START.ac - Launched on May 15th this year. CrowdFunding platform. Expanding in India

Hi

I am the founder and ceo of START.ac.   START.ac is in some ways similar to Kickstarter.  However, while Kickstarter is the clear leader in the US market, they have been very slow to move outside the US, and they exclude many (actually they exclude a list 30 categories of projects).

START.ac encourages charitable projects (for which we charge a zero fee), and startup businesses, kids projects, and "cause" projects - to help people. 

START.ac has worldwide scope, and we have a more comprehensive approach to CrowdFunding. We are building an active community with seasoned Mentors and a broad approach in order to expand CrowdFunding to include tech startups and products. We have upped the ante in the CrowdFunding business, with ten major innovations in our model.

We aim to virtualize the provision of capital, advice and resources by leveraging the Internet, so that talented people wherever they are (within reason) can build major successes over time.

We are actively promoting START.ac worldwide. However, we have been getting more interest from India than any other country outside the US.  This fact, coupled with my being British, and my recognition that India has huge potential as a market for START.ac, and huge needs for the services that we provide, has caused us to put more focused attention on India. We plan to make a launch Webcast to formally kick off our efforts in India in the next four weeks or so.

If you have time, please take a look st www.START.ac.  I look forward to hearing back from Pune OpenCoffee Club!

Best regards

Rod Turner

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To clarify; we already have some projects on START.ac from India, and we would like more. 

I would appreciate guidance about when over the next four or so weeks would be a particularly good date for us to schedule our launch Webcast?

Thank you!

Rod

Hi Rod,

I wish you good luck with your venture & it's expansion plans for India. But I've some doubts over crowd-funding & would be thankful if you would kindly oblige to try to answer those for me/the community as a whole:


1. Are you expecting pledges being made from India or are you looking for projects looking for funding from India? If both, which one primarily holds your fascination?

2. It doesn't make much sense that someone from India pledge her money for projects which are not from India. e.g. the lowest a project from Europe might offer for pledging might be 10 Euros which is like Rs. 700 in India. Add paypal commissions, currency exchange rates etc. and it'll go to be around Rs. 1000. A good amount even for the middle class Indian. So what is your thought on that?

3. Although it makes sense for someone from India asking for funds through your site where  enthusiastic people from other parts of the world may contribute/pledge, the cost of mailing them rewards will be very high for the seeker. If the rewards are in digital form, then we can understand. How do you want to tackle this problem?

4. The only solution I see is to have a crowdfunding platform that is based in India where Indians pledge for Indian projects they love. But is it feasible is the main question? I've been following the scene for quite sometime now & have seen sites like www.wishberry.in(not very widely known & active) and www.igniteintent.com (currently in development) come up to test the waters. It would be interesting to see how they fare in these untested waters.

Being a founder & CEO, I hope you'll share with all of us, your thoughts on this.

Best regards,

Tonmoy Goswami

Thank you Tonmoy,

My reply was deleted in the enter process. I will reply again later.

Best

Rod

Hi Tonmoy


Currency conversion on a $5 pledge costs about 10 cents. I do not think that will block many people.

We want to involve project "Drivers", Supporters, and Mentors in India. The proportion is not important, and it will anyway evolve over time.

My expectation is that because for the time being the Rupee is relatively less strong than some currencies, this will work strongly in favor of projects that are based in India. Projects that try to raise too much money to do what they plan will find it harder to get funded. Projects that are more capital efficient will find it much easier to get funded. Supporters in Europe and the US will support projects in India, when they love the projects.

The Internet is shrinking the world. The more time passes, the less geographic location matters. In this respect the trend is in our favor.

I hope the above addresses your concerns and those of the group. I am happy,of course, to answer more questions.

Best
Rod Turner

Hi Rod,

Thanks a lot for the response & explaining your hypothesis.

Going back to my initial question (no. 3), I wonder the following situation:

E.g. An Indian entrepreneur wants to raise money on your site, provides options of pledges starting from $5, $10..and so on.

On $5 pledge, she offers to parcel some personalized thank you cards.

On $10 pledge, she offers to parcel  thank you cards and some memento.

And as you rightly said, Rupee is weak and would it be feasible for