I am making a documentary. In India. And I have zero money. And I mean really zero — I work at a small NGO in one of the most expensive cities in the whole world (London).
So when this spring, my film partner, Anne Munger and I took account of our funding options for our film, we came to a scary conclusion: crowdfunding was our best bet. Because so many film grants require footage we were left in a chicken and egg quandary. We needed money to get footage but we needed footage to get money. Crowdfunding allowed us to sidestep that problem.
Because we also wanted to engage a community early on, crowdfunding also made sense. The film is about India’s family planning policies. Specifically we want to follow both the policy debate around these issues and the women they most affect. Our ultimate aim with this film (read more about it here) is to engage a larger audience around these complex issues, so we want to engage that audience right from the start. We want to find the passionate advocates, the sympathetic supporters, the curious citizens and engage them!
This led us to the conclusion: crowdfunding was the ticket. The only problem? Crowdfunding is hard. People often underestimate it. Just throw together an attractive page and people will send you money, right? Wrong. People don’t give money to just anything.
Several months later and three days from the end of our campaign (!!!!) we have successfully raised $18,400 of our goal of $15,000. We are now hoping to raise $20,000 by the end but we are already extremely pleased with the results.
Here are a few of the lessons we learned from the process.
1. The importance of a healthy network.
We are blessed with a robust network of amazing friends, families, coworkers and acquaintances. Networking often has a dirty, transactional connotation. But what I’ve learned is some of our biggest supporters throughout this process have been the amazing people we’ve met and kept in touch with. Having a network is often just the product of keeping in touch with friends. These friends were eager to help when the time came. They’d known that we’ve been working on a documentary, that this is our passion and they wanted us to succeed. Even people we were not necessarily close with stepped forward when the time came and really showed their support. I think this was key to success (not to mention an extremely touching byproduct).
2. Assembling a strong “team”
Before we launched we recruited about ten close friends each to be on our fundraising team. These people agreed to send the campaign to five to ten of their friends who we didn’t know. We approached these people about a month before launch and then again right before launch so they were pumped up and ready to go. These people let us break into our second degree network.
3. Securing Pre-Committed Funds
We had read in our research that campaigns that it is critical to reach 30% of your fundraising goal in the first week. We decided to make this a certainty by approaching a small group of more significant donors before launching. We secured this funding before launch and asked them to make the first contributions right as the campaign launched. This early momentum reassured less committed supporters. Thanks to this early advantage, we hit $10,000 within the first three days! With only $5,000 left to go over the remaining 19 days we knew we could achieve our goal and we even started planning a stretch goal for when we hit 15.
4. A Dynamic Pitch Video
The actual text and video for the campaign was something we thought a lot about. Videos are crucial for a successful crowdfunding campaign, especially for a film project. Because we were building on a short film we made in 2014, we already had some footage from India. We used this footage along with footage of ourselves talking to camera explaining our journey with this project, what it was about and why we were qualified to tackle this subject. We tried to make it inspirational rather than depressing. The issues surrounding reproductive rights in India are serious, yes, but we can do something about them! We wanted these early supporter to be our first step towards community engagement and we wanted them energized.
5. Fun, Thoughtful (and Cheap!) Perks
We had heard from other filmmakers that a significant amount of the funds they raised ended up being used up on perks they’d promised. Merchandise can be expensive. So we decided to stick to free and low cost perks. We brainstormed to come up with perks that we could deliver on with minimal costs but would still be exciting to our audience. These ranged from a link to our previous short doc to a google chat with us and some of the women we’d be working with while in India!
6. Posting Regular Updates
As the campaign got going we kept in touch with our supporters through regular updates on the campaign page and on social media. We used the perk of “twitter shout outs” as an opportunity to build a buzz around the campaign. We posted all our articles and achievements on Facebook. We recorded a new silly video once we hit $15,000 to thank everyone and announce our stretch goal. This kept our audience engaged and excited, they all joined our team as we went.
6. Working with the Media
To reach a wider audience beyond our immediate networks we decided to publish several articles about our film and the topic during the campaign (HI WORLD!). Before launching we wrote a piece about our journey for Huffington Post. On launch day we wrote a blog for LSE’s South Asia Centre about one of the central things we want to examine in the film. Because I studied at LSE this was part of my extended network. Through this piece we had several different people reach out to us and offer assistance. From access to rare archives in the LSE library to fundraising help, the article definitely helped to boost our visibility beyond our immediate network.
