campaign launched.

Give of yourself and others will give back to you. Support your tribe and they will support you back.

Thank you to everyone who supported Kate’s campaign, I can’t wait to do yoga with many of you in November!

Welcome to the new StartSomeGood.com: It's time to start more good!

I posted a more personal, reflective announcement about the new version of StartSomeGood.com here last week but for those of you know don't subscribe to the StartSomeGood weekly email (and you really should if that's the case, see bottom-right of the homepage) I wanted to also share with you the email we sent to the 10,000 members of the site on Friday:

Hi everyone,

In place of our usual newsletter we wanted to send you a personal email this week to let you know about some exciting changes happening at StartSomeGood and reflect on where we are.

Most importantly and obviously we have just unveiled the new version of our site!

The new site is a big step forward for us and we hope you like it as much as we do. The major changes include a lighter, brighter and friendlier design, with a simplified navigation which gives greater prominence to success stories and information to help you succeed at crowdfunding. On the back-end there’s an upgraded project dashboard to help you launch and manage your campaigns and we’re adding alternatives to Paypal for donors (already available to US ventures, coming soon for everyone else).

But it’s not all about technology. We remain committed to a hands-on and partnership-driven approach which provides you with the advice and support you need to succeed.

So if you have an idea for a project which can improve the future of your community, why not start todayRegister on our site and a member of our team will be in touch to help you design a campaign which will succeed.

Over the past two years, with your support, we have built a vibrant community of changemakers at StartSomeGood. Together, we have successfully funded 125 world-changing projects in 23 countries. We have supported social entrepreneurs as young as 16 and as established as Ashoka Fellows. We have helped launched projects as diverse as open-source mapping in Nepal to Sock Monkeys who fight cancer in the US, from social enterprise cafés in Cambodia to supporting young families in Australia and inspiring youth volunteering in 22 cities across America.

While we are proud of these successes there’s so much further we want to go. Our goal is to launch 1,000 new social initiatives over the next two years, transforming millions of lives around the world.

We would love your project, your idea, your community, to be part of that. Without you, we’re just a boring old website. With you, we can be an epic force for good in the world.

So don’t wait any longer. If you have the drive and the passion to make a difference we want to help.

Together, let’s start some good!


Tom and Alex

Co-founders, StartSomeGood

PS. Read about the details of the new site and all the great activities we’re doing to celebrate, including a riddle hidden in the website and daily twitter chats this week on our blog.

PPS. Speaking about getting started you may be inspired by the first episode of our new podcast series Starting Good, featuring Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose. Check it out.

Choosing the worst runner

Runner - The Happy Rower on flickrYou are running coach, the analogy goes, and you have to choose between two runners. One of them has textbook form, smooth and efficient in his stride. The other is a mess, straying out of his lanes, arms and legs flailing unattractively. Despite this they are neck-and-neck at the end of the race. Who would you want to coach?

You would choose the worst runner, the guy with terrible form but who somehow managed to stay in the race despite this, because your coaching has the possibility to make the greater impact. You can’t do much with the guy with perfect form; he’s just not fast enough. But the sloppy guy, with refinement and coaching, might just be able to be really fast. In sporting parlance his ceiling is higher.

I feel like that’s where we are at with StartSomeGood right now, as we stand on the brink of unveiling the new version of our site to the world.

It’s been two years since the first version went live and, simply put, we have done almost everything wrong.

We built the first version of the website with only conceptual feedback from our target market – we didn’t show them the actual site until it was live. We didn’t talk enough about what we were doing while we were building it, and so failed to prime the community for our launch. We didn’t even have a LaunchRock page up to collect emails, so we started with zero on day 1. We put far too much time and effort into coaching efforts which didn’t sufficiently move the needle. We recruited the wrong people and compensated them in an unstrategic fashion, giving away more entity than we should have to people no longer with us.

We failed to test or monitor a lot of what was happening on our site. We were so tech-resource constrained I think it was too depressing to constantly focus  what couldn’t, in the short-term, be fixed. We just worked harder and harder to connect with and serve entrepreneurs, but these efforts couldn’t all be scaled and didn’t overcome all the shortfallings of the site itself. This lack of attention to metrics and testing meant we didn’t have as much data or insight as we should have when we became (slightly) less constrained in our tech resourcing and were able to invest in this new site.

