“Crowdfunding is the new bank loan, without the pressures of repayments. Crowdfunding is an online method of fundraising that allows people all over the world to put their ideas or pitches onto a digital platform. These pitches are then available for people worldwide to see, and to decide whether or not they would like to support the campaign. There are four main types of crowdfunding: Rewards-based, donation-based, equity-based, and debt-based, each with its own unique purpose,” says Nicholas Dilley of South African crowdfunding platform Thundafund.
“In South Africa, crowdfunding is still a relatively new concept and with many South Africans sceptical about making online transactions, it’s very much a rising industry. Rewards-based crowdfunding has become a growing force. Thundafund is the brainchild of entrepreneur Patrick Schofield, who founded the company in 2013. The way that rewards-based crowdfunding differs from any other form, is that in exchange for the money raised, the project creator is expected to give something back to the backer in the form of a reward. These rewards can vary, anything from a thank you card to a tangible product. However, when selecting rewards for your campaign, it is important that you keep your project and potential backer in mind.”
In 2017 alone, Thundafund raised more than R8 million, which was almost equivalent to the previous four years combined.
“In South Africa, we say that, realistically, you can expect a maximum of R150 000 in crowdfunding. However, we are constantly being surprised. It really comes down to how amazing your project is, how big the network is, and if the rewards are what people want. There is no reason to believe that any start-up couldn’t raise over R1 million if founders put the work in and justify how the money will be spent,” says Nicholas.
The rising of Sugarbird Gin
One of Thundafund’s biggest recent success stories was Sugarbird Gin, which managed to raise R1 086 973. The gin is an idea conceived of by a four-person company called Steel Cut Spirits.
“As a company, we care about crafted products that have a story and an ability to excite, inspire and bring people together. We also have a proudly South African desire to put our produce on the global map, and an interest in great local gins that can use fynbos to create amazing flavours,” says Steel Cut Spirits CEO, Rob Heyns.
Despite having already had success in the industry, Rob and his co-founders identified crowdfunding as one of the best ways to bring Sugarbird Gin to the market.
“All FMCG products face the three-part challenge of competition, barriers to scale and working capital constraints. The model of rewards-based crowdfunding addresses all three of these challenges at the same time,” says Rob.
“By launching via a crowdfunding campaign, we were able to stand out from many other products on the market, and involve our new friends and fans in our ongoing mission at the same time.
“We were able to operate at scale from day one by consolidating these first orders and thus produce great gins at a better price by working with the volumes of more established gin companies. We were also able to access funds upfront before producing batches, which provided the cash flow needed to grow quickly. There are very few better ways than crowdfunding to test a concept, solve cash flow issues, scale to proper production from day one and stand out from the competition. When I decided to go ahead, I studied crowdfunding thoroughly for two months while ensuring that our team had the required skillset to be able to execute.”
With the crowdfunding of Sugarbird Gin, Steel Cut Sprits decided to treat the campaign like the online selling of a product.
“Rewards-based crowdfunding is essentially a form of e-commerce, as you are selling products or services, so we approached it from the angle of an e-commerce campaign. Your product and marketing thus need to be spot on. We employed an evolving product strategy of refining our offers based on sales feedback before and during the campaign. We also applied a plethora of online marketing strategies, including audio-visual, digital marketing, social media, PR and even direct selling to large potential backers,” says Rob.
Nicholas agrees that crowdfunding needs to be approached in a professional manner. Most people will judge your business purely on your crowdfunding campaign and its funding page.
“Businesses and start-ups must have campaigns that appear very professional. The campaign should also be viewed as a marketing exercise that will allow the entrepreneur to test his or her product in the real world and receive feedback. Doing fun activations, like launch parties and events can also be a great way to get the word out there about your project and brand.”
What Elon Musk Can Teach You About Getting Funding for Your Start-up
Elon Musk has made some very smart start-up moves — but he’s also made mistakes. We can learn from both his successes and his failures.
If there’s one person who embodies the idea of ‘entrepreneur,’ it’s Elon Musk.
He has been responsible for the development of a large number of high-profile technology companies, which include Zip2, X.com (later merged with Confinity to form PayPal), SpaceX, SolarCity, Tesla and many others.
What’s remarkable about Musk is the way he funded his start-ups, especially SpaceX and Tesla. While he has relied on external funding, he nonetheless had to face many setbacks that almost brought his companies to an early end.
As an entrepreneur, Musk can teach you a great deal about how to get funding for your start-up. Here are the three most important learnings you can get from his experience.
Convince investors with your commitment
The mid-nineties remind us of an era of unprecedented economic growth and a feeling of prosperity toward the country’s future, something that stands in sharp contrast with our present.
The context in which Musk raised venture capital to fund his first start-up represents another drastic difference compared to the present. In 1995, there was slightly over $8 billion available in the global VC market, a small piece of the current $155 billion that was raised last year.