In a crazy coincidence a ruling came down from India’s Supreme Court during the campaign that directly related to our film. We jumped on the opportunity and published an article about it. Finally, a blog post ended up featuring our campaign as well which provided external legitimacy! This was luck and in large part, again, due to our early success.
The end result
Before launch day we lost sleep, we ran calculations, we worried. A lot. Then came the day. We had our close friends and family put in the pre-committed money and we began a long day of blasting out emails to everyone we’d ever met who might be interested in the project.
The first 24 hours of the campaign were madness. Writing and responding to emails, checking the ticker on the side of the campaign. It was a lot of work but it went well and we couldn’t be more thrilled. This was the initial push we needed to get our documentary going. Later, of course, we will require more funds for post production but by then we will have footage to make our grant applications stronger. And we will already have a community of almost 200 supporters behind us! You can check out our campaign and what we did here!
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This Is a $103 Billion Profit Opportunity
Investors in private startups pocketed a fortune last quarter…
According to a report released last week, they took home $103.9 billion.
That’s a record high — and as you’re about to learn, those profits are expected to keep flowing.
So today, I’ll show you why this is happening…
And then I’ll share two easy ways to get in on the action yourself.
How Private Investors Make Profits
Before I tell you how to take advantage of this profit window, let me back up for a moment…
Let me explain how investors in private startups make money.
Startup investors make money when a company they invested in has an “exit.” These exits happen in two main ways:
- When a startup gets acquired by a bigger company in an M&A transaction, or
- When the startup goes public in an IPO.
And as it turns out, Q3 of 2020 was a record-setting quarter for these exits…
A Record-Setting Quarter for Private Investors
The first half of the year was a disaster…
The coronavirus put a halt to everything, including exits.
But Q3 brought a massive uptick in activity.
For example, as you can see in the chart below (courtesy of PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor), exit value increased 292.5% versus Q3 2019.
That was the 2nd-highest quarterly total in PitchBook’s historical dataset, just behind Q2 2019.
What do all these exits mean for their investors?
They mean huge windfalls of profits!
(FYI, even when you factor in the winners and the losers, over the past 20 years, these exits have returned an average of 55% per year. At 55% per year, in 20 years, you could turn a tiny $500 investment into more than $3.2 million.)
Just six months ago, this sort of exit activity seemed impossible.
So what happened?
The 3 Reasons Behind These Profits
This burst of exit activity is due to three main reasons.
New Sectors Soaring: Covid-19 has given a boost not just to biotech, but to industries like Fintech, Edtech, and Telemedicine. The way we work, learn, and receive healthcare are changing — and innovative startups leading the charge are becoming valuable very quickly.
Macro Environment: Low interest rates and a booming stock market are giving investors confidence that innovative startups will command high prices as public companies.
SPACs: As noted earlier, M&A and IPOs are the two main ways that startups exit. But recently, a third way has gained in popularity: a “special purpose acquisition company,” or SPAC.
In Q3, public listings drove the spike in exits — IPOs like Snowflake (NYSE: SNOW), Asana (NYSE: ASAN), and Unity (NYSE: U).
The things is, as PitchBook explained, the strong performance of these stocks in the public markets will “likely drive more IPO” activity…
And for startup investors, it’ll drive more profits.
So — are you in?
Two Easy Ways to Get Started
Crowdability offers a multitude of free resources to make sure you see current startup deals that are available for investment…
And to make sure you know what to do once you find a deal you’re interested in.
For starters, look at our weekly “Deals” email. We send this out every Monday at 11am EST, and it contains a handful of new startup deals for you to explore.
Second, check out our free white papers like “Tips from the Pros.” These easy-to-read reports will teach you how to separate the good deals from the bad.
The profit window is now open — take advantage of it!
UK Fintech Modulr Reveals that its Dublin based Entity Is Now Licensed as EMI by Central Bank of Ireland
UK-based Modulr, a Payments as a Service API Platform for digital businesses, has revealed that its Dublin-based entity is now licensed as an electronic money institution (EMI) by the Central Bank of Ireland.