So many mistakes.

But we’re still here. Along the way we listened, we learned. And now we are ready to show you some of those learnings embodied in this next iteration of our platform.

We interact constantly with our community, social entrepreneurs and community benefit organisations looking to raise funds in a new way. We’ve been intimately involved in over 300 campaigns now, and have seen what has and hasn’t worked. We’ve been knocked back by organisations we wanted to work with and have always asked why. We recruited an amazing advisory committee LINK who have helped stretch and inspire our thinking, as have a wide range of informal advisers and friends.

I can’t claim that we’re doing it all perfect now because we’re not. We’re busy and over-stretched and making compromises. The new version hasn’t had enough testing or rounds of user-feedback, but it’s had infinitely more than the first version. We would have done more but our updated UI/look-and-feel was done probono by Source Creative, who were lovely and generous and did a great job but didn’t have capacity for ongoing testing and additional rounds of tweaks, which was fair enough. It’s often better to put something out there and learn from how people actually use it anyway.

Raising a small amount of family-and-friends investment has allowed us to get this new version shipped and we’re committed to being much more focused on testing and analytics than we were with the first version.

There are a number of key improvements I’m excited to show you: •    We’ve simplified our navigation and lightened the feeling of the site, giving it a cleaner and more modern look •    We’ve put more emphasis on success stories and user-interactions, highlighting the people-powered nature of the site. •    We’ve added alternatives to paypal, initially just for US ventures but coming soon for everyone else. •    We’ve upgraded the venture dashboard, to help you launch and manage campaigns and; •    We’ve improved the how to info and resources on the site to educate people about how to succeed at crowdfunding.

So where are we as a business? I truly believe we stand on the brink of great things.

Despite our abundant shortcomings we have built a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and changemakers. We have 10,000 subscribers to our newsletter, 10,000 followers on Twitter and 30,000 followers on Tumblr. We have successfully funded over 130 projects in 22 countries, and this is just the beginning.

We have a fantastic, talented, passionate team spread Australia, the US, England and Sweden. Everyone is involved because they believe in our mission and are driven to scale our impact and help changemakers around the globe. You can meet our newest colleagues here.

We have just announced a number of exciting partnerships, including with ING Direct who have committed significant funds to social entrepreneurs running campaigns on our site, and with the Global Food Startup Challenge, for which we are the global crowdfunding partner.

In terms of our financials we have started slow but all sites of our sort do. Crowdfunding is boom or bust. Once you pick up pace it tends to accelerate, but the vast majority of sites never even reach the point we are at, remaining extremely limited in terms of scope or traction.

I can understand the skepticism some feel about whether there is enough room for StartSomeGood in an extremely competitive crowdfunding market but I know we provide a unique service and truly believe we are the best home for most social entrepreneurs looking to raise money from their communities. The creative crowdfunding platform are simply not built with nonprofits and causes in mind. Our success rate (comparable with the creative crowdfunding sites), incredible partners and growing traction are strong positive indicators for this belief.

So if you’ve been holding off on getting your idea out there and launching a campaign for any reason I hope you’ll reconsider and give our site a try. If you launch before April 2 you’ll be in the running for the ‘Like-Off’ we are running, with a bonus $200 grant to the project with the most likes during a 24 hour period starting at midnight April 3 Greenwich Mean Time.

Please check out the new site and let me know what you think.

Onwards and upwards!

Image by The Happy Rower made available on a Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Crowdfunding and the Power of We

Today is Blog Action Day, a day when thousands of bloggers around the world join together to explore and express themselves on a shared topic. This year that topic is The Power of We.

Together, we can do anything.

I really believe that. In fact I co-founded a company, StartSomeGood, based on the belief that we live in an abundant world and that when we join together and share what we have we can create the future we seek.

StartSomeGood, and all crowdfunding, is about supporting new initiatives with the capital that already exists in our community, rather than relying on government, investors and traditional outside sources of capital. We (the StartSomeGood team) believe that we (all of us) already have all the ideas we need to overcome the social challenges which confront us, already have all the changemakers we need, already have all the money we need. The power of crowdfunding is to bring all these things together, to unlock the power of we.

