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Posts Tagged ‘tribefunding’

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?

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One of my tribes.

I’m writing this on the train from Vancouver back to the Bay Area, sitting in the glass-encased observation carriage as farmlands and forests sweep by, dramatically snow-capped mountains in the distance. We are in southern Oregon and it feels like every few minutes we cross another river near-bursting its banks. It’s all so lush and gorgeous, characteristic of the Northwest Forests I’ve had the chance to experience in recent days. Trains really are the best way to travel. While yesterday I had wifi from Vancouver to Portland this 18-hour stretch from Portland to San Francisco is offline, which I don’t mind as it’s a good time for clearing my head and doing some writing.

The past couple of weeks have been unusually stressful, with my visa to re-enter the US initially being rejected, stranding me in Canada with my pregnant wife left back in San Francisco and time ticking down to our departure from the US back to Australia, unable to help with the tasks of relocation or say goodbye to my friends in person. This is all thankfully behind me as I steam towards the Bay, with 17 days once I get there to finish packing and depart.

Despite the stress and frustration when in the future I look back on this time I don’t think this is what I’ll remember at all. Instead I think I’ll have overwhelming positive feelings about these two weeks, remembering the incredible support and love our friends showed both K and I, which managed to turn what could have been an awful experience into truthfully one of the most moving and uplifting of my life.

When we first announced the visa rejection on Facebook, the response was immediate and near-overwhelming. Offers of support and advice poured in. I was connected to Australian, American and Canadian diplomats, immigration lawyers, and people who had gone through the process before to get advice. I was offered numerous places to stay and people to connect with in Vancouver and Calgary. Our friends in San Francisco really stepped up to help K with packing up our house, at one point she had seven of them working under her direction, or just to deliver her food and offer her company and support.

Beyond these specific actions was the unbelievable sense of love, concern and solidarity we both experienced. When we could have felt very alone, kept apart by border and bureaucracy, we instead felt deeply connected to our community. It’s a feeling I will always treasure. Thank you to everyone who reached out and offered comfort during this time.

In the most practical and necessary way possible I also experienced incredible hospitality while in Canada. In Vancouver I stayed with a new friend who I had only met at a street party in San Francisco this past New Year’s Day. It’s not as random as it sounds, we share a mutual close friend who was at the party and she spent five years in Sydney previously.  While we never met we were part of the same cultural community in Sydney, the outdoor psytrance scene, and this sense of being part of the same tribe, despite having only recently met, was powerfully connecting, even as my intended 3 days in Vancouver stretched to 11. Last Saturday night we went to a psytrance party in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, and the feeling of the community there was reminiscent of the tribe we both missed in Sydney: open, fun-loving and expressive.

I had the same experience in Calgary, staying with a relatively recently-met friend who I share many social ties with, both having been part of the beautifully close-knit Burning Man community in Washington DC, but never having lived there at the same time. While in Calgary I also met a group of the local burners (Burning Man devotees) and the ease with which we bonded was both unusual and yet also expected.

The lesson: when you are part of the same tribe, you take care of each other.

I’ve thought a lot about tribes over the past several years, and it’s my belief in the power and abundance of our communities that inspires me about crowdfunding (or tribefunding as I increasingly think of it).

I believe a deeper sense of tribe is only possible when you share a form of cultural expression which is sub-mainsteam. In other words it is sub-cultures that form community. Sub-cultures tend to be based on participation, whereas mainstream cultures are based on consumption. Once a culture gets too big a certain level of intimacy and sense of connection and participation, of having something important and vital in common, gets diluted then lost. You can feel this even in San Francisco, where Burning Man culture has become mainstream, and the truly tight-knit communities are the next sub-cultural level down, groups of burners based around specific camps or sounds.

I also had the chance to connect with my other community, social entrepreneurs and changemakers, when I presented at events in Vancouver, Calgary and Portland, and loved the energy and passion of the people I met. I hope we’ll be able to support many of them on StartSomeGood soon.

It is my connection to these tribes, my pursuit of the subcultures I love to participate in, which has provided a platform for my last four years in America, which has allowed me to quickly make friends and find community in each city I arrive in.

I am so grateful for the support of friends new and old over the past couple of weeks, and for the tribes and cultures which connect us.

“True [dance] music consists of four main ingredients: a cup of spirituality, a tablespoon of love, a dash of togetherness, and a pinch of soul-penetrating beats.” – Bamboo Forrest.

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