Indiegogo, Alphaworks, TDBank flex meaning of fundraising

Indiegogo's Jerry Needel
Indiegogo’s Jerry Needel

By Dennis Clemente

DUMBO, Brooklyn is far from all the tech meetups happening in New York City, but it makes sense to hold an event here. After all, it’s where many startups hold office.

This makes perfect sense for Digital DUMBO, which produces live events, conferences, content and custom experiences, like it did last June 26 when it hosted a meetup featuring Alphaworks, Indiegogo and even TDBank. Crowdfunding meets Bank—an unusual partnership but one that should make sense. Every startup needs funding no matter where it’s coming from, even from a bank like TDBank.

So other than angel investors and VCs, startups have more choices. Crowdfunding, for instance, is gaining immense popularity, especially those who have tech hardware in or wearable in mind. Crowdfunding sites are magnets for any physical device, because it’s easier for people to invest in something they can physically grasp, literally.

The Pebble Watch’s success was the turning point. Now, people easily identify with physical devices pitched on a crowdfunding site like Indiegogo. Jerry Needel, Head of Growth at Indiegogo, told us the story of how the founder of Bug a Salt, a gun-like fly swatter, invested 300,000 of his own money and maxed out on his credit cards with almost no hope of recouping his investment until he posted his idea on Indiegogo and people responded in kind (read: money).

Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock build a door.”

Even when poked at, one can’t discount how Bug a Salt became a huge success. It’s on Amazon for $39.95.

So ask yourself if you really need the money, because Indiegogo thinks you can bring out an idea much sooner with them. Needel said you need to test your market,
find out your market validation, build buzz, capture data and raise capital.

“Crowdfunding is a proving ground for startups,” he said as he talked about the success stories in Indiegogo like Misfit Shine which raised $846,000 or Knix, which raised $60,000 in 30 days – success is how much money you need to raise.

But what if you want to be a co-owner of a startup? You can do that with Alphaworks.

Nick Barr, VP Product of Alphaworks, said the company’s mission is to empower passionate communities to become owners in the companies they love. Founded by Betaworks, it represents a new kind of ownership, a world in which companies are likely to be owned by a community of people

Alphaworks, founded by Betaworks, represents a new kind of ownership – a world in which companies are as likely to be owned by a community of people as they are by just a few individuals. Our thesis is that over time, this new kind of community owned business will lead to more profitable and lasting organizations.

If you want to invest, Barr recommends Giphy, See me and Quibb.

It was easy to tell who came from TDBank last Thursday. Brandon Williams of TDBank’s Head of US Wealth, even kidded about it. “We’re the ones in suits.”

To express his commitment to startups, he said, “We want to be partners with you. No company is too small,” he said.

If you’re interested in learning more about TD Bank and how they can help you or your company, contact Peter Izzo, VP Commerical Banking, at (212) 918-4186 or Tarryn Kone, TD Private Client Group, at (212) 897 2658, or visit www.tdbank.com.

Digital DUMBO started in 2009 as a social gathering for innovative companies in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn, a six-block area with over 100 media and technology companies. If you’re In the neighborhood, there’s no excuse if you don’t what it means. It’s Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Is crowdfunding right for you? Tales from the trenches

By Dennis Clemente

Is crowdfunding right for you? For some people, the thought of sharing their business idea online to get funding is like giving it away but not unless your idea gets funded faster. Maybe you’re not comfortable with the idea of getting in front of a camera, but there’s a way to overcome that, too.

At the meetup “In the Trenches: Best Practices for Crowdfunding” at a Microsoft office last June 4, the panel of speakers came from gamers who went through crowdfunding and lived to tell the tale. They were Melissa Marie Fassetta of FPS Russia, Joshua DeBonis of Meriweather and Mark McCorkle of Luna Nova.