You see this play out in domain after domain – as we become more connected and the barriers to our participation fall away new possibilities become apparent. Our connectedness makes us smarter, more creative and more impactful as we share and collaborative, pooling what Clay Shirky calls our “cognitive surplus" in order to create things far beyond the scope of an individual alone. The examples of our increasingly collaborative planet are everywhere, from Wikipedia to the 350 climate movement to startup weekends and the Social Innovation Exchange.

StartSomeGood is, on every level, an example of this, an organisation and service only made possible by this trend. Our team is spread across seven cities in four countries on three continents. We have hosted successful fundraisers from social initiatives in 20 countries so far. Every project on our site is utilising an emergent set of social tools to share their story and invite participation and support in new ways.

And many of these initiatives are themselves building tools to better connect us. From the speech therapy app Speech4Good to the Australian collaborative consumption charity network Dandelion Support Network to GalliGalli who are using open technologies to better map the history, culture and economics of Kathmandu in Nepal social entrepreneurs are leveraging technology creatively to address inequality and create new opportunities for their communities.

Greater connectedness gives We an ever greater advantage over I. Change agents, from activists to organisers, social entrepreneurs to muckraking journalists, have always been connectors of people and ideas, have always been recruiters and inspirers of changemakers and have always confronted entrenched interests and business-as-usual. New tools, including crowdfunding, has created amazing new opportunities for people with passion and purpose to step forward and make things happen.

So, what are you waiting for?

If you want to raise funds for your initiative please check out StartSomeGood and let us know if we can help you!

Image by artotem via flickr available on a creative commons license.

Four crowdfunding workshops in Melbourne this week

Image In Melbourne and curious about how crowdfunding can help you launch your project? Then this is your lucky week as I'm in town for not one, not two but FOUR crowdfunding workshops over Thursday and Friday. Two are introductory and free and two are masterclasses with (modest) cover charges, one focused on startups and the other specifically for social enterprises and nonprofits.

Whether your dream of launching a social enterprise, a nonprofit, a tech startup or a personal creative project these workshops are designed to help you understand how to give yourself the best chance of crowdfunding success.

The masterclasses will delve into the practical issues which will help you win at this new fundraising form: what rewards to offer, how to identify your audience, what's the right length for a campaign and more.

Here are all the links:

Introduction to Crowdfunding, hosted by Social Traders and RMIT SEEDS, Thursday 1230-130 pm- only three tickets left!

Crowdfund Your Startup Thousands!, Thursday 6-830pm, with me and record-breaking crowdfunders Fee Plumley, Rob Ward and Kylie Gusset. Only four hours left to get $65 tickets! Well worth the investment to hear from all these experts on how to raise funds for your startup.

Introduction to Crowdfunding, hosted by Social Traders and RMIT SEEDS, Friday 9-10am (sold out)

Crowdfunding for Social Impact, hosted by Social Traders and RMIT SEEDS, follows on from the introductory sessions, Friday 10am-1pm. A deeper dive into how crowdfunding can help you launch your social impact initiative, only $20.

This also seems like a logical spot to mention that I'm looking to recruit a Melbourne Ambassador for StartSomeGood so if you love social enterprise, crowdfunding and helping people and think this could be a good time. Looking for a commitment of 8-10 hours/week. To find out more drop me a line at tom(at)startsomegood(dot)com.


How should we frame crowdfunding?

So what is this thing we call crowdfunding? What’s going on here? What words should we use to describe the phenomenon and the behavior that propels it?

Some of the coverage of Kickstarter can border on the nonsensical, so unable are people to understand what strange force it is that propels its success.  For some it is investing, but they get flustered when the behavior doesn’t accord with their notion of how investors act. Others see Kickstarter as a form of charity and get snarky at its perceived shortcomings. But in fact it’s neither of these things.

What it is, mostly, is shopping.

This understanding allows us to gain perspective on what’s happening and the likely market size of different crowdfunding platforms and approaches.

Two recent posts show the difficulties people have in characterizing what’s happening on Kickstarter.

Mashable looks at the phenomenon through an investment frame and declares to their evident disgust that “investors” on Kickstarter are not entirely rational. (Because “real” investors are paragons of rationality of course) with the nice even-handed headline “Are Kickstarter Investors Idiots or Geniuses?

