Oberlin College Launches their Crowdfunding Site

We here at Launcht could not be more pleased to have Oberlin College as a new Launcht Client. Have a look at their new platformOberlin College Crowdfunding that is using our new Skyline layout!

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Freeman White Moves On From Launcht

I’m writing to let you all know that I need to step away from Launcht for personal family reasons. Launcht will continue to serve its clients to the utmost and will now be led by my valiant co-founder Spencer Taylor who will be taking my place as CEO.

Seeing Launcht grow to serve a broad range of successful clients with industry leading technology has been the greatest professional achievement of my life. Growing and striving with the Launcht team has been a profound joy and education; I am humbled by what each of our clients, partners, vendors, and team members has accomplished to date and I look forward to seeing all that they will do in the future.

Looking back over the past four years there are many highlights that stand out. In almost every case, these moments were sparked by a client using our software to do something that touched the lives of people in their network in new ways. These examples proved to the Launcht team every day that there is a huge demand for our product and that it can catalyze existing networks to achieve new things in ways that have not been possible before. We pioneered the white label crowdfunding space four years ago and I know that Launcht will continue to lead.

Leaving the company I co-founded has been an incredibly difficult decision for me to arrive at, but now it is the decision I have made and I am looking forward to the future. Please feel free to connect with me via LinkedIn if you would like to stay in touch down the road.

A note from Freeman’s Co-Founder and the CEO of Launcht Spencer Taylor

Needless to say we are sad to see Freeman move on from Launcht. We both built this company together and have pour ourselves into it over the last 4 years. All of us here at Launcht wish him well in his new endeavor.

Looking forward and most importantly the Launcht team is as excited as ever to work to continue to grow the company and push Launcht to be the best company in the business. Stay tuned for news and milestones as we continue to grow.

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Launcht Client Vassar College Featured in Fundraising Success Magazine

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 1.26.57 PMCongratulations to Vassar College. Their success in educational crowdfunding continues to make waves in the fundraising space with this recent Fundraising Success Magazine article titled Big Data, Crowdfunding and the Fundraising Technology Craze

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Reflecting on a Whirlwind of a Crowdfunding Internship

When I accepted Freeman’s offer to join the Launcht team as an intern back in February, I had little idea what I was getting myself into. I was familiar with crowdfunding — mainly, I will admit, with the big third-party platforms — but I wasn’t sure exactly what this white-label thing was all about, or what it had to do with “Democratizing Access to Capital.”

Then I got my first blogging assignment — an interview with the founder and CEO of CrowdFranchise that turned into a two-part post on the blog — and it all started to click.

Even before I had begun to acclimate myself to the industry, crowdfunding was connecting me with people who were doing real, cutting-edge work in their fields. These were people who wanted to talk about the social impact of their organizations just as much as their financials.

In the hours of industry research and headline-monitoring that I have done since then — as trends and fads would come and go through the industry — I have seen time and time again that the core model of donation-based crowdfunding shines brightest. Colleges and universities, businesses and other organizations all across the globe are making their own success with crowdfunding, realizing that small donations from many can lead to something great.

That’s why “Democratizing Access to Capital” isn’t just another meaningless corporate slogan; it comes astonishingly close to describing the daily work of people in this field.

So while many of my peers will leave their summer internships with jaded cynicism about their ability to contribute to anything significant, I leave mine with an entirely new skill-set and a whole lot of hope for the future of this truly unique industry.

I have realized over the past six months that there will always be a place for crowdfunding in this world, because there are a lot of projects that just don’t fit very well with traditional models of financing. These projects, it turns out, tend to be the ones most worth doing.

Signing off.

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Weekly News Round-Up: Another Big-Name University Takes to Crowdfunding

As the summer starts to heat up, so does the crowdfunding news. While you were enjoying the Fourth of July weekend, we were monitoring the headlines and scouring the blogosphere for the latest crowdfunding developments. Here are a few highlights:

“Super PAC to End All Super PACs” Reaches $5M Crowdfunding Goal

MayDayJust last month we reported on MayDay.us, a campaign finance movement launched by Harvard professor Larry Lessig to combat the growing role of Super PACs in American political finance. MayDay.us kicked off two rounds of crowdfunding this summer, raising their initial $1 million goal in less than two weeks back in June.

Now, less than four weeks later, they have soared past their larger $5 million goal — which they raised from over 50,000 individual donors — to arrive at the final sum which Lessig intends to use as funding for five candidates in the 2014 election cycle who have demonstrated commitment to campaign finance reform.

The success of MayDay.us is showing that crowdfunding is a viable alternative to less transparent financing models, and proves that larger-scale crowdfunding campaigns are not only possible, but effective.