There was no hesitation on Fassetta’s part. She said she went to Kickstarter right way with her idea. That proved to be a good move, as she helped raise $55,000 to fund FPS Russia: The Game http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fpsrussia/fps-russia-the-game-0, coordinating with the popular YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/FPSRussia. Fassetta is a game development and social media project manager for a digital creative agency in NYC.

She has also been involved in a Kickstarter project that was not funded, and is happy to share her experience in what works (and what doesn’t) in running a successful Kickstarter campaign. “Set a lower money level. We set it at $51,000. We got $55,000.”

Reaching that amount is not as easy. “Kickstarter is powerful but you can’t just rely on it. Have writers or bloggers write about you,” she said with others nodding in agreement. DeBonis ran a successful Kickstarter for a computer role-playing game about the Lewis and Clark Expedition called Meriwether http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meriwether/meriwether-an-american-epic.

“We talked about our game using Google Hangout and did cross-promotions with others seeking funds on Kickstarter,” DeBonis said, who is particularly interested in exploring ways to integrate history and music with games, the procedural generation of game content, and games that provide a deep experience. DeBonis raised $35,000, still way less than the cost of the game but it’s a good start. As of press time, he has raised over $44,000.

It helps if you have the credentials for people to believe in you. DeBonis is an award-winning game designer and the Director of Sortasoft LLC, an independent studio based in Brooklyn, NY. He has taught game design and development at Parsons The New School for Design, is co-founder and organizer of the New York Board Game Designers playtest group, and recently co-founded the experimental collective Brooklyn Game Ensemble.

Over the past year, McCorkle has been working on various browser and cross-platform technologies, finally settling on a framework that will allow his game, “Luna Nova,” to reach as many platforms and players as possible.

The purpose of building the game is not just to entertain, but also to give McCorkle and the other creative people on his team a venue to communicate a rich sci-fi story. Kickstarter will allow him to get his indie game into people’s hands by winter of 2013.

Since this is McCorkle’s second Kickstarter campaign, he gives one great tip about how to use your Facebook log-in. “Create a Facebook page specific to your crowdfunding campaign, so when you need people to promote or collaborate with you, it’s easier.”

“This is my second Kickstarter project,” the animated McCorkle said. He started his game geek life writing small games on his Atari 800XL. After years of being a game consumer and building infrastructure for everything from ISPs to travel companies, he worked with a small team to develop a browser-based MMO.

The panel was moderated by Emma Larkins who works for a tech startup called Knodes that helps people build communities around their projects. She’s passionate about the crowdfunding industry, and recently Kickstarted her first science fiction novel, Mechalarum http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/emmalarkins/mechalarum-a-science-fiction-novel.

For people to consider funding your idea, handing out rewards or incentives is also important, but
what’s even more important is to know how to handle it without making it a bigger headache than your idea.

The panel said a physical item/reward can be problematic. It can be a pain to ship a thousand items plus you have to deal with customs. They also advised that you make sure you know where you are shipping your item—domestically or internationally.

As a crowdfunding site, not everybody gave Kickstarter a resounding endorsement. The panel offered some suggestions (and misgivings) on how the site has still room for improvement:

• Writing and editing fields could be improved (no copy-paste option)
• Fortunately, there is a preview mode now
• No interaction during and after posting with Kickstarter
• When the campaign ends, you can’t edit your posting anymore
• It has no data unlike Indiegogo, so you don’t know who’s clicking on your posting
• Indiegogo has no transaction fees
• You don’t need approval on Indiegogo

The more important benefit of crowdfunding is building a rich community of people who want you to succeed. But is crowdfunding for everyone? The panel was unanimous in saying some ideas “just have no audience,” with McCorkle adding that “if you failed the first time, it’s harder the second time.”

To raise your level of success, the panel was unanimous in saying that having a well-scripted video is essential. In the beginning, they admitted to trying an off-the-cuff, impromptu video to appear authentic, but it didn’t work.

Still, the question remains: Is there a full-proof way of getting your idea funded? You’ll learn from first-hand experience.