The more cynical side of me wonders if we aren’t all being played. I mean, who wouldn’t watch these videos and want to make these projects a reality? I wonder if venture capitalists watch the pitches and laugh. Before they back something, they get a good look — a really good look — at the people, the product/prototype/project and the market. They know so much before they decide to invest at any level. For them, it’s all about measuring risk.

They go on to "wonder  if all of the buzz surrounding Kickstarter is now driving funds into projects that would otherwise never make it in the real world", somehow excluding Kickstarter from their understanding of the "real world." When you look at this behavior through the "investment" frame it can look strange, but when looked at through the shopping frame it makes perfect sense.

Meanwhile Crowdfund UK bemoans the lack of social impact of many of these projects who are, to their disappointment, acting like, well, most other technology or design startups:

OK Pebble were only expecting funding to cover 1000 watches and now 85,000 are pre-sold. There’s capacity and scale – and China is can knock out huge orders by their huge workforce in their huge factories. What’s the hurry? The campaign promised the watches by September. Would donors care if they were told that there a was a delay as they  were manufacturing in country – building the capacity of a recession hit area maybe? [This would be] good P.R. justifying the recent Jobs Act.

On Twitter the disappointment often takes on a more snarky or condescending tone as commentators confuse the fundamental reason why people are supporting Kickstarter projects:

Putting aside that StartSomeGood is a charity-oriented Kickstarter here too they are missing what's really happening. Those who backed the Ouya video game console campaign on Kickstarter weren't, in all likelihood, diverting money they would otherwise have given in charity. This came out of their consumption budget. That may bother you but then the issue you have is with capitalism, not with Kickstarter as such. But if instead of seeing it as just another market you think of Kickstarter campaigns as a form of very poorly-targeted charity, then your frustrations make sense, because you are operating in the wrong frame.

After raising a new record amount for a music project on Kickstarter Amanda Palmer (former lead  singer of The Dresden Dolls) got sick of dealing with this attitude as well and responded to some of the common questions on her blog:

Q: @JariPeltola Are the donations tax-free income?

A: this is a good question mostly because of the way it’s worded. to answer: no..all the money i’m making on CD and LP (and book, and everything) sales via kickstarter is taxable. AND these aren’t DONATIONS. that drives me crazy. they way we generally define “donating” is that you are giving something without any return: it’s a selfless, one-way gift to a cause. this is not that. every single person who’s backed the kickstarter is getting a product or a service (like a show) that they’ve paid for. it’s more of a pre-order than a “fundraiser.” the language here gets important. it makes me cringe to read in the press that people have “donated $600k to amanda palmer’s kickstarter.” that makes it seem like i’m getting away like a bandit. as you can see above,i have to PAY for and manufacture (and pay the staff to help me create) all the products that are for sale. it’s almost as ridiculous as newsweek proclaiming that “people donated over $56 million dollars to apple in order to own the new iPhone 4G”. that would sound DUMB. this is a marketplace. an art marketplace, but still. it’s a real exchange. i have A Thing (it’s A Weird Thing, but still) and people are buying it….via the vehicle of kickstarter.


Q: @cynicalinternet deep question: didnt you feel guilty asking for handouts? like you should be able to get the money on your own somehow?

A: @cynicalinternet, your name is just perfect. ask me that question again….slowly. and this time listen to yourself. “like you should be able to get the money on your own somehow”? are you FUCKING KIDDING ME? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I FUCKING JUST DID.

There's lots more of that sort of wisdom on her blog if you're interested.

So let’s step back for a moment. Why do people give money to anything?

There are four basic motivations: 1.    A good or service we would like to consume (shopping) 2.    An expectation of future financial return (investment) 3.    A cause we care about and a change we want to support (philanthropy) 4.    A relationship we value (helping a friend or family member out).

While all of these factors are in play on Kickstarter with the exception of the still-illegal number 2, which is the driver of the mega-fundraisers you hear most about?

