Archive for July, 2014

Crowdfunding is the Highest Form of Loyalty: Shared Destiny


10 Reasons Why FriendFeed is a Better Place to Browse Flickr Photos Than Flickr ItselfHarvest a thousand ideas. Above photo from popular photographer, and my friend, Thomas Hawk.

Crowdfunding is the highest form of loyalty, but only a few big companies have deployed this crowd strategy.

Big companies can learn from Indiegogo, and Kickstarter.
You’ve heard of Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and other crowdfunding platforms for the tech savvy, but what does it mean to corporate product development and marketing strategy? Today’s crowdfunding projects include a panoply of products that never make it to the shelves. I jokingly refer to this as “this decade’s home shopping network,” due to the proliferation of oddball products you didn’t realize you needed. These “long tail” products, are examples of grassroots market innovation offering an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get pre-orders, pre-funding, and free marketing to support future business.

U-Haul Investors Club spurs crowdfunding strategy.
For years, marketers have told themselves that repeat sales are the highest form of loyalty, but I’d like propose that we’re now seeing a greater form of loyalty in crowdfunding. Yet, it remains largely an untapped opportunity for large companies to recognize and develop. Take U-Haul Investors Club for example, where the crowd can finance and own parts of the loading equipment, often at better rates than traditional banks. In return, they receive periodic revenue from the performance of these vehicles. It’s safe to assume, that when it’s time for folks to move, U-Haul Investors will use U-Haul’s services, as well as advocate U-Haul to their friends.

GE taps crowd innovation from Quirky.
With that said, this is just the first phase of the crowdfunding movement. Expect more refined versions to appear, akin to GE’s Quirky program, where the crowd submits ideas, a smaller team selects the best, then GE’s massive production and supply chain creates and distribute at scale. The inventors who submit ideas benefit from their name being on the box, shared revenues, and a chance to see their brainchild on store shelves – without even going to a fabrication plant.

What are the benefits of Corporate Crowdfunding?

  1. A nearly limitless supply of fresh innovation and ideas. Struggling to get fresh ideas to market? Is your company mandate to foster outside-in innovation? Tap into crowdfunding sources to start your journey for crowd innovation.
  2. Backers pre-pledge to go on the journey with you. These backers are telling entrepreneurs, and even large corporations, that they’re committed for a long period of development in exchange for early access and other perks or financial benefits.
  3. They’re engaged with product development. This engaged community can be counted on for active feedback, although they may likely be representative of a passionate contingent, not necessarily a mainstream audience.
  4. A built-in set of early adopters. In both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, most benefits include perks, which include special services, recognition, or gifts. Some provide early access and a period of exclusivity for the product being funded. Tap these early adopters for feedback and word of mouth.
  5. They’ll naturally advocate the product. Being engaged means to commit fully. These crowd-based backers are invested in your future product with time, money, and even reputation. Assume they’ll advocate your products to their network and beyond.

Opportunities for corporate product strategy.
Using the same consumer-type strategies as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allow the crowd to suggest products, then fund them for potential development, akin to GE’s successful Quirky program, which has now extended beyond consumer electronics to appliances. Allow the crowd to drive the initial discussions and ideation. Allow a system for IP protection, rights and rewards to be shared between independent inventors and your company.

Below Graphic: Crowdfunding behavior set to double
Result of 90,000 respondents from my recent research with Vision Critical show that Crowdfunding will double in adoption by the U.S., UK, and Canadian general population.

Corporate crowdfunding is newly charted territory.
What’s the one major downside of Crowdfunding programs? Many project don’t see the light of day and, if they do, they may not become a global success. Additionally, some companies are afflicted with the “if it’s not invented here” syndrome, which limits innovation to only engineers and scientists. Here’s where established brands can help make the right choices, apply the right resources and help both crowds and companies win. Corporations can adopt this new strategy to create a shared destiny with the crowd, fostering a higher form of loyalty through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the highest form of loyalty: shared destiny

(Disclosure: GE is a founding member of my company, Crowd Companies, an association for business leaders at large companies.) 

Collaborative Economy Markets: Platforms, Providers, and Partakers


Marketplaces. They’re all the rage. In fact, the media can’t stop talking about thempeople can’t stop searching for them, and investors have deployed $2.4 billion in just the last seven months.