The Modulr team noted:
“This is an important step in enabling our European arm to provide efficient, scalable and reliable payment services to customers across the European Union.
As explained in a release, the European division of Modulr has been established to offer services to customers based in the European Union (EU). Modulr is focused on driving instant payments “expertise” into the Eurozone, in order to improve how wholesale and commercial payments are processed.
The Fintech firm provides payments infrastructure that’s used by established companies such as Sage, Revolut, Mode and Iwoca.
As stated in the announcement:
“Following strong business growth in the UK over the past four years, the newly granted EMI license will enable [Modulr] to offer [various] payments products, including its award-winning payments platform, through its powerful API to EU markets.”
Modulr also brings its expertise of real-time payments to SEPA Instant, which is the Euro’s instant payments scheme. As noted in the release, Modulr’s experience with Faster Payments will help it “unlock the potential” of the new scheme by offering convenient access for European software firms, merchants, and specialist banks.
The announcement also mentioned that the “true” potential of a digital API-based alternative to commercial payments will “rely upon an agile and efficient ‘behind the scenes’ payments process, which has historically been inaccessible and unaffordable to SMEs and enterprise alike.” As explained by the Modulr team, this information “comes from soon to be published research commissioned by Modulr, which reveals contemporary insight … into the hard cost of payment processes [and] the hidden impact on customer experience as well.”
Myles Stephenson, CEO at Modulr, stated:
“The opportunity for a digital alternative to commercial and wholesale transaction banking is significant as software businesses across multiple industry sectors are identifying the need to deliver new functionality and efficiencies to their customers by embedding payments in customer journeys. We plan to build a truly digital, frictionless payments infrastructure for software platform partners to provide new payment experiences to more than 500m people.”
Stephenson believes that his team has the experience and expertise in digital payments and API integration needed to offer key services to European businesses that are interested in streamlining how they make, receive and manage payments.
John Irwin, General Manager, Modulr Europe, remarked:
“Our digital platform and experience can transform the payments business. For too long, European payments have relied on the same technologies.”
Modulr has reportedly moved more than £40bn for clients such as Sage, Revolut, and Paxport through its platform which has “an uptime of 99.999%.”
Modulr offers this scale, reliability, and quality of service by investing in its own financial access and “achieving principal and direct access to critical payments.”
In September 2020, Modulr became the principal issuing member of Mastercard. The company had said that it would be offering more seamless digital payments solutions.
American Express and Coupa to Expand Partnership to Bring Virtual Card Payments to US Markets
According to a release, the American Express virtual Card payment option within Coupa Pay is now available globally, allowing companies to pay “smarter and simpler.”
Coupa (NASDAQ: COUP) and American Express had teamed up last year in order to provide better payment options. The release noted that they’re now ready to take their partnership to the “next level” as US-based customers now have the option to use American Express virtual Cards as a payment method with Coupa’s business-to-business (B2B) payments platform, called Coupa Pay.
As confirmed in the announcement, American Express virtual Cards are currently available in the UK and Australia. These payment options aim to effectively replace “outdated, complex, and inefficient payment processes” for businesses across the globe.
Customers are able to streamline how they pay their suppliers for all spend that’s directed or processed through the Coupa Business Spend Management (BSM) Platform.
The announcement further noted:
“As many companies continue to accommodate largely remote workforces for the foreseeable future, the expansion into the US continues to help meet the demand of customers who need a virtual way to pay suppliers and ensure their business continues to be operational.”
JR Robertson, vice president of Coupa Pay at Coupa, said that the pandemic has led to “widespread work from home policies,” which means that fragmented and manual business payment processes are not a legitimate alternative in a post COVID world.
“With Coupa Pay, Coupa and American Express are making it easier for our joint U.S. customers to thrive in this challenging environment by empowering them to pay using virtual Card technology.”
Trina Dutta, vice president and general manager of B2B Payments Automation, Global Commercial Services at American Express, remarked:
“By integrating American Express virtual Card capabilities into the unified buyer and supplier experience of Coupa’s … BSM platform, we’re addressing our customers’ need to digitize payments and thereby (potentially) becoming more essential to their operational needs.”
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