“If you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.” — Warren Buffett.
In a world where all and sundry is being disrupted by technology, why should humanitarianism be left behind? Here’s a startup that has developed a commission-free online fundraising and crowdfunding platform, which aims to promote humanitarian activities through crowdfunding.
Crowdera intends to build a “giving economy”, empowering individuals and organisations to drive crowdfunding projects that make an impact, do social innovation, follow their passion, or even fulfill personal needs.
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Most crowdfunding platforms enable fundraisers to seek financial assistance by sharing verified stories of individuals or groups in need with their network — social media platforms, advertisements, word-of-mouth, etc — who can connect with the cause and help through donations.
By now, India is well-versed with the concept of crowdfunding, especially when it comes to seeking aid in the form of donations during medical emergencies and natural calamities, for social causes, art and film promotions, etc. Thanks to the Internet and instant payment technology, crowdfunding has helped many during their time of need.
Crowdsourcing is used not only by individuals and NGOs; even governments have realised that it is an effective way to raise funds in this digital age. The latest such instance is the Stand With Kerala crowdfunding initiative taken by the Kerala government for victims of the recent devastating floods in the state. The Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund is accepting donations made through Internet banking, RuPay cards, and Paytm. It is also accepting donations through bank transfers.
Crowdera too has launched a campaign called ‘Help Kerala Flood Victims’ in which the proceeds will directly go to the Kerala Flood Relief Account.
The startup is also working to make fundraising “a sustainable process”, so that, in a year or a two, fund-seekers can look at previous donors on the platform for further fundraises. The platform also assists donors or backers, especially businesses, to decide on which projects to support for their CSR activities.
Chet Jain, founder of California- and India-based fintech startup Crowdera, says the platform enables “ask-fors” (fundraisers) to launch successful crowdfunding campaigns where donations can be collected, for free.
True Abundance Starts With Giving: Crowdera Founder Chet Jain
Jain says he had philanthropy on his mind when he started Crowdera. He wanted to develop a global online fundraising platform that supports campaigns related to social causes, health, education, environment, animal safety, disaster relief, theater, and other such innovations, without charging any commission.
Crowdera charges no fee to help campaigners in their overall fundraising journey — from providing technical and marketing assistance to finding the right network and backers.
He adds that all campaigns being launched on the platform are verified by an administrator. The campaigner who is leading the crowdfunding campaign is asked to submit his/her basic details and documents supporting the cause. Campaigns seeking donations for medical emergencies are usually approved within 5-10 hours, Jain claims.
Crowdera’s services for businesses, however, are chargeable. The startup provides customised campaigns for its enterprise clients, enabling them carry out their corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects by connecting them with relevant fundraising campaigns on its platform.
Jain says the startup has more than 25 business clients using the paid subscription at present. The customised packages can cost as low as $60-70 (INR 4185-4882) and go up to $2.4K (INR 167K) for an annual subscription.
“We run multiple discount solutions for campaigners who sign up for our services through paid subscriptions. For instance, we are aligned with nine of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If any non-profits leading a fundraising campaign on our portal falls under one of the categories, we offer substantial discounts. It (the discounts) also depend on the size of the non-profit. We are compliant with the US, the UK, Canada, India, and Silicon Valley charitable laws,” Jain says.
Support From 60 Countries For Humanitarian Calls On Crowdera
Since its inception in 2014, Crowdera’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution has helped more than 2,500 crowdfunding campaigns, claims Jain. He adds that the crowdfunding platform is popular in India, the US, the UK, Canada, Guatemala, Singapore, among other 60 countries.
Some time ago, storyteller, writer, and humanitarian Laura Simms raised $4.2K on gocrowdera to help a group of adolescent girls in Haiti, who were recuperating from the devastating earthquake. Simms required funds to organise a girls meetup in the Haiti camp to impart awareness on the power of supporting each other by writing poetry and dancing. In her campaign note, she talked about spreading awareness on the risk of diseases and sexual abuse.