UC Berkeley Announces Crowdfunding Platform

The University of California, Berkeley announced earlier this week that it is in the process of creating a self-hosted crowdfunding platform. The platform — which will be the fourth of its kind in the UC system — will provide a venue for students to seek funding for their research and other projects directly from donors.

With the announcement, UC Berkeley becomes just the latest university to embrace the self-hosted crowdfunding model in order both to increase the flow of funds to campus and to publicize student work. These platforms range from voting systems for student pitch competitions to alumni fundraising campaigns, and can be used to fund students directly — as UC Berkeley has chosen to do — or indirectly through the administration.

To learn more about bringing crowdfunding to your campus, check out college and university crowdfunding solutions from Launcht.

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A Look at the International Crowdfunding Market

The vast majority of the news stories that we cover on the blog are centered in the United States, and rightly so: the North American continent accounted for $3.7 billion of the $5.1 billion global crowdfunding market in 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal. The lion’s share of that amount was raised in the U.S..

But did you know that over a quarter of the world’s crowdfunding market is in China — second only to the U.S. — and that countries all across the globe have passed their own J.O.B.S. Act-style legislation legalizing equity crowdfunding? Clearly there are things going on overseas that are impossible to ignore.

After European banks reined in their lending habits in the wake of the global recession, the E.U. has found a badly needed source of investment in crowdfunding. Europe has emerged as a haven for progressive equity-based crowdfunding ventures, capitalizing on a more lax regulatory environment than currently exists in the U.S..

Meanwhile in Asia, crowdfunding has come on strong in just the past year. While many of the most popular Western platforms do not operate on the Asian continent, locally-grown platforms like Pozible have led to viable crowdfunding markets in China and, increasingly, Japan.

The latest good news out of Asia is that regulators in India recently announced that their country was passing legislation to legalize and regulate crowdfunding for small businesses.

As home to over half of the world’s population and over a third of the global economy, Asia could be just the market that crowdfunding needs to continue its expansion over the next decade.

To learn more about creating your own customized crowdfunding platform, check out white-label crowdfunding solutions from Launcht.

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Weekly News Round-Up: More Problems with PayPal and an Update on Civic Crowdfunding

The upcoming July Fourth holiday means that it’s a well-deserved short week here at Launcht, but that doesn’t mean we’re taking our eyes off of the crowdfunding newswires. Here are a pair of storylines that have been getting press over the past few days. Whether you’re headed to a sunny beach for the holiday or to your mother-in-law’s backyard barbecue, you can feel good about staying up to date on the latest developments in crowdfunding.

PayPal Freezes Popular Crowdfunding Campaign

Online payment processor PayPal ruffled some feathers earlier this week when they suddenly froze nearly $300,000 raised in a single crowdfunding campaign by Swiss encrypted email service ProtonMail.

While PayPal offered a cryptic explanation for their actions, media outlets have been critical of the payment processor’s off-and-on relationship with the crowdfunding community, which has involved countless incidents of campaign-freezing that critics decry as inconsistent enforcement.

WePay LogoLauncht works with PayPal competitor WePay as our payment processor of choice. We have long felt that WePay not only has a superior payment API for crowdfunding, but also understands the crowdfunding industry better than PayPal does.

Civic Crowdfunding in the Headlines

Civic crowdfunding has been getting some press recently as a potential remedy to funding shortfalls for community works. Many of these headlines revolved around The Civic Crowdfunding Project, a two-year study on the effects of civic crowdfunding conducted by MIT.

While civic crowdfunding isn’t exactly a new idea, the number of individual community-focused platforms springing up on the web — and the number of campaigns that these platforms attract — has reached a peak over the past several months.

Here at Launcht we have a lot of experience with civic crowdfunding. Most recently, we partnered with Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Alliance to help them raise over $28,000 for park maintenance.

If you’re interested in learning more about launching a civic crowdfunding platform, take a look at white-label software from Launcht.

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Youtube’s Creator Features and the Future of Platform-Free Crowdfunding

Less than a month ago, I reported on a few recent crowdfunding developments which suggest that the industry is headed in the direction of favoring platform-free services over the traditional platform-based models that consumers are so familiar with.

Now add another big tick-mark to the platform-free column.

Late last week, Youtube unveiled a slate of new features for content creators that features a self-hosted crowdfunding option. That option — which will allow creators to solicit “tips” from fans in order to fund future projects — makes Youtube the biggest name to have jumped into the crowdfunding plug-in fray, further signalling that businesses and organizations are increasingly unwilling to let the crowdfunding that their sites trigger slip away to third-party platforms.

The plug-in model originated with built-in WordPress platforms like IgnitionDeck and gives sites added flexibility to conduct crowdfunding campaigns on their own sites without the often-strict oversight of a platform, while also providing financial benefits to larger campaigns — all hallmarks of the platform-free model.

