Crowdfunding: a Little Goes a Long Way
In the not-so-distant past entrepreneurial drive was likely to be hampered by an unavoidable reality: financial backing. Inventors and hopeful business owners could pray for a wealthy, private investor to take interest in their cause, or jump through hoops to get a loan, potentially slowing a project’s growth or even leading to missed opportunities.
Enter crowdfunding. Increasingly mentioned in day-to-day business news, you may have been wondering just what crowdfundingis and what has made it so darn successful in recent months.
Known by many names – crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, crowd financing, equity crowdfunding, or hyper funding – the practice is essentially funding provided by a large group of outside parties who pool their money together, usually via the Internet. In return, investors or backers, may receive anything from a personal thank-you note to a sample of the product once it is released.
Now, more than 20,000 projects, ranging from video game development and independent films, to garden projects, have been backed by the innovative practice.
Pebble Technology, led by Vancouver native Eric Migicovsky, utilized the online funding platform Kickstarterto launchdevelopment of the first “smart watch.” The project quickly made headlines, easily surpassing its original goal of $100,000 within two hours. After 12 hours, backers had pooled a half million dollars, making it the most successful Kickstarter project to date.
The 25-year-old entrepreneurial developer was as stunned as the rest of the world. “It was an exciting surprise,” Migicovsky told the Vancouver Sun in an interview shortly after the launch of the campaign. “We’re just really excited, it’s overwhelming.”
By the time the project reached its deadline on May 15, over $10 million had been pooled by nearly 70,000 investors. The watch, which will ship to backers in September, uses iPhone and Android apps, allowing users to check e-mail, view texts and calendar alerts with the flick of a wrist.
Intrigued? While Kickstarter has earned a large amount of media attention from the success of the Pebble project, it pays to research other online crowdfunding services that best fit your needs and could potentially help solve your financial woes.
Co-founder Alon Goren of Invested.in, a site helping fundraisers use social media to get the word out,offers a succinct list of five tips for the entrepreneur looking to harness the potential success demonstrated by crowdfunding.
1) Choose the right project type– either a monetary goal, a good bet for non-profits, a fund drive end date or both
2) Be realistic when choosing your rewards– draw people in with an incentive, such as a sample of the product, and make sure to include lots of options
3) Tell a story– personalize your cause using compelling photos, video and links
4) Pay attention– be sure to respond to questions on your site and interact with investors, potential or already on board
5) Promote the project – this important step cannot be stressed enough: just because you’ve created a link where investors can give money doesn’t mean the money will just start rolling in on its own!
Done right, the advantages of raising capital through crowdfunding are numerous.
“It evokes the romanticism of the Internet,” Jesse Hirsh, a CBC technology columnist, said. “It's sort of the right ingredients that give people the optimism, the hope in a difficult economy that they might be able to bypass the bank, bypass the stock market and find people who support them on a much smaller social scale.”
Along with effectively outsmarting the bleak economic state, as Hirsh points out, backers can feel like a part of something big without shelling out a lot of dough. And looking at Pebble’s example, these people don’t just feel like it, they are a part of something big.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.