Sean O’ Farrell is the managing director of Choice Loans, specialists in alternative finance options for businesses big and small.
Crowdfunding – the practice of funding a business venture by raising money online from a large number of people – has taken off in recent years. It’s now a popular method of alternative finance.
Various crowdfunding platforms have allowed small businesses the opportunity to source funding and get themselves up and running.
However, crowdfunding has also enabled some companies to realise some pretty big ideas. It’s not all about start ups offering a ‘new take on the burrito’, crowdfunding can also be a platform to launch potentially world changing concepts. A new infographic produced by Choice Loans, has taken a closer look at the world’s biggest crowdfunding projects.
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It’s called ‘The 13 Biggest Crowdfunding Campaigns of 2015’, ranking them by both the amount of funds generated, as well as giving some more valuable insight into the number of backers and what the motivation was for people to invest.
Sitting top of the pile by some significant distance for 2015 is Elio Motors. Seeking funding for an ultra-high mileage, two seater, affordable car they were able to secure more than $42 million. Making it one of the biggest and most successful crowdfunding campaigns in history.
Investors backed the campaign in return for shares in Elio Motor, a company in which they could see potential for future returns. However, they also invested because the project offered an alternative to what the market currently provided.
The new Elio model promised to emit just one third of the CO2 of an average car, whilst being extremely affordable. It would also come with the highest possible safety standards.
It was this potential that appealed to more than ten thousand investors willing to part with their money.
In second place, with a promised investment of more than $12 million, with a colossal 37 thousand backers is Flow Hive. It’s a type of beehive that uses a plastic tap in the inner frame to source honey straight from the hive. This means that honey can be harvested without opening the hive, straight into the jar, cutting out costly and time consuming additional processes. It also means less disruption for the bees.
Next on the list is the BAUBAX Travel Jacket, a modern form of clothing with in built pillow, eye mask, gloves, earphone holders and various tech pockets. They raised almost $10 million with 45 thousand backers, which already shows an incredible potential market for the product.
Backers could choose between three perks as a return for their investment. One was the BAUBAX windbreaker or bomber jacket (6,200 backers), the blazer (3,559 backers) and the sweatshirt (3,100 backers). The product comes in four styles in total, for both men and women. It’s the most successful clothing campaign in the history of crowdfunding.
This top three were all US-based opportunities but there were some very successful campaigns in the UK too. Perhaps most notably, and newsworthy, was the live action experience Crystal Maze game. Based on a popular TV show from the 1990s, more than $750,000 was raised by nearly four thousand donations.
Backers were given one of a number of related gifts, including having their name inscribed on the Wall of Fame. The original host, Richard O’Brien, returns to the game in virtual form and it is already lining up to be a big hit with former viewers and fans, now in their 30s and 40s, many working in the corporate sphere.
Another of the more unusual products on the list includes a new action-adventure video game called Shenmue III. It’s a long awaited third instalment in the series, relying on fans of the previous two to back its production. This is a clever use of an established fan base, and one that worked, with a massive 69.3 thousand investors receiving digital, physical or trial versions of the game in return for their cash.
Games proved to be a popular investment in 2015, with an unusually named card game called Exploding Kittens being the fourth biggest crowdfunding opportunity of 2015. The game is based on a conventional card game but also includes exploding kittens (within the confines of the game) and laser beams (obviously the two go hand in hand). Backers received versions of the game, including some limited edition collectors deck options for larger investors.
Other products were more altruistic, including Reading Rainbow, an interactive reading library and video field trip archive to help children in the classroom. Also in the top 13 and making the list was Sondors electric bike, the world’s most affordable and versatile model to date; shopping channel offering shares; an ice cream company making low sugar products; and a brewery.
What the infographic shows above all is that when an idea is good enough it can capture the imagination of the investing public. People are willing to risk their own personal money to back an idea they think has a good chance of succeeding and making a difference.
What this means for small businesses with big ideas is that they’re no longer completely dependent on the bottom line of a bank manager’s ledger.
Alternative funding does work – the sheer number of people investing in the vast variety of products and services listed proves the case. It’s also a very convenient and cost effective way of advertising. Backers also invest some emotional capital in your company, meaning they are more likely to tell friends and boost your visibility in the market place.
However, as well as showing that companies can succeed using different forms of funding, what it also proves is that investors are looking into new ways of spending their money. It’s not all about financial returns on investment, people like to feel included and that they’re making a difference.
In other cases they simply want to fund something that they personally enjoy – in the case of the Crystal Maze and Shenmue III games.
Of course, companies considering the crowdfunding option should also be aware that for every success story, there is a failed attempt to raise funds. What you need to consider is how appealing your product is to potential investors.
You need to either be offering a part of a promising future or goods, services and products that can exert some kind of emotional response. Social causes account for about 30% of all crowdfunded projects, with existing products with strong fan bases making up a significant percentage too.
It’s also important to remember that on the growing number of crowdfunding platforms, if you don’t reach your intended target, you have to refund all the pledged money to backers. With more than half of all projects failing to reach their targets, this is a possibility you should consider.
If your idea is good enough, however, or your product exerts a broad appeal, there is no reason why your company couldn’t appear on this list in 2016.