Crowdfunding Successes Offer Hope for Creative Ideas from Entrepreneurs

By Imran Mukati & Katie Soo (www.ownyourhollywood.com)


Los Angeles, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/19/2012 --In the days before the Internet, new ideas in the marketplace were often tested using focus groups -- an assortment of people in a room testing a product and giving feedback to make that offering more appealing to the masses. But today’s technology, which allows international collaboration and instant response to ideas, has birthed crowdfunding, a financial model to raise capital for business ventures by everyday people that provides grassroots funding to an initiative and thereby instant feedback – trumping focus groups because it allows people to put their own money behind an initiative. Thus it gives everyday investors instant ownership and allows the healthy expansion of the marketplace of ideas.

Since crowdfunding has surged in popularity due to websites like Kickstarter and Mobcaster, there are a number of creative ventures and entrepreneurial efforts that have launched successfully, all because their customers invested funds and confidence in the startup from the ground floor. Currently, “donators” can receive returns in non-nominal forms such as coupons, insider access to launch parties and film openings, and credits within the film or company website. The breadth of projects boosted by crowdfunding are as varied as the people who donate, but what follows are six notable success stories:

- Blue Like Jazz: The Movie. This film adaptation of Donald Miller’s bestselling postmodernist book chronicles the journey of Miller from a devout Southern Baptist childhood to the ultra-liberal Reed College and beyond, tracing his personal spiritual journey along the way. In September 2010 the movie was in production when the project was put on hold because of insufficient funds. Miller and director Steve Taylor announced through a blog post that the popular book might never reach the big screen. A few days after that post, two fans in Tennessee launched a website called www.savebluelikejazz.com and collaborated with Kickstarter to raise the $125,000 that was needed to complete the film. The crusaders reached that goal in 10 days, and by the end of 30 days they had tallied $345,000 from more than 4500 contributors, making Blue Like Jazz the largest crowd-sourced project in American history. The movie, which opens on April 13, has been selected as an entrant in the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival. “It calls me up into a new level of excellence,” cinematographer Ben Pearson told Relevant Magazine. “It’s not Steve’s film, Don’s film or my film anymore. It’s everybody’s film.”

- E&M Labs. When two former software engineers from Menlo Park created a snap-together kit so that anyone could make a desktop version of an ancient catapult called a trebuchette, they needed funds to create, market and distribute their unique product. They created a Kickstarter page with a goal of $48,000. When the campaign closed in April 2011, they had doubled that mark, with $96,248 from 1,876 backers. As they moved ahead with their trebuchettes, the two visionaries started a second Kickstarter initiative for their new product, Skallops, a construction kit that uses wooden laser-cut clips and ordinary playing cards to build almost anything. The implementation of the Skallops plan was not as expensive -- E&M Labs only set a goal of $7,300 -- but they had collected $65,904 when the drive concluded in February.

- Triptych Brewing. The brainchild of three entrepreneurs from Illinois with disparate backgrounds in brewing, business and the law, Triptych Brewing looked to crowdfunding to provide the equipment and startup dollars for their distributing brewery, which was conceptualized as a combination of traditional techniques and cutting-edge brewing technology. With a goal of $20,000, Triptych offered backers incentives like limited edition pint glasses and an invitation to a one-one-one beer tasting when their facility opens. Triptych’s Facebook page gave daily updates of its Kickstarter campaign, which closed in February with $25,312 that exceeded the trio’s goal. With funding in place, Triptych leased a building in Savoy, Illinois and started converting it into a brewery with hopes for a summer 2012 opening.

- The Order of the Stick. Unlike many crowdfunding projects, the Order of the Stick was not a startup when it launched a drive to solicit fans for donations. Rich Burlew is a comic book illustrator based in Philadelphia whose stick-figure comics have gained a cult following on the Internet. Burlew printed some compilations of his work several years ago, but he has struggled to find the funds to reprint when the volumes sell out. Enter Kickstarter, which Burlew used to set a fundraising goal of $57,750 to reprint at least one of the books, “Order of the Stick: War and XPs.” When the campaign concluded on Feb. 21, Burlew had more than doubled his goal, with $1.25 million pledged from a dizzying 14,952 different backers.

- 99% (The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film). This documentary combined the efforts of a team of filmmakers in 18 cities across the U.S. with the goal of chronicling the widespread Occupy Wall Street protests that gripped the nation in the fall of 2011. With untold hours of footage, the film’s directors used Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to sort, edit and produce a film that honestly portrayed the people and convictions that drove the Occupy movement. The film exceeded its fundraising goal of $17,500, raising $20,420 with 299 backers by January 13, 2012, with hopes that the movie could be launched just a few months after those donations were processed.

- Back to Your Senses. As she conceptualized her idea of an episodic TV series called “Back to Your Senses,” Michigan-based filmmaker, artist and writer Andrea Claire Maio turned to Mobcaster to help with the show’s financial foundation. Similar to Kickstarter but devoted solely to funding independent television, Mobcaster started a campaign for Maio to pay for the pilot of her series, which examines the journeys of people who have found a way to make the work they love into a vocation. The show will examine, “passionate visionaries who has committed to doing something they love, and have taken a lot of risks in order to do that,” Maio said in a video used to pitch her idea on Mobcaster. She requested $15,000 and exceeded her goal, with $15,250 pledged by the 192 individuals that Mobcasters refers to as “execs.”

Crowdfunding is still a nascent concept, but successful ventures like the ones profiled above are a testament to its unlimited potential to fund the types of projects that the public really wants to be able to watch, read or buy. Crowdfunding is subject to a type of natural selection; if an entrepreneur pitches an idea that doesn’t appeal to people, then backers won’t step up and the idea won’t get off the ground. But for these two films, two building toys, one brewery, one comic book series and one television pilot, the people have spoken out in a way that resonates with our economy -- with their money -- and the world’s consumers are the better for it. (http://ownyourhollywood.com)

To see our other article please click: The Crowdfunding Bill Just Might Save Entrepreneurship

To learn more about the authors please follow us on Twitter @imranmukati & @katiekat.

To learn more about Own Your Hollywood please follow us on Twitter @OwnUrHollywood.