Get the world to help fund your project


  • Technology
  • Tuesday, 07 Aug 2012

ONE FOR THE ALBUM: Sam (second from right) posing with the first batch of pitchIN project owners.

Crowd-funding leverages on the power of the Internet to raise money for projects from a worldwide audience.

By ZAM KARIM bytz@thestar.com.my

GOT some great ideas but lack the funds to turn these into reality? Here an option — with “crowd funding” you can call on people around world to help, provided you can convince them that your plans are worth putting their money on.

Sometimes known as micro patronage, this is a system where you use the power of the Internet via social network sites or dedicated funding portals to seek such contributions.

And it is not limited to people you know, such as friends and family, but also total strangers in your country and others.

There are a couple of ways to do this. You can set up a blog, Twitter account or Facebook page and pitch your ideas. Or you can use a crowd-funding platform like newly-launched pitchIN (www.pitchin.my). pitchIN is the Malaysian version of US-based Kickstarter, touted to be the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects but is only open to US residents.

Run by WatchTower & Friends Sdn Bhd (WTF), pitchIN enables creative Malaysians to tap a global source for funds to realise their dreams, through a centralised fundraising platform.

According to co-founder Sam Shafie, there are several crowd ­funding platforms available in the market, mostly concentrating on charity work but none to help entrepreneurs.

This is where pitchIN comes in. “If you have an idea and the passion to start a project, and need money to make it work, this is the place for you,” Sam said. pitchIN offers entrepreneurs a platform to accept pledges from anyone in US currency, from a ­minimum of US$1 (RM3).

The portal went live last June. Every three weeks, up to 10 projects are highlighted on it. And the crowd-funding model adopted by pitchIN is only for non-equity projects.

“For instance, we will assist people who want to publish a book but do not open our service to those wanting to start their own bookshop,” Sam said. Other potential participants are film makers, designers, musicians and artists.

To ensure that the funds will not be misused by the recipients, WTF conducts several filtering processes so that only those who are determined and have a strong sense of commitment will be able to use pitchIN.

For transparency purposes and to ensure the projects are being ­carried out in earnest, the recipients are required to give weekly updates, as well as a progress report after 30, 45 and 60 days. There must also be a detailed description of the project and a video presentation.

Pioneers

Brand Aids is an interactive e-book project that is among the pioneer projects vying for public funds on pitchIN.

The brainchild of Evelyn Samuel, it is a compilation of 12 stories on how branding helps to win ­customers and raise the profit value of a business.

The stories highlight a national TV station to a single mother ­working from home to someone doing multilevel marketing, Samuel said. “Each ends with a tip which readers can use to improve their business to increase customers and sales.”

She is looking to get US$1,060 to pay for copywriter, proof-reader, illustrator, publisher and editor services.

Another project is the My Father and I animated movie involving a boy learning about life. According to project owner Mohd Hafizul Abd Radzak he needs US$16,300 (RM48,900) to complete a seven-minute pilot.

“It has positive messages ­embedded in the story and will be a good learning tool for children,” he said.

“If successful, the pilot will kick off into an animated series.”

Yet another pitchIN project is a graphic novel by a team comprising comic artist/illustrator Noramin Mohd Daud and graphics designer Ilaharyani Ma’arof.

They are looking to realise their novel, which will be for the Apple iPad, with a funding of US$13,000 (RM39,000).

Called REDLAND, Dry District, the tale centres on a boy on a quest to save his village from evil people.

What’s in it for me?

Crowd funding enables the ­community to contribute money to a project (not a company, mind you) with no expectation of ­financial return, according to Sam.

“We figure people will make a pledge towards your project because they like the idea and are touched by the passion you showed while campaigning for the funding,” he said.

Of course, the interesting and inspiring rewards that are being offered will help, too. Project owners can promise rewards that are directly related to their projects.

“For instance, a copy of the book that you want to publish; a copy of your film on disc; special edition prints; limited edition T-shirts with the name of the project on it; or a cameo appearance in one of the movie scenes or comic book pages,” he explained.

According to Sam, the rewards for the financial contribution can be an emotion (e.g. the good feeling that comes from having helped a worthy cause); nominal (your name in the credits, a thank-you note from the project owners); and product-based (you get one or more products from the first production run).

If you like any of the projects featured by pitchIN and want to support it, just click on the “Pledge” button on the project page. You will be asked to enter your pledge amount and select a reward.

You do need to have a credit card and a PayPal account. Your credit card will be charged when the project you back meets its funding goal.

And pledgers are allowed to cancel their support at any time, he said.

Wrap up

Projects at pitchIN must meet their funding target when the campaign ends or no money changes hands.

In other word, if the project does not meet the funding goal at the end of the project duration, you don’t get the money. And the ­people who make the pledges will not be charged.

If your project succeeds in raising the amount that you want, there will be a 5% fee for the funds raised and processing fees for PayPal, pitchIN’s financial gateway partner. pitchIN will not claim any intellectual property rights belonging to any of the projects. “That will always remain with the project owners,” Sam said.

However, despite having almost run their courses, most of the projects highlighted on the portal have yet to gain much traction in terms of funding.

Sam believed the main stumbling block is lack of awareness of the crowd-funding intiative. “And then, there are some potential supporters who said the current projects are not appealing enough and are waiting for more interesting ones,” he said.

To increase the awareness, pitchIN is looking to work with some government agencies and other organisations, by having them host the projects on their own website and take some projects under their wing.

It is currently in talks with a few companies.

Sam said project owners should not despair if they don’t make it the first time around. Those ideas that pitchIN thinks has a chance at success will get a second chance and re-enter the portal’s main page.

For those that fail, it probably means that the ideas need to go back to the drawing board. “pitchIN is the place where you can safely test the waters, enabling you to validate an idea without ­spending money,” Sam said.

“Successful or not, you gain something from putting up your ideas here.”

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