For mega campaigns like the Pebble Watch or Ouya it’s clearly number 1, shopping. People supported the Pebble Watch, the reigning Kickstarter fundraising champion, because they wanted a Pebble watch. It’s no more complex than that. The best name for what’s happening on Kickstarter (and Pozible in Australia) is pre-sale crowdfunding, as Amanda Palmer suggested. There’s a product you want and you can pre-order it, and in so doing provide the financial capital for that product to be produced. Charity this ain’t.

What is more charity-like is supporting projects because you want to see a social impact they are creating, an extrinsic reward, not because you want the intrinsic or material reward they are offering. This dynamic is strongly at place for campaigns on StartSomeGood and many on Kickstarter, Pozible and IndieGoGo as well, but it does not describe the success of the huge commercial fundraisers the commentators are usually trying to understand. Just as different markets focus on different types of goods (brand-name goods at Best Buy, hand-made at Etsy, second-hand at Craigslist) so too will different crowdfunding platforms likely success by focusing on these different forms of motivation.

Thinking about crowdfunding in this way also gives us a sense of how large the various markets will be. The question “can equity-based crowdfunding be as big as pre-sale [Kickstarter] crowdfunding?” is essentially asking if investing is going to be as big as shopping. Which is unlikely. When most people have a spare $125 to spend they usually put it towards something cool they want to consume, like a Pebble watch, and not into something which may, perhaps, provide a long-term financial return.

This isn’t to say that equity-based crowdfunding won’t be significant, it will be. It will create a new opportunity for entrepreneurs which will be enthusiastically and effectively embraced, leading to the launch of thousands of new companies. But it won’t surpass the amount spent on pre-purchasing books, CDs, concert tickets, technology, iPhone accessories and the like through platforms like Kickstarter.

We’re realistic about what this means for StartSomeGood, given our focus on the 3rd category of spending, philanthropy (with 1. and 4. playing very important roles as well). Few people put more into charity than they spend on their own consumption but many of us do put some portion of our income into good causes in order to support those less fortunate or to promote a change we wish to see in our community or the world. For some of us that portion is very significant and in aggregate the total contributed is huge.

Opening up this opportunity to new social innovators is critical to allowing new solutions to emerge and to empowering communities to create the future they need. We don’t need to be “bigger than Kickstarter” to realise this opportunity, we just need to be sustainable and effective in helping social entrepreneurs and non-profits to launch and grow socially impactful initiatives. (And we reject the comparison anyway, because we’re not competing with Kickstarter).

So thinking back to the crowdfunding (*ahem* peerfunding!) campaigns you have supported – what motivated your giving? And be honest, it’s okay to want cool stuff and get excited about new technology, but let’s understand that for what it is. And let’s complement that consumption by putting aside some funds to back social impact projects as well, because our world needs more changemakers and they need your support.

Image by THEfunkyman on flickr, made available on a creative commons license.

StartSomeGood is not competing with Kickstarter

I got a knock-back letter from an incubator the other day. Their reason: “concerns about your ability to out-execute the incumbent.” They are talking, of course, about Kickstarter, the massively-successful website who introduced most people to the idea of crowdfunding. This is a common confusion but completely misplaced in our opinion. I decided to tackle the issue head-on with a post on the StartSomeGood blog, which I've re-posted below. I'd love your thoughts on whether this explanation resonates with you and how we can best express our unique value and purpose. The importance of diversity

We all talk about abundance vs scarcity, knowing logically that there is an abundance of resources to accomplish whatever anyone might want to do in this world, and yet many (most?) people have traditionally struggled to unlock the support they need to pursue their dreams.

So what would it take for all worthy endeavors to get the support they need?

In the real world you would need a range of venues available for different art forms and events just as you find in most cities – some generalist, hosting everything from basketball to ice dancing to concerts, others art form-specific but presenting a variety of acts and genres while other venues specialize in particular genres or performance forms. There are venues for speeches and workshops, parties and performances, for making things together or sitting back and watching. The vitality of a cities culture relies on this diversity of opportunities.

And this is precisely how the crowdfunding landscape is also playing out. For individuals with a passion for anything at all, there is IndieGoGo. For US-based artists and creative entrepreneurs with a product, there is Kickstarter while in Australia there is Pozible and in France Ulule. For journalists there is Spot.us and for app developers there is AppBackr.

