$2M pledged to New Zealand – Anna Guenther, PledgeMe

PledgeMe, a New Zealand crowdfunding start-up founded by Anna Guenther and Camilo Borges, is inching steadily towards reaching $2m New Zealand Dollars pledged.

Traditionally, there were two main ways of obtaining finance. There are those, like Sarah  Blakely, who bootstrap their way to success. Sarah invented Spanx, and with a $5,000 initial personal investment, carried the company across the $1 billion threshold. And then there are the thinkers and dreamers who require outside capital to nurture those concepts into money-making giants. Recent examples would include Facebook, Xero, and the energetic New Zealand start-up, PowerbyProxi.

In recent years, a new way of financing has been made readily available to thousands of people through the internet. Crowdfunding, as defined by Investopedia, is “the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture.” The term “Crowdsourcing” was originally coined by Jeff Howe in Wired Magazine around the changes in stock photography, and it was later applied to the idea of funding.

Although the first crowdfunding platform was started in 2001, the service has been made commonplace by popular platforms Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. 

CrowdsurfingAnna-PledgeMe

The idea for PledgeMe was conceived while Anna was completing her Masters on Entrepreneurship.

“I saw what was happening overseas with Kickstarter,” Anna said, “and decided to do my thesis on crowdfunding in general. At the same time, my business partner had started building a crowdfunding engine.”

“We were both excited by the idea of crowds making decisions – and moving past standard grants or funding approaches, into something participatory and enhanced by technology.

“We’re also pretty passionate about making a difference locally – and using technology to enhance community, not create new siloed communities.”

The silo effect occurs when there is a breakdown in communication between teams or individuals who are working towards similar goals. Your neighbor may be a genius, but if you never talk to him, you’d never know it. PledgeMe erodes those communication barriers by allowing everyone to get involved in projects, thus bringing together multiple participants to contribute towards the same goal.

Anna’s research has led her to believe that Kiwis are some of the most magnanimous people in the world – to put a number on it, the third most generous nation. “Not only are kiwis generous with their pledges, but with their time and support of friends. We’ve found that just through the process of setting up PledgeMe, everyone we talked to was always happy to help – and stoked to see us succeed.“

For start-ups in New Zealand, PledgeMe could be the answer to finding the money needed to breath life into creative ideas in a ravished market. “Funding is still an issue. Crowdfunding at the moment can help with pre-sales, but it’s a bit of a different ask. There are some changes coming through in April around the Financial Market Conduct Bill – which will legalize equity crowdfunding. That means, instead of preparing an expensive public prospectus, you could crowdfund an investment round online through your customers, family, and friends.“

With Kickstarter scheduled to land on New Zealand shores soon, PledgeMe is cautious yet confident. “It’s exciting – it’s just going to make everyone up their game, and support even more amazing projects to get educated about how crowdfunding works well.”

Like many other businesses in New Zealand, keeping it Kiwi will be their main advantage. Anna is hopeful that a service made for New Zealanders by New Zealanders will resonate more with entrepreneurs than a foreign platform will, like Kickstarter. “We’re really focussed on local projects, and we’ve built a bit of an offline support network for people in New Zealand. We think that on-the-ground support, as well as the fact your crowd will be charged in NZD, is really important. At the end of the day, the project creators need to bring their crowd to the table, and they have to decide which table that is.”

Is right now a good time to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

It’s definitely an exciting time! There is so much we can do from New Zealand now with technology, and so many amazing people doing amazing things. In the social enterprise space, things are a little bit harder though. Social Enterprise is getting better and better understood internationally, but in New Zealand we’re still in early days.

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