So what’s a marketplace all about? First of all, it’s not a new concept. It predates Airbnb and even the birth of the Internet. The ancient Greeks called them Agoras. Marketplaces go back to the earliest civilizations when farmers and villagers gathered at a common location, usually in a town square. We get the words “agriculture” and “agoraphobia” from the original koine Greek word.

Above Image: Click to see a sample of dozens of marketplaces in six major verticals, read the full post.
These marketplaces can exist anywhere, through mobile, social, Internet of Things, and payment apps. Today, the most common marketplaces, like eBay, Airbnb, Etsy, Lyft, CustomMade and Lending Club, allow just about anyone to offer goods, food, services, transportation, space, and even financial solutions to each other. These are now called “two-sided marketplaces,” which means there are two distinct positions that anyone can take on each trading platform. In fact, any one individual or entity can actually take both positions on some platforms. For instance, people who sell on the eBay platform usually also are buyers on that same platform. The two sides in the two-sided marketplace are

1) Platforms, a system that enables this trade in an efficient manner
2) Providers of resources, someone who offers them.
3) Partakers of these resources, someone who receives them.

Marketplace Examples: Platforms, Providers, and Partakers
Here’s a few examples to help illustrate, using the same categories as the Honeycomb image above.

Industry Platform Providers Partakers
Goods eBay Merchants Buyers
Goods Etsy Makers Buyers
Food Feastly Cooks Feasters
Food Cookening Host Guest
Services Taskrabbit Tasker Customer
Services eLance Freelancer Client
Transporation Uber Driver Rider
Transporation Lyft Driver/Friend Rider/Friend
Space Peerspace Venue Host Guest
Space Airbnb Host/SuperHost Guest
Money LendingClub Investor Borrower
Money Kickstarter Campaigner Backer
Money Coinbase Merchants Users


You may wonder why these marketplace companies (the Platforms) are performing so well. It’s because they enable seamless transactions, regardless of locations or social relationships, and they take a cut of the revenues at scale. They have recurring revenue without owning most of the liability – they are efficient, money-making machines.

Additionally, these platforms offer a number of features that enable smooth transactions, including, but not limited to, inventory management, profiles and reputations of Providers and Partakers, payment systems like Stripe or Braintree, matching software, and marketing services to amplify all services involved. They also offer on-boarding services, customer care, insurance, and lobbying at the government level to further empower their business.

Big corporations won’t stand by idly and allow the market to displace them. We’re already seeing big companies host their own marketplaces, turning a two-sided marketplace, into a three-sided one (Providers, Partakers, and the Brand Product), offering value added service) like Patagonia’s Common Threads marketplaceGM and RelayRides enabling used cars to be shared, and Coca Cola offering a workforce marketplace with Wonolo.

In summary, marketplaces aren’t new, but they are now being created for just about every vertical niche, location, and need. They’re becoming more efficient as they utilize emerging, new technologies to find idle resources on demand. And they are heavily funded. Not all marketplaces will succeed. Recently, Menlo Ventures hosted an event where we shared the lessons learned regarding what works, and what doesn’t.

I hope this post provided additional clarity, to dissect how this growing market works.

Disclosure: Coca Cola is paying member of my company, Crowd Companies.



Why Investors are in Love with the Collaborative Economy


Money Dollar
Continued analysis of market funding in the Collaborative Economy. Yesterday’s stunning news of European ridesharing company, BlaBlaCar prompted me to tally up the funding in 2014. Along with help from industry experts Lisa Gansky of Mesh Labs, Neal Gorenflo of Shareable, Mike Walsh of Structure VC and Michelle Regner of Near-Me. I tallied funding if the startup was over $1 million and there was a public record of the funding. I’ve published my analysis of funding in this movement before, from the banner funding month in Aprilthe frequency of top VCs and my larger body of work looking at funding in the Collaborative Economy and Social Business.

