Recently I met Lianna Wolfson, the personal assistant of David Sable, Global Chief Executive Officer of Young and Rubicon advertising agency, and an interesting lady in her own right (Thanks to Adam Avnon for this connection). Lianna asked and I answered to the best of my ability all I know about Crowdfunding. Then she asked another question, that possibly is self-evident, but I somehow not encountered that before: what is the role of the big players of the market, in the crowdfunding game? Do they have a place in the framework of crowdfunding, or is this a game for small and medium business only?
A giant tries to join the game.
I admit that I did not have an answer – at least not an intelligent one. Well, it is clear that Coca-Cola can support any project that it chooses, and that such a firm can upload by itself any project it desires, or even many projects. But will that afford it any advantage? Will people accept a giant and established player, who clearly can set up any project without the support of the public? Why should I, as a supporter, enlist in a funding project that intends, as an example, to develop a new soft drink with organic tomato taste? As we know, Coca-Cola has a turnover of billions of dollars per annum. It will be fair that it finance by itself the development of its products. When the bubbly tomato drink is ready, I will decide if it is to my taste, and if I will buy it. Actually, the whole ideology behind crowdfunding is in contrast to the nature of giant, established concerns. This ideology allows for the existence of the smaller businesses, that until now struggled to grow in the shadow of the giants. It follows, that Coca-Cola and the likes are not invited to this party!
And yet, this answer is also problematic in my opinion. The realm of crowdfunding, by not making room for these major players, is shutting out a relevant and sizeable part of the market. If we accept the exclusion of the tycoons, we enlarge the chasm between small business and its investors, and their giant counterparts. And this, to my taste, is an unwanted direction for all parties. An intelligent and perfect platform is the one that knows how to let all players join in the game: projects from 1k to 1m. From supporters at 50.- $ to those who bring 50k. Only an arena that welcomes all, will allow a holistic game, which is fair and wise.
This multitude of problems I put before my discussion groups at Linkedin. It turned out that I broke into an open door. This question worries a lot of people in the field, and there is in the meantime no satisfactory answer. Amongst the many reactions that I received, I chose to share two that seemed of most interest:
Dara Albright, the founder and director of NowStreet, finds that this dilemma is resolved by setting up the platform Circleup, which allows large institutions (such as P&G) to support large projects. As far as I see it, this is not a satisfactory solution, because it does not really let the big ones join the game, but it promotes an alternative platform, an alternative game, for the big league. Judge for yourselves.
Beverley Hamilton, Chief Experience Officer of CABINS™, advises another direction – more interesting in my opinion : large concerns, says Beverley, apparently are unable to start or join projects that are within their normal every day assembly line. However, if they present a special project, that was intended specifically to fit into crowdfunding, which is especially built to improve the world, yet is still connected to what the concern knows to do – it is possible that here is the beginning of an interesting connection: namely a link between a large commercial product and an interesting philanthropic venture, through an innovative project. This may be sufficient cause to turn to the public. The intention is not for a campaign where Coca-Cola invites the public to donate money for hungry children, or to decide for what charity Coca-Cola will donate. This is not only a matter of money, but their commitment to a real earmarked project. For instance, if Coca-Cola itself is developing a can of mineral water, that will keep the water fresh and clean for a duration of many months even under very poor conditions of storage, for distribution all over Africa – that may be a project that the public is interested in; Coca-Cola will earn image points, the children of Africa will quench their thirst, and all will benefit from the power of crowdfunding. Here is the suggestion by Beverly.
It seems that this problem poses more question marks than exclamation marks, as so many developments in our surroundings do. Again, we learn as we go along. It is the time of the unknowing people, who are willing to open their eyes and ears, and explore.