And for social entrepreneurs and changemakers focused on making the world a better place, there is StartSomeGood.

Why we are not competing with Kickstarter

It is specifically in relation to Kickstarter that most confusion on this point arises.

Here at StartSomeGood we have heard these questions numerous times:

  • How are you different to Kickstarter?
  • Aren’t you just a niche Kickstarter?
  • Why would people choose you instead of Kickstarter?
  • How do you intend to compete with Kickstarter?

The confusion here is related to Kickstarter’s huge mindshare, being the way many people found out about crowdfunding, but also largely on us. It is our job to explain how what we’re doing fits into the current fundraising landscape and the ways in which we are distinctive even as we work towards a similar vision. This post is an attempt to do that.

This belief that we are not competing with Kickstarter is both a philosophical position but also a practical observation of the different markets we serve. The confusion arises here I believe because with all the media attention to Kickstarter people only casually connected to the space often think of them as an all-purpose crowdfunding platform. This leads some to wonder how we will thrive with our (seemingly) more-niche platform focused on social change projects.

But Kickstarter is not an all-purpose platform, their focus is very clear: creative projects only. They are strict in maintaining their criteria (and explicitly prohibit “charity projects”) and have a particular style of project they prefer – one with a clear, productized outcome which can be shared or consumed. So Kickstarter are a niche platform, just as we are, but in both cases our respective niche’s are enormous. To be sure, there are some situations where there is overlap, such as in the instance of a film about a social issue, a political app or a food justice project. But the vast majority of the ventures we exist to serve simply cannot participate on Kickstarter’s platform due to either not being a creative product or being based outside the United States.

Rather than write another 1,000 words on this, here’s a little Venn diagram we hope will succinctly illustrate the point:

So the concept that people need to “choose us over Kickstarter” is accurate only in a few specific instances; for most social impact ventures Kickstarter is not actually an available choice.

Kickstarter has given rise to countless new films, gadgets and art projects; StartSomeGood to brand new social change organizations.  Kickstarter has empowered video game makers, iPhone gadgeteers and t-shirt designers; StartSomeGood has empowered changemakers of all ages and from many countries to pursue their dreams.  Rather than choosing one platform over the other, in most cases it’s clear from the start which site is the best fit for which project, with our shared purpose of providing an opportunity to rally supporters around your vision being the common denominator.

Given how much there is that needs doing in the world and the people looking for tools to help them make it happen we believe there is a significant business opportunity to do for the social sector what Kickstarter have done for the creative sector. But by far more importantly, there is a huge opportunity, indeed, a need, to empower and inspire thousands of changemakers to create the future they want for their communities.

Allies, not competitors

This opportunity speaks to a bigger and more important philosophical point. We believe that the world is abundant with possibilities: world-changing ideas and changemakers ready to make them happen. We exist to help those changemakers go from idea to action and impact. We have always been enormously inspired by the impact Kickstarter have had in the creative industries. We aim to democratize the social sector, creating opportunities for new types of projects, diverse organizational forms and a new generation of changemakers, just as Kickstarter is democratizing cultural consumption and the creative industries.

We are in fact huge fans of Kickstarter. I myself have supported 36 projects on Kickstarter, which puts me in the top 1% of project backers, given that 84% of Kickstarter members have given to just a single project.

The sectors we focus on are the two most in need of disruption, as funding decisions in both the creative and social change sectors have traditionally been made by small groups far removed from those who most benefit from the work produced. Now social and creative entrepreneurs can go around these traditional decision-makers and turn directly to their communities for the support they need.

We are proud to be part of this movement to break down barriers and provide the tools to help people do epic things. Rather than competing StartSomeGood and Kickstarter are creating the same future: one that is more democratic, open, participatory and exciting.

In Summary, How StartSomeGood is Different from Kickstarter:

  • They are for creative projects while we are for social impact projects;
  • They require a US bank account to launch a campaign while we accept projects from 110 countries (anywhere you can set up a paypal account);
  • They use an all-or-nothing model and we use a Tipping Point model;
  • Kickstarter was founded by creatives for creative entrepreneurs, StartSomeGood was founded by changemakers for social entrepreneurs.

If you are still unsure please get in touch and let's talk about which platform might be right for you.

So, did that clear things up?