Kickstarter may be the autobahn of crowdfunding sites, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only avenue available to entrepreneurs looking for a bit of consumer assistance in order to bring their creative endeavors to market.
A few of the most-relevant crowd-financing alternatives:
Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based Urban Games is one of the few small businesses that has turned to the video-game-centric Gambitious for funding so far. Granted, the site only launched last fall.
Regardless, Urban Games already has found success with its Gambitious project, which focused on a PC and Mac game called Train Fever. (It was fully funded—to the tune of just over $324,000—on March 21 and is scheduled to be released in May 2014.)
Why did the company choose Gambitious over Kickstarter or any of its similarly newsworthy copycats? Project Leader Basil Weber says the former was by far the best option given its focus on gaming as well as its model—"where backers get shares in the sales revenue. It’s simply a more professional way of crowdfunding, which also attracts more serious investors."
Other entrepreneurs considering following in Urban Games’ footsteps need to start with a solid kick-off, says Weber. "You should prepare as much content as possible, because during the campaign, you should [update backers] as often as possible."
Marketing and PR are similarly important elements—articles about your project appearing on various online portals especially so, because they allow interested parties to "simply click on a link and go to the crowdfunding platform."
Just remember that achieving success via such sites is "a 24-hours-a-day job," Weber says. "It’s a lot of work."
Not Always a Struggle
Actually, achieving success via various crowdfunding sites isn't always such a struggle. Case in point: Nashville-based New Directions Counseling & Consulting, which recently called on RocketHub to raise funds for its website, office expansion and more.
Owner Johnathan Johnson’s project was fully funded within a week of it going live—thanks in large part to contributions from family and friends. One friend in particular pledged $4,500—90% of the project’s goal. Had he not received that friend’s support, Johnson, who chose RocketHub because the site’s "support and clarity were attractive," says he likely "would have worked at connecting with more of my friends and family through phone calls, emails and personal statements." He also considered creating a Kickstarter-like video that would have explained the concepts of his organization.
"I think I have an excellent edge that would have allowed me to find contributors that met my needs," Johnson suggests, although he admits achieving success likely would have taken "a lot more effort."
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Nothing to Lose
Lauren Janis, owner of Atlanta-based Big Daddy Biscuits, launched a crowdfunding campaign by way of Smallknot earlier this year after an unsuccessful experience with Kickstarter in 2012.
Her goal for both endeavors was to finance the purchase of equipment that would allow her organic-dog-biscuit company to increase production capacity.
Janis says she went with Smallknot for her second crowdfunding attempt because it was easy to use and because she received hands-on help from the people behind the site. "I loved the personalization they offered [and] the support and suggestions that were given. They want you to succeed."
Her advice to small business owners who would like to similarly benefit from Smallknot, Kickstarter or any of their counterparts: "Make sure the project is clear and fun." She also suggests including pictures or video "that communicate your passion" in your campaign.
"Just do it. There is nothing to lose," urges Janis, who promoted her effort through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter—even friends’ blogs. "Crowdfunding is a win-win in my eyes because you are putting your dreams in front of so many people who would not normally see what you are doing."