The campaign that has raised the highest funds so far on the Crowdera platform was launched by Hyderabad-based anti-sex trafficking NGO Prajwala. Its founder — social activist Sunitha Krishnan — raised close to $226K to build a rehabilitation centre for victims of sex trafficking.
Crowdera also enables artists and filmmakers to use its platform to raise funds for their projects. Mumbai-based actor and director Rajat Kapoor is crowdfunding for RK/R KAY — a crowd-produced feature film. He has so far raised $48.6K on Crowdera.
In another film-making campaign, former Radio Mirchi executive vice-president and radio consultant Riya Mukherjee raised about $27K on Crowdera to produce a short film — The Disguise, which is based on cultural intolerance and racism.
The crowdfunding platform has already got eminent personalities such as social worker Padmashri Dr Suneetha Krishnan for Prajwala, Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) founder Divyanshu Ganatra, and several others raising funds for their causes and ventures.
Crowdfunding Is Just Picking Up In India
According to a 2018 report by market research portal Statista, the current transaction value in the crowdfunding segment in India amounts to $8 Mn in 2018 and is expected to touch $21.7 Mn by 2022. The study further states that average crowdfunding per campaign amounts to $190 in 2018.
Though these may seem like small numbers, the space is growing with a number of crowdfunding platforms starting up in India. There’s the Mumbai-based Wishberry, which recently raised $1.4 Mn in a Series A round of funding from Reliance Entertainment and 3one4 Capital. The startup plans to utilise the funds to launch a crowdfunded film studio for low-budget cinema, and to expand its team, especially in the film production and distribution space.
Another crowdfunding startup, ImpactGuru, raised $2 Mn (INR 13 Cr) in a Series A round of funding co-led by Apollo Hospitals Group and Venture Catalysts. The startup plans to use the funds to scale crowdfunding in India by ramping up sales and marketing. It also wants to further develop its technology platform, which makes use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and vernacular language support. Similarly, there are reward-based crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Meanwhile, Crowdera is not in a hurry to make money in this nascent space. Right now, the priority is to make people aware of crowdfunding and to get them to trust the platform. “We just started earning revenue three months ago. We are slowly evolving. Once we’ve scaled, it’d be all about pumping money into marketing. I see huge opportunity in terms of scaling in size and revenue,” says Jain.
In June 2018, Crowdera raised a pre-Series A funding from Anil Advani, a Silicon Valley-based startup attorney; Pramod Jain, Amrendra Reddy, and Manish Satnaliwala, angel investors from Singapore; and Anand Daga, SME IPO specialist from central India. Investors from San Francisco Bay Area also participated in the funding.
Jain says the startup is currently looking to raise Series A funding as it plans to expand to Singapore. “We’ll have a presence in Singapore in a month or a two. We already have some companies signed up with us to leverage their CSR campaigns through our platform. We’ll be helping them amplify their CSR impact using our crowdfunding model,” says Jain.
The Future: Crowdera To Integrate Blockchain Into Its Platform
Crowdera is working on introducing a blockchain-based utility only token on the platform. Jain says he is currently holding talks with US-based developers to formulate a framework on how the utility only token will work on the crowdfunding platform.
“We will be introducing it (blockchain) soon…probably in the Singapore market first as Indian blockchain operations is still shaping up. In Singapore, blockchain will be operation in a month or two. We will tie up with a few campaign managers to do the beta testing of this initiative,” says Jain.
He adds that the startup is also looking to enter into machine learning to understand donor and fundraiser behaviour.
Jain’s greatest joy is that Crowdera is connecting humanitarians across the world and constantly taking crowdfunding to many in their time of need.
“The fastest fundraise (on Crowdera) was when a crowdfunding campaign for a three-year-old girl fighting with cancer in Pune raised $257K (INR 18 Lakh) in just 48 hours,” says Jain, smiling.
Crowdera is well on its way to facilitating, if not creating, a ‘giving economy’ by connecting do-gooders and those who need help on its platform. And it’s sure to find many takers, for there is nothing quite like the joy of giving, is there?