Crowdfunding is a really hot space right now. Obviously in the U.S. Kickstarter and Indiegogo were the first to the gate, funding everything from record albums to installation art projects and even startups who’ve gotten creative with their Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects.
Congress recently passed the JOBS Act that’s going to make it possible for ordinary citizens to crowd fund startups for equity up to $1 million dollars.
Overseas though, crowd funding is just starting to take off. Australian startup iPledj is a crowd funding platform for everything from creative projects to businesses. With iPledj just about anyone create a project and just about anyone can fund that same project. iPledg has no medium for crowd funding for equity, but if you’re a business looking to make money for a special project, you may find luck on the Australian site.
We got a chance to talk with iPledj co-founder Brian Vadas about Australia’s biggest crowdfunding startup. Check out that interview below:
What is ipledg?
iPledg is a broad based crowd funding platform on which those with creative, commercial, charitable or community projects can engage their networks (and beyond) to raise the required funds to achieve their initiatives. Whilst largely unheard of in Australia, crowd funding is one of the fastest browing forms of ecommerce on the planet. Since our inception, we have been engaging with governments, universities, industry bodies, businesses and individuals who see this as a efficient, low risk for of raising funds that do not involve loans that need to be repaid or the surrender of equity in the concept or company. The platform not only facilitates the process of crowd funding, but gives clear, concise, and simple guidelines and assistance to help both project creators and those who wish to support projects.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Andy Tompkins originated from the UK where he qualified as a Chartered Accountant before spending some time in South Africa and then migrating to Australia at the beginning of 2010. Andy has his own corporate advisory business in Brisbane, Lattice Capital, which was started by his colleague Trevor Cuss in 2008. Andy is also a panel member for the Queensland government’s Mentoring for Growth program, assisting small businesses deal with some of the issues facing them in day to day operations. It was on one of these panels that he met Bryan Vadas.
Even at high school, Bryan demonstrated entrepreneurial flair and a commercial astuteness beyond his years, having become the face of Young Achievers Australia in 1982. Using broad based skills he has assisted business start ups right through to multinationals who require business transformation solutions. In 2002, Bryan teamed up with Steve Flint to form Time Masters (Australia), offering project management, program management, and general management consultancy to small and large businesses, locally and abroad.
Having met Andy at a Mentoring for Growth panel meeting in 2011, Bryan initiated a coffee, at which they both discussed synergies between the businesses they were running. As they were about to leave, Andy casually mentioned to Bryan about an idea he had about starting a crowd funding site. Typical of most people who are unaware of this little known concept (at least at the time), Bryan asked “what’s crowd funding?” at which point the two resumed their seats and spent considerably more time going through the idea. At the end of their lengthy conversation Bryan told Andy “you shouldn’t have mentioned this idea in passing – you know now I’m going to push you to do it” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Both Andy and Bryan quickly recognised the “fit” between their philanthropic endeavours and the general concept of Crowd funding, and iPledg became not just a platform for commercial and business projects, but one for charitable and community endeavours.
Finally, with friends and close family involved in artistic and creative pursuits, Andy and Bryan realised that the passion around the creative space would also lend itself to Crowd Funding (this had been proven for years already and all around the world), so iPledg found its third pillar, that of being a platform for the artistic and creative to raise the funding they require for their projects.
And iPledg was born!
Where are you based?
We are based on the Gold Coast, Queensland, but have established the site as global platform, allowing anyone from anywhere in the world to post a project or pledge their support. We have already had projects and pledges from Australia, the USA, Asia, Europe, and South Africa, so we are already achieving the dream of iPledg being based not in one location, but potentially on every computer and screen around the world
What problem does iPledg solve?
Great for startup capital. Venture capitalists don’t “venture” anymore (availability of venture capital is down by 90% from the figures of 10 years ago). Venture capitalists say they find start-ups, but by nature they don’t – they require proven track record and a history of sales and profit (bringing on the argument that they perhaps should be called Development Capitalists nowadays rather than Venture Capitalists). Crowd funding allows for the funding of what is little more than a good idea, as long as “the crowd” also the crowd also believes that the idea is sound. Small business or start-ups can try crowd funding quickly, at low cost and low risk, and raise funds without taking on loans that need to be repaid or giving away equity in the idea, product or company. They can use such funding for prototyping, proof of concept, affording to bring in skills and knowledge to achieve a particular point in their progress, acquire tools and equipment, or to develop marketing collateral or deliver a product launch. A successful campaign will not only provide the required funding, but support the business with social proof of their concept, which may allow them to acquire greater, more formal funding from traditional sources. In addition, a well promoted, successful crowd funding campaign will not only give exposure to the business and product / service, but is a great way to offer the product / service to the market before getting underway. The founders of iPledg recognised (in their commercial lives prior to iPledg) that there was a yawning gap at the bottom of the funding ladder, whereby businesses with a good idea and little (or no) traction could not attract finance. Crowd funding offer a solution and now fills that gap
How did you come up with the idea?
I wish we could take credit for coming up with the idea of crowd funding, but it was successfully implemented before we came along. Andy know of it and he told me of the concept last year, thinking it would fill the gap of at the bottom of the crowd funding ladder that most of our SME clients were faced with when they went to acquire funding. We were also both heavily involved with charities, and had family and friends involved in the creative and artistic field. We recognized that crowd funding would provide a universal solution in all these areas to allow a new model for raising funds, that would be efficient and effective, and allow for a new voice in the heavily crowded funding area.
What’s your secret sauce?
Broad commercial experience. Strategic alliances with key individuals and organizations that give us reach and add to our credibility. The ability to weather the long road to establishing the critical mass and exposure needed to be a sustainable business model. An undying, never-give-up attitude. A passion for wanting to make a difference, to help small business and charitable / community groups (it is this motivation, what we see as the right motivation, that makes us different, as others are motivated by the financial returns being achieved by other, leading and successful crowd funding platforms. It is passion rather than the want for a quick buck that will see sustainability and success). And, of course, as sense of fun in all we do – we love our job!
What’s one challenge you overcame in the startup process?
As a shoestring startup, we had to get bang for our buck in every respect. We had to build the platform with minimal funding, and that gave us a base platform with which we could launch. This gave us the exposure we were after, which then generated enough income to generate the funds to build the full version we wanted, which launches in early August this year. We got there in the end, but we made do with what resources we had to get underway and achieve traction
What’s next for iPledg?
Continue to build awareness of both crowd funding and of iPledg. Launch iPledg 2.0 with the successful components of the current platform, but with more functionality and flexibility. Continue to work with the regulators with whom we have started speaking about investment crowd funding, and move to review global experience in readiness for acceptance of the same model here in Australia when the regulators are ready to do so,
Find out more about iPledj here at their website
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