On Wednesday we took a field trip to the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge for Mass Innovation Night’s “Crowdfunding II” session. Finalists attended a panel discussion where they heard three speakers who had successfully raised capital using crowd funding sites like Kickstarter and RocketHub. One clear take-away from the discussion: It takes a lot of work, both before and during the campaign, to successfully raise capital this way. Having your own following via email or Twitter before you launch gives you a much greater chance of success; and during a campaign, reaching out to your own network and trying to drum up support with other networks, including people trying to raise money just like you are, can be critical to achieving your goals.
There were also eight or so other startups at the event who were in the midst of their own crowd funding campaigns. They shared the ins and outs of their business models and their campaigns – our finalists felt they got more value from these discussions than from the panelists.
So it was a welcome change to visit a new venue and to meet new contacts – but it was sobering as well in terms of how much work a successful crowd funding campaign takes.
On Thursday, Barrie Atkin came to Lawrence to speak to our group on the provocatively titled session, “How to ask for money.” Barrie is a seasoned executive with very relevant experience in fundraising for both for and non profit organizations. She has attended fundraising seminars as well, and it showed, as she had a well-organized plan and made sure the session was interactive, fun, and that it covered points the finalists asked for.
In the photo above Barrie is working with Derek on his challenges in determining who to ask for funds, and how. The class jumped in and gave Derek a ton of ideas to consider, including getting his customers to pay in advance (ironically this is what most crowdfunding campaigns offer as well). We also covered the ups and downs of asking friends and family for money – how to broach the topic, when to not ask, etc. – a very tough subject that many finalists are considering using.
The reviews from the finalists of Barrie were quite positive – as in Lake Wobegon, she ended up “above average” (in this case, we really do have half the presenters above and half below average!) which is no small feat considering the wide spectrum of possible funding needs our class represents.
Thanks again to Barrie for a great session! -David