In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the banks suffered a PR disaster. Revelations of excessive risk were peppered with scandal, as the banking world had its honour questioned. And changing attitudes to funding sources have resulted in the growth of the most meritocratic form yet; crowdfunding.
From Kickstarter to Crowdfunder, online platforms have allowed many entrepreneurs to avoid the bank manager’s jazzy tie, and head instead towards the local coffee shop to upload a funding pitch.
Unbound, the UK’s first crowdfunded publisher, celebrated its second birthday recently. Authors pitch their novels to online readers, who decide whether or not the project is worth a donation. Dragons of a Dickensian Den.
Creativity is not backed by scientific research and clinical trials; its worth is judged by its audience. Testing a creative concept could save hours of wasted labour or give the inspiration needed plough through those middle chapters.
Creative projects therefore seem particularly well-suited to funding platforms, with subjective worth often overlooked in the corporate world.
But who backs the backers?
As though equity crowd funding needed to prove its credentials further, a number of platforms have used their own site to raise funds. Crowdcube used its own platform to raise £1.5m from 259 investors. Startups seeking venture capital investment must have looked on in envy, as endless hurdles of due diligence and projections separate them from the cash. Crowdcube raised the capital in three days.
Hoping to follow suit is Emphas.is – a crowdfunding site for photojournalists. Launched in 2011, the firm sidesteps editorial cutbacks by linking the photographer to the audience, directly. Fed up of hearing editors maintain that audiences are no longer interested in photography, justifying the avoidance of well-printed images, the founders sought a solution.
But now, having raised more than half a million dollars for its users, the platform needs funds to survive. It needs more projects to self-sustain, but therefore requires more staff to reach out to the community, review and campaign for projects. Catch 22.
But however tight the future, crowdfunding is set to play an increasingly important role in the future of small businesses. Reflecting a shift in attitude, these platforms prove that even in the most austere of times, we are willing to back projects in which we believe. And for the cash-strapped creatives out there, they could represent a much-needed lifeline.