Bart Atherinos: crowdfunding works.
There's no pot of gold at the start-up starting line. Or is there?
After raising $10,000 in just 10 days, Melbourne's Bart Atherinos, 25, is the envy of his business degree classmates.
It's opened so many doors that I would never have imagined opening.
In the time it takes most start-ups to draw up the most basic business plan, Atherinos secured enough cash through crowdfunding to get his fledging company off the ground.
Ash Newland raised $24,000 through crowdfunding.
“It's been a real buzz and I've done it all from my bedroom,” he says.
“Without crowdfunding, I could have never done it on this scale – not this quick.
“It's opened so many doors that I would never have imagined opening.”
Atherinos' Kickstarter 33-day campaign netted his company innie almost $18,000 last month. The innie is a small plastic clip that attaches to a shoelace and is kept on the inside of the shoe, which Atherinos devised as a solution to his own problem.
“I was always tucking in my shoelaces and finding them really uncomfortable,” he says.
“A lot of people I talked to were having the same problem with no alternative.”
Working part-time and still living at home, the Gen-Y entrepreneur didn't have the funds to privately back his invention so he turned to crowdfunding.
“I knew the innie was a low-risk investment, so I saw crowdfunding as a brilliant opportunity to get it to market,” he says.
The funds from Kickstarter not only exceeded his expectations, but allowed the business student to start manufacturing in China.
More than 800 backers contributed to Atherinos' business dream in return for packets of innies. And they weren't cashed-up relatives or Facebook friends – 80 per cent were from overseas and the biggest single contribution was $100.
Atherinos says the secret to crowdfunding success is drumming up interest before the campaign launch. To do that, he launched a busy social media campaign and secured positive publicity from various sources including niche international footwear magazine Sneaker Freaker.
Serial entrepreneur Simon Griffiths swears by the same pre-campaign publicity technique. Along with Melbourne mates Jehan Ratnatunga and Danny Alexander, Griffiths raised a whooping $66,500 in one month through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo for Who Gives A Crap toilet paper.
Marketed as “toilet paper that builds toilets”, 50 per cent of the company's profits go to WaterAid to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.
To pique consumer interest, Griffiths did something even the most passionate entrepreneur would baulk at.
“We knew we were dealing with one of the most boring products that has ever existed, so we had to get people to really believe in what we were doing,” he says.
“We knew to be successful you either needed to have a crazy good idea or a cult following.
“So I pledged to never get off the toilet until we had raised $50,000.”
The off-the-wall idea worked a treat. Thousands of people around the world watched a live webcast of Griffiths sitting on the company's warehouse toilet, where he stayed for 50 hours.
The July 2012 campaign attracted more than 1300 backers. Although they never could have predicted such wild success, the Who Gives A Crap team says the capital was not the only benefit they reaped from crowdfunding.
“Crowdfunding was important for us because we knew it would give us an outlet to pre-sell the product and have an existing customer base,” Griffiths says.
“We could have raised the money through investment, but crowdfunding allowed us to check out ideas to the point where people would put their money where their mouth was.”
Another advantage of crowdfunding is its accessibility for people with terrific ideas but no idea how to market or develop them.
Avid traveller and patent attorney Ash Newland knew he had a handy device in the Scrubba washbag, which he invented in the days before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
The Melbourne man set up a three-month Indiegogo campaign in 2012, which was moving along slowly until he mounted a brilliant media strategy.
“Before going to bed one night I sent a press release to Gizmag and Gizmodo about the 'world's smallest washing machine',” he said.
“I woke seven hours later to hundreds of orders and website hits after both websites ran the story.”
Additional media coverage pushed Newland's campaign to a grand total of $24,000 – much more than the $2600 he had hoped for.
“Without crowdfunding, the Scrubba washbag would probably be two years behind where it is now as we would have had to work much harder and spend much more money achieving the exposure that crowdfunding provided,” he says.