Starting Something Good Has Never Been Easier

Traditional funders, whether they be governmental or corporate, often look to proven models to solve continually changing problems. Innovative solutions that create social impact, therefore, cannot get the required funding to reach their potential. Innovation is stifled before it has begun. Starting something good proves more difficult than it should.

The funding gap for social impact projects, and recognition of how sites like Kickstarter revolutionised bringing creative projects to life, led Tom Dawkins to found StartSomeGood in 2011 with Alex Budak. Now it is a platform that has raised over $6 million and had over 550 projects in 35 different countries. Recently it also picked up the Innovation Award at Australian and New Zealand Internet awards. StartSomeGood has become the crowdfunding platform where innovative ideas can come to life to create social change. It allows more democratic solutions to social problems by involving the community in decision making. Crowdfundvibe sat down with CEO Tom Dawkins to talk about creating change, the developing world and what they’re excited about for 2016.

The Food Justice Truck, crowdfunded through StartSomeGood, in action.

The Food Justice Truck, crowdfunded through StartSomeGood, in action.

Projects from StartSomeGood have a wide ranging social impact. The ASRC Food Justice Truck raised over $150,000 to sell food to asylum seekers at a price they can afford throughout Australia. In the USA the Do Good Tour raised over $100,000 to allow altruistic adventurers travel around the US on tour with Foster the People to volunteer in each community they played in. Photographer and environmentalist Michael Chew raised over $10,000 to create a photography book documenting the difficulties of life in Bangladesh and the effects of climate change. All profits from the book are to be reinvested into foundations to help local children attend school.

These innovative projects and others like them demonstrate to Tom why “crowdfunding can be pretty aspirational, sometimes saving something that already exists, and sometimes raising funds things that do not yet exist.” He notes “90% of things raising funds on our site do not yet exist” making it very exciting to see how new projects fare.

Crowdfunding is “really filling that [innovation] gap that when unfilled undermined the entire sector.” Tom is a believer in trying to “keep up with the changing circumstances” and continual innovation being the best way to achieve this. It takes funding decisions away from traditional funders who have a “low risk mentality,” causing a dampening effect on innovation for social change.

Michael Chew on his crowdfunded mission to document the lives of the Bangladeshi people.

Michael Chew on his crowdfunded mission to document the lives of the Bangladeshi people.

While aware of the impact these projects make Tom realizes crowdfunding’s limitations: “crowdfunding is more emotional and the desire to connect directly with the exact recipients.” The projects that work best “have very direct links to explaining [their] impacts.” Despite the desire to connect, “crowdfunding is never going to build a $100 million hospital, and is not very good for infrastructure.” Also to some, giving money to someone they have never heard of is still nonsensical.

StartSomeGood’s latest partnerships with SEFA and ING Direct Bank helps projects gain legitimacy and more funding through using crowdfunding as a qualifying instrument. It is called crowdmatch. Tom explains “it basically matches up funds from a funding partner with funds that come through the crowd.” The benefits of this model are two fold; firstly, it increases a campaigns chance of success as their matcher has validated their idea; secondly, the matchers have huge distribution networks that help entrepreneurs go beyond their community. Crowdmatch is part of StartSomeGood’s more nuanced perspective “about what role crowdfunding can play in a really vibrant, pro-innovation [economic] ecosystem.” Tom continues that crowdmatch is part of developing a “more meritocratic basis for accepting projects, trying to overcome this challenge of great idea and bad marketing.”

South East Asia is an area StartSomeGood are really focussing on. Throughout SE Asia StartSomeGood have been speaking at events throughout the region, igniting interest in crowdfunding which is still an emerging concept in the region. The interest has manifested itself in numerous projects there, like helping to fund 20 eco-libraries in Indonesia. Tom predicts crowdfunding will play a similar role in developing countries as it has in the developed world, allowing entrepreneurs to circumvent the traditional gatekeepers of the economy. “Most places [in the developing world] rely on Western Governments or non-governmental bodies to decide whether they are going to support a project. This can be politically influenced from a particular perspective” which may not always benefit those on the ground, especially if they do not fit into that perspective.

The StartSomeGood team.

The StartSomeGood team.

For 2016 expect StartSomeGood to be busy in its core markets of Australia, North America and South East Asia helping innovative ideas create social impact. Crowdmatch will help entrepreneurs and StartSomeGood alike to increase the impact of ideas the community supports. StartSomeGood will continue to allow many more social entrepreneurs to dream big, raise funds and do good.

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