On July 18 Launcht will revamp and publicly re-launch our crowdfunding platform for social entrepreneurship, Launcht.org. As a Vermont Benefit Corporation, Launcht itself is a social entreprise, focused on making the funding of startups more democratic and increasing the flow of capital to socially responsible businesses. This can be seen in our past work with the William James Foundation and present uses of our white-label software, which include the upcoming LGBT-focused crowdfunding platform FundPride. The Launcht.org platform, however, is the direct reflection of our mission.
As I wrote on one of my first days at Launcht, crowdfunding offers the opportunity to provide capital in places others might overlook:
By its very design, online crowdfunding breaks down otherwise stiff barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and democratizes the start-up marketplace in a manner that is unprecedented. With a few quick clicks, armchair benefactors of all ages and occupations can explore projects they like and contribute directly to their growth. The speed with which anyone can contribute online to a project makes the marketplace for entrepreneurship that much more accessible for the general community. Anyone can contribute. Anyone can create. Anyone can benefit.
This isn’t just access to capital. It’s access to capital through the crowd. Campaigns, businesses, and non-profits can get off the ground with the wisdom and passion of the crowd on their side. We’ve seen this in the Karen Klein sweepstakes, the bullied bus monitor who is approaching $700,000 with ten days to go. The wisdom of the crowd also showed itself in funding the continuation of the web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” which offers depictions of black characters with depth and clarity not seen in mainstream television. On the other side of the coin, if users like you don’t view a project as worthy, then it won’t gain traction. After all, the majority of crowdfunding campaigns miss their target, many of them because the crowd simply did not lend its support.
Beyond the practice of crowdfunding as a social good, the social entrepreneurs who will be campaigning on our Launcht.org platform, some of which we profiled in our Featured Four post, show promise of building a brighter future.
Calee’s Shoes, for instance, will remove much of the anxiety and stress of shoe shopping for plus-sized women, a demographic that many clothing stores fail to accommodate. As founder Lisa Carmichael told me in an interview, “Between Payless and Nordstrom’s, there’s basically nothing available for these women in that price range.”
WeBike, the bike sharing program driven by mobile technology, makes a green, healthy, efficient form of travel accessible to more people in more communities. Towns and campuses that lack the capital for the large upfront investment that a bike station requires can more easily afford the weBike bikeshare model.
Entrepreneur Vandra Thorburn’s Vokashi program makes composting easy for Brooklyn households and apartments. Composted materials are then used in community gardens and urban green spaces, which are gaining in popularity as more people recognize the value of a healthy landscape and a brighter environment around us.
Here at the Launcht headquarters, we’re pumped. Crowdfunding is growing. Social entrepreneurship has been on the rise. Preparing for the July 18 relaunch, we get the chance to be a part of both movements.
What are your thoughts on crowdfunding and social entrepreneurship? Let us know in the comments below. Do you have a plan for a socially responsible startup? Email email@example.com to crowdfund with us.