[2014 funding has increased 350% in deal size mainly due to large investments in Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Lending Club, and BlaBlaCar] 

Exactly one year ago, the average funding amount was $29m. In July 2013, I surveyed a sample of 200 startups (read full report). I found that 37% had been funded, with startups receiving an average of $29 million in funding. The 200 had received over $2 billion in total funding, which is a very high amount for a largely undeveloped, pioneer market.  Interviews with several of the Venture Capitalists in this space indicated that they favor two-sided marketplaces that are scalable and have low inventory costs

[In 2013, average funding was $29 million. In 2014, the average funding amount is $102 million due to outliers, like Uber, receiving over $1.2 billion] 

In the first half of 2014, the average funding amount, is a whopping $102 million. The findings are stunning. I’ve not seen this much investment in tech startups for some time. Some data highlights: In seven short months, there’s been at least 24 distinct funding instances of at least $1 million or more in investment funding. Of those, Uber received the lion’s share of a whopping $1.2 billion in investment for global growth and product expansion. On average, $102 million is the common amount, but if you strip off the Uber investment, Airbnb, Lyft, and Lending Club are lower in investment amount, bringing the average closer to $52 million, which is still very high.

Collaborative Economy Funding 01


Last Seven Months of Collaborative Economy Funding by Date
You can access the Google sheet with this data by date, industry, and size. Please note the numbers are shifting as new data is being added.

Date and Source Startup Amount
1/10/2014 Sidecar $1,000,000
1/20/2014 Hailo $26,500,000
1/29/2014 Zopa $22,700,000
1/30/2014 Scoot $2,300,000
2/18/2014 Postmates $16,000,000
2/24/2014 Deliv $4,500,000
2/28/2014 SkillShare $6,100,000
3/20/2014 Pley $6,800,000
3/26/2014 CircleUp $14,000,000
4/2/2014 Lyft $250,000,000
4/8/2014 Airbnb $500,000,000
4/10/2014 Pivotdesk $3,600,000
4/14/2014 Storefront $7,300,000
4/26/2014 Yerdle $5,000,000
4/28/2014 OurCrowd $25,000,000
4/29/2014 LendingClub $115,000,000
4/30/2014 MakeSpace $8,000,000
5/4/0140 Prosper $70,000,000
6/4/2014 Sidecar $3,100,000
6/6/2014 Uber $1,200,000,000
6/16/2014 Instacart $44,000,000
6/24/2014 Cargomatic $2,600,000
6/24/2014 RelayRide $25,000,000
7/1/2014 BlaBlaCar $100,000,000
7/3/2014 Traity $4,700,000

Last Seven Months of Collaborative Economy Funding by Amount
Above image is the same data.

Uber $1,200,000,000
Airbnb $500,000,000
Lyft $250,000,000
LendingClub $115,000,000
BlaBlaCar $100,000,000
Prosper $70,000,000
Instacart $44,000,000
Hailo $26,500,000
OurCrowd $25,000,000
RelayRide $25,000,000
Zopa $22,700,000
Postmates $16,000,000
CircleUp $14,000,000
MakeSpace $8,000,000
Storefront $7,300,000
Pley $6,800,000
SkillShare $6,100,000
Yerdle $5,000,000
Traity $4,700,000
Deliv $4,500,000
Pivotdesk $3,600,000
Sidecar $3,100,000
Cargomatic $2,600,000
Scoot $2,300,000
Sidecar $1,000,000

Data Summary

  • Total investments from in last seven months: 24
  • Average deals per month in 2014: 3.4
  • Average funding amount in June 2013 study: $29 million
  • Average funding amount in last Jan-July 3, 2014: $102.6 million
  • Median funding in last seven months: $14 million
  • Average Funding Amount (excluding Uber) in last seven months: $52.6 million
  • Total Amount of Funding in last seven months: $2.46 billion
  • Increase in funding amount per investment in 12 months: 351%

Conclusion: Investors love the Collaborative Economy – But will it bust?
So, why are investors betting big on the Collaborative Economy? These scalable business models run on top of highly adopted social and mobile technologies. They offer a high frequency of transactions, with low operating costs. They are also disrupting traditional corporate business models, as they are more efficient by leveraging internet of everything, mobile devices, apps, and payment platforms. Neal Gorenflo reminded me that these startups cause the incumbents to wail in the media, creating incredible low cost PR value, which in turn attracts more customers.

In summary: Investors expect these startups to be highly profitable and are betting down big.

(Photo Credits, used with Creative Commons)