In that same year, Musk launched his first start-up, Global Link Information Network (which eventually got rebranded as Zip2), a company that provided directions across the San Francisco Bay Area. According to Ashlee Vance, author of Musk’s biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, his beginnings were humble. Musk, his brother Kimbal, and a small sales team initially pitched the new company door to door.
For the first few months of operations, Musk couldn’t rely on the large pool of available VC funding, or the experience or connections he has today. The only strategic advantages that set him apart were his passion and commitment.
Due to their lack of funding, Musk and his brother had to live on the little money they had, sleeping on futons at their office and using the showers of the YMCA that was located a few blocks away. To convince their investors, Musk and his brother relied on a creative trick: They built an elaborate casement around the computer that worked as Zip2’s server and put it on a large, wheeled base that made it look like “a mini-supercomputer.”
This trick, together with the frugality in which the Musk brothers lived, helped them become profitable soon. Their early profitability helped them raise money from a small group of angel investors, which would eventually lead to a $3 million investment from Mohr Davidow Ventures, and finally, a $307 million acquisition by Compaq.
Due to their lack of funding, Elon Musk and his brother had to live on the little money they had, sleeping on futons at their office and using the showers of the YMCA that was located a few blocks away.
The passion and commitment Musk showed goes beyond the funny tricks and futon nights. Musk didn’t waste the $22 million he got from Zip2’s sale on expensive cars and luxurious mansions. He reinvested — and risked — everything to build his second company, X.com, which would lead to PayPal. The sale of PayPal to eBay netted Musk $180 million, which he then used to fund SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity.
If there’s one thing the beginnings of Musk’s journey show, it’s that he’s the kind of entrepreneur who works for the long run. When he’s involved with a company, he goes all in. He invests everything he has, putting all his energies into building them.
It’s hard for a venture capitalist to reject an entrepreneur with such a hard-working spirit. You don’t need to shower in a YMCA to show the sacrifice you are willing to make for your company (unless you are truly broke, like the Musk brothers were back then). Rather, you need to show you live and breathe your company, and that you are willing to do anything to make your vision happen.
Don’t give up control too soon
A hard fact about the tech world is that few start-ups get to grow to billions of dollars in valuation without any VC funding. This leads to dilution of equity and loss of control of the company.
Most start-up founders need to live with that situation, and many get to keep control, thanks to the high trust VCs have for the founder and executive team. The case of Mark Zuckerberg, who owned 28.4% of Facebook‘s shares at the time of its IPO, is a good example of this.
Yet, in some other cases, founders lose excessive control too soon, leaving them powerless against the more professional and experienced VCs. This is something Musk learnt early in his career.
Musk’s career in Zip2 had an abrupt and sad ending: The first funding round deeply diluted his equity, which left him powerless after his board of directors decided to bring on a new CEO and make Musk the CTO. While Musk was still on the executive team, he couldn’t tolerate the lack of control and the way the new CEO, Rich Sorkin, ran the company.
Musk met a similar fate with his second start-up, X.com. After Musk merged X.com with one of its competitors, Confinity, he ended up being the CEO of the new company, PayPal. Unfortunately, he was ousted from the CEO position after a rather trivial fight over the technology platform PayPal used.
The lack of control he had over his two companies had a significant impact on his future ventures. Nowadays, Musk prefers to start by investing as much money as he can, making sure he always has the upper hand in his company’s decisions. His obsession over equity control explains why, while he was going through Tesla’s funding, he maintained his ownership percentage.
The lessons are clear: Before you focus on raising as much money as you can, remember to keep some equity of your own (particularly if you are an inexperienced CEO). If you care about your company’s vision, you need to make sure you can carry it out. It’s hard to achieve such a feat if you hold little voting control over your company. Becoming profitable as early as possible can help you overcome this issue, especially if you get creative.
Elon Musk didn’t waste the $22 million he got from Zip2’s sale on expensive cars and luxurious mansions. He reinvested — and risked — everything to build his second company, X.com, which would lead to PayPal.
Lack of resources isn’t something that sits well with Musk. He has been willing to do whatever he has to do to have his companies prosper. What’s remarkable about Musk is that whenever he’s got all the odds against him, he turns the situation around by being resourceful.
To help you understand what I mean by this, let’s take a look at what he did with his latest venture, The Boring Company. Despite the fact he funded the company with his own money (as usual), the mission to build underground tunnels seems like an expensive task, making the company strapped for cash.
To raise money for the company, Musk decided to sell expensive flamethrowers at $500 each, which helped him raise over $10 million in just a few days. Instead of spending a long time raising money with the help of VCs (which would have diluted his ownership), he took one of his most significant advantages — his personal brand — and used it to make money for his start-up.
