Technoport 2014: Liz Wald explains international crowdfunding

At the end of April innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other technology pioneers will gather in Trondheim for Technoport 2014. In the run up to this exciting event, we will publish a series of interviews with our speakers to learn more about how they are driving innovation. This week we hear from Liz Wald, Head of International at crowdfunding website Indiegogo

How would you explain Indiegogo to someone not familiar with crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is the process of raising money from a large number of people to fund the projects that matter to them, resulting in significantly more funds and awareness than would ever be possible through a single contribution. As with Indiegogo, this primarily happens online, where money is exchanged, often for an item called a “perk” in a way similar to other online marketplaces like eBay, Airbnb and others. 

There is no approval process for campaigns on Indiegogo (unlike other platforms, like Kickstarter). Why is that?
We welcome a diversity of campaigns spanning creative, cause-related and entrepreneurial projects. This gives campaign owners and contributors the chance to fund what they care about most, without restrictions.  We don’t think we should judge who should raise funds for their idea, but rather the crowd should choose to fund or not based on their interests.

In keeping with the company’s mission to democratize funding, it’s important for Indiegogo to remain an open platform. With no application process or waiting period associated with launching a campaign, individuals can start raising funds immediately, without delays or bottlenecks. Further, we do not curate, which means that we, as a third-party, don’t arbitrarily define the value of any campaign on behalf of the campaign owner.

What, in your view, are the hallmarks of a successful technology crowdfunding campaign? What are some examples of innovative projects?
Beyond raising money, crowdfunding provides several benefits for individuals and organizations. First, a crowdfunding campaign creates a unique opportunity for market validation and increased access to social networks, amplifying overall awareness as like-minded people continue to visit and share your campaign. Second, entrepreneurs can receive early customer feedback, giving them an advantage as they refine their service or product. Third, those who crowdfund gain access to emails and data analytics, providing crucial insights as they move forward once the campaign is over.  This is as true for a creative campaign as a tech-focused one.

One great example is the wireless activity tracker called Misfit Shine.  In addition to raising close to $850,000 from nearly 8,000 backers, they got invaluable feedback on their product design and as a result of the campaign launched both a necklace and a bracelet as well as their original clip-on product. This kind of customer feedback would be nearly impossible if just one or a handful of investors had backed the company.  Even better, they finished their campaign with a great database of users, plenty of funds to create their product, and the proof of concept needed to then take their idea to investors if they chose to do so.

There are campaigners and contributors from nearly 200 countries on Indiegogo. Do you find that certain types of projects are more popular in different countries or regions?
Indiegogo doesn’t focus on any particular category. Below are a few examples of categories of campaigns on the platform:
– Film
– Web/Video
– Music
– Gaming
– Design
– Small Business
– Community
– Health
– Education

Interestingly we’ve seen a pretty solid mix from all corners of the earth.  While hi-tech projects might be obvious in places like the US, Germany and Israel, we see them from less expected locations as well.  We also see amazing innovations from places like Rwanda where a solar phone charger is more a necessity than a novel idea.  The bottom line is that creativity and ingenuity exist everywhere.

Indiegogo currently accepts and disburses funds in USD, CAD, EUR, AUD, and GBP. Do you foresee it accepting Norwegian kroner anytime soon?  
We’re consistently improving our platform to better meet the needs of our international customers and will continue to offer more global payment options as we move forward.  Whether it’s the krone or yen that comes next, the important thing is that we continue to give people options both for raising funds and for making it easy for contributors to participate.

Want to hear more?

Liz will feature at our Venture Angels and Crowd Investors event at Technoport 2014. She will elaborate on the topics explored in this interview as we shed light on the future of funding new ventures. Learn more about Technoport 2014.