While crowdfunding plug-ins are not completely platform-free, they are shifting the industry in the direction of decentralization, providing another alternative to the big platforms which increasingly fall short of meeting users’ demands. Perhaps more importantly, though, they are proving again and again that the market is ready for crowdfunding models that are truly platform-free.

Youtube appears to have realized that crowdfunding has the potential to add value to its business, creating a marketplace of creators and fans that all revolves around Youtube’s home site and branding. That a company which holds over a 40-percent share of its market sees crowdfunding as crucial to its ongoing marketing strategy should be a signal to marketers all over the web that the future of crowdfunding is platform-free.

Interested in learning more? White-label software from Launcht has everything you need to make platform-free crowdfunding a part of your organization’s online presence.

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StartingBloc Returns to Boston in 2014

StartingBlocStartingBloc — a Launcht partner organization which equips aspiring social entrepreneurs with the tools to create change in the world — recently returned to Boston for a five-day institute, one of five that they will host in 2014.

“Boston has been one of our key cities for years,” said StartingBloc CEO Cesar Gonzalez. “Coming back to Boston was a no-brainer. We have a really big community there of people in the space and fellows.”

StartingBloc institutes feature programming designed to give fellows the tangible skills that they will need to start their own organizations, while simultaneously giving them access to a network of fellows that is committed to positive social change.

“Those are the two main parts: what you need to get up out of the chair and go, and what’s going to sustain you on the path of working on shit that matters,” said Gonzalez. “The community tells you that they believe you can start this company, even though now it’s only an idea.”

StartingBloc partnered with Launcht to create a platform for fellows to crowdfund their tuition for each five-day institute. The platform makes StartingBloc’s programming accessible to everyone, while also providing a venue for fellows to sharpen their marketing skills as they spread the word about their crowdfunding campaigns.

In past years, about a third of inbound fellows have used the Launcht platform to crowdfund their tuition.

“We couldn’t do it without crowdfunding,” said Gonzalez. “On the organizational side, it’s great because hundreds more people than are attending learn about StartingBloc through the platform.”

At the Boston institute — the city’s first since 2012 — StartingBloc was able to use crowdfunding not only as a funding source, but as a beacon to spread the word about the organization and its broader social goals.

“What we deliver for $1,000, I think, is hard to come by,” said Gonzalez. “And yet the real outcome that matters is in terms of people’s minds and the communities that they build.”

Find out more about using white-label software from Launcht to jump-start your conference, incubator or business-plan competition.

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The Rise (and Fall) of Niche Crowdfunding

It all sounds pretty good in theory: local, self-hosted platforms that serve one specific niche in the overall crowdfunding market. These platforms could consolidate all of the crowdfunding traffic in their chosen community or demographic — be it cat lovers, cycling enthusiasts or residents of southern New Hampshire — creating a vibrant marketplace of campaigns and ideas.

In practice, however, these niche platforms face several imposing problems that curb their ability to attract campaigns and, ultimately, donor contributions.

Their limited scope — the hallmark of any niche platform — means that these platforms are working within a small market, which makes low deal flow a chronic issue. Particularly as they are starting out, platforms that cater to only one group lack the flexibility to adapt to the market and, as a result, tend to face funding shortfalls.

The smaller the niche, the greater the funding problems; a platform for real estate, for example, will have more traffic than one that targets real estate in Baltimore.

Niche platforms will often attempt to compensate for low deal flow by maximizing penetration into their chosen market. While this is theoretically a viable strategy, it somewhat naively assumes that the platform will be able to steal away a large proportion of their vertical market from popular third-party platforms.

One primary reason why these niche platforms often fail is that market penetration on the scale that they require can only be possible with extensive, long-term marketing strategy — which carries a price tag that most startup platforms simply cannot afford.

The reality isn’t that niche crowdfunding is somehow intrinsically doomed, but that niche platforms that try to frame themselves as ‘The Kickstarter of _________’ face long odds in establishing credibility and gaining sufficient market share.

“My advice to someone starting a niche crowdfunding platform would be to make sure that their model either includes other revenue sources other than just percentage fees on transactions or that they don’t look at it necessarily as a business,” said Launcht Founder and CEO Freeman White.

As White suggests, these platforms must take a less conventional route.

“It could be something they want to do for reasons other than business,” he said. “There are lots of good reasons to be involved in a certain niche, other than just to turn a profit.”

Successful past platforms have built themselves around a single event or competition, capitalizing on the momentary attention of their market and then fading into the background. Platforms that hang around for too long tend to go the way of the infamous Dole/Kemp ’96 webpage — attracting more dust than donors.

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