Being resourceful is an attitude shared by almost all successful tech entrepreneurs, as in the case of the founders of Airbnb. According to Leigh Gallagher, author of the book The Airbnb Story, when the founders were on the verge of bankruptcy, they decided to sell cereal prior to 2008’s Presidential election. Thanks to their PR-fueled campaign, not only were they able to extend the life of the company (which today is worth $31 billion), they were able to get accepted into Y Combinator, the famous tech accelerator, which would lead to their first funding round and the growth of the company. As Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator said, “If you can convince people to pay $40 for a $4 box of cereal, you can probably convince people to sleep in other people’s airbeds.”
The lesson you can learn from Musk is that if you lack funding (or any other thing that is essential to the existence of your company), it’s your job to do whatever it takes to get it. Life isn’t fair for risk-averse entrepreneurs, yet Musk has been able to make his companies work by getting creative, thinking on his feet and showing commitment right from the start.
Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds
Government grants and funding are a great source of finances when you’re trying to get your business off the ground or expand to new horizons.
A small business can on average employ 12 people. The drop in entrepreneurial activity over the past five years is equal to 2.3 million possible job opportunities lost. Small and micro business sectors are the main source of real employment in the economy.
South Africa’s economy needs to inspire entrepreneurship in order for it to grow. By creating an environment that is friendlier to small businesses and actively encouraging the sector, the country is in a better position to create jobs.
Two simple measures that would go a long way to support and develop entrepreneurs is access to finance and improvement of logistics.
The government created government funding to extend finances to previously disadvantaged South African’s in order to develop black economic development. Your much needed capital investment could come from government funding opportunities.
Financing a small business, whether you’re starting-up or trying to expand, is a challenge all entrepreneurs go through. Here are a few examples of government funding that focuses on black entrepreneurs:
Content in this guide
- National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
- Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Funding
- Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA)
- The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
- Khula SME Fund
- Black Business Supplier Development Programme (BBSDP)
- Incubation Support Programme (ISP)
- National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)
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Seed Capital Funding For South African Start-Up Businesses
Want to kickstart your business, but don’t have enough funds in the bank? You can unlock capital through seed investment from one of these local seed finance firms.
Access to early stage development funding for up-and-coming businesses in South Africa remains a key hindrance standing in the way of entrepreneurial development.
There are, however, numerous strategies to finance your business’s launch, or early stage development. One of these tactics is to secure seed finance or seed capital investment.
Seed Capital: How It Can Help Your Small or Medium Business
The money you need to launch your business (or conduct any early stage development of a product or service) can come from a bank, an angel investor, or friends and family. But these money lenders can be tough to secure when you don’t really have a track record or much profitability to show yet.
This is where seed capital funding can help you.
According to Investopedia, seed funding lives up its namesake – in that it’s the capital needed to ‘seed’ a business.
A portion of your seed funding could come from family members, friends, banks, or angel investors, but there are also a rising number of specialist firms out there that can provide you with specific capital or business finance to ‘seed’ your business.
The Difference Between Seed Capital and Venture Capital
The key thing to remember with seed funding is that investments usually range in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Other forms of investment, such as venture capital investments, can range into millions of rands. So, if you are an entrepreneur looking to fund a new idea with seed money, expect to receive smaller investments when compared to venture capital.
Related: How to Write a Funding Proposal
Sage Advice on Early Stage Funding from A Seed Funder
Geoff Ralston is a partner at YC, a seed funding organisation based in Mountain View, California, in the United States. More than two decades ago, he founded Four11, where he built RocketMail, one of the world-wide-web’s first web mail services.
In 1997, RocketMail became Yahoo Mail. Ralston has worked in engineering, then ran a business unit at Yahoo, and went on to become Chief Product Officer. After Yahoo, Ralston became CEO of Lala, which was acquired by Apple in 2009.
He says the ecosystem for seed (early) financing is far more complex now than it was even five years ago: “There are many new VC firms, sometimes called ‘super-angels’, or micro-VC’s, which explicitly target brand new, very early stage companies. There are also several traditional VCs that will invest in seed rounds.”
The Pros and Cons of Early Stage or Seed Funding for A Business
PROS: Seed funders can invest much needed capital and they can provide expertise and back-end assistance, which could be helpful in the early stages of business. If you are seed-funded, you also earn credibility in the marketplace should you wish to take a loan or seek further investment at a later stage. Ultimately, any seed funders you take on could open up proverbial doors to a vast network of like-minded entrepreneurs and future business partners or investors.
CONS: Seed funders require a return on investment, like any other investor. Some might be more focused on the money (returns) and could push you to take necessary steps to see a return on their investment – including ousting you from your own company, according to Under30CEO magazine.
A seed funder could potentially steer your business in a direction that you don’t agree with, but this could be because of their experience in the game.
If you are ready to take the step and talk to firms about seed funding for your company, here’s a list of organisations that can help you kickstart your business operations with early stage capital investment:
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