Crowdfunder is the UK’s #1 crowdfunding platform, but it also has aspirations to be the most effective social investment platform in the world. Is this a case of big talk from a small company, or are they really on to something?
If you happen to wander into the daily morning meeting at Crowdfunder HQ, more commonly known in house as the 905, you are sure to hear a lot of claims being made about social investment and re-defining Social Enterprise. After starting at Crowdfunder only a few months ago, I was curious to find out if too much time has been spent talking the talk, or perhaps… just maybe, this small company really are onto something that not everyone else has spotted yet.
As the new girl on the block, combined with what I’m sensing might have been some kind of initiation process, I found myself in conversation with the main man himself, Rob Love – founder of Crowdfunder.co.uk, to find out exactly what he means by all of this social talk.
What is Crowdfunder?
Crowdfunder connects people… that is at the heart of what we do. Projects come to our platform to present their ideas to the public, or what we like to call the crowd, to ask for donations towards their cause. By connecting project owners with supporters who care, we make ideas happen – ideas that could potentially change the world.
The best way to explain this concept is to look at some of the great projects that we see coming through the Crowdfunder platform. For example, we have recently been working with Cycling Without Age through their development from a one-town one-man idea, intending to take elderly residents out on cycle rides on a uniquely designed tricycle, into a nation-wide initiative. As well as groups, we also support individuals such as Faye from Urban Studio who crowdfunded to launch her fitness studio to support mental, emotional and physical well-being.
What’s brilliant is that we see hundreds of these projects and ideas happening every day. The possibilities, opportunities and even the scale of what we can achieve seems to keep growing. Our community of individuals, businesses, charities and social enterprises is also growing all of the time too.
What do you define as a Social Enterprise?
I’m not sure that I like the phrase – it’s being used too narrowly. I would say that all of our projects are social enterprises in some way. Whether you’re an individual, a business, a charity or a straight up incorporated Social Enterprise – we don’t mind who you are, it’s all about what you do. Our supporters don’t care as much as you may think either. They trust the people behind the projects first, not just the entity or its constitution.
I really think that we all need to be more socially enterprising, that’s the future of the planet. What I mean by this is that charities often need to be more business-like and businesses often more charitable. Just because something falls into one of these categories, such as a charity, a business, or a ‘Social Enterprise’, it doesn’t mean that it has a monopoly on doing it best. I believe that social enterprise, as a non-constituted idea, can bridge that gap.
So, how does this new, non-constituted ‘social enterprise’ concept relate to our platform?
Nearly all of our successful projects at Crowdfunder are delivering social impact – they all have a social purpose of some kind and the Crowd can spot that a mile off. If it’s not for the better good of society, it’s going to be harder to get support – that’s the beautiful nature of crowdfunding. The best ideas for society, for all of us, rise to the top and Crowdfunder is just a facilitator for this. I would say that if the project’s intention is not good for us all, it’s unlikely to get funded.
Is it all about the money then?
No, that’s where rewards based crowdfunding has it’s real value. Crowdfunder is able to offer something much more valuable than money.
Simon, project owner of community bakery Stoneham Bakehouse, recently told us that, ‘Our Crowdfunder campaign has been, and continues to be, incredibly helpful to our community business. The money we raised was vital to initially kitting out our bakery; buying the large oven, mixer and much more. However, much more than the money; knowing 273 people, many of them very local, supported our idea gave us confidence. So many of these backers have become regular and loyal customers.”
Our platform provides an incredible process of gaining validation, engagement, support and advocacy for your idea… really crucial learning curves that can really only be acquired through crowdfunding. It’s about something much more than just the money.
But you say that Crowdfunder’s ambition is to be ‘the most effective social investment platform in the world’. Doesn’t that mean adding lending and equity to the rewards-based Crowdfunder model?
No, not necessarily. What we mean by ‘social investment’ is that we have this community of hundreds and thousands of socially motivated investors who are emotionally, physically and financially supporting projects. By supporting ideas with purpose, they essentially become social investors… Investors in the sense of investing something much more than just money and looking for more back than just a financial return. What they are doing is helping to validate an idea and make a project stronger.
We see this kind of investment as something that we like to call ‘more than profit’. By coming together to support ideas that will change the world to be a better place for us all to live in, we are socially investing in our future. We need to nurture this want for change in order to have a positive impact on society, and that is the essence of social investment… we are investing in the social good of the future.
Following this, there is then the possibility that we might help these now stronger projects to go on and raise further funds in the form of debt and equity, but they need to be ready for that. Imagine it in a similar way to sending someone on to further or higher education without grounding them in good early education. We want to make all of the ideas and projects better, stronger, more sustainable and resilient – that’s good for all of us. If we do that well, then we’ll be the most effective.
The most effective in ‘The World’?
We have a big ambition – yes, but we really need to be the most effective and the best that we can here.
To attack the rest of the world is a big challenge, but as a digital entity it’s much easier to expand into other territories. The concept of crowdfunding has been around for a long time, but the internet has evoked a real change because we can now really easily reach a much wider network of people. Beyond this, we also have the tools to form a really unique experience for our community that is both inclusive and educative, ultimately making social investment possible for all who want to get involved. This all makes our ambition much more realistic.
It is important however, that we need go at the right time; when we’re strong, ready and alongside our business model and partners. We think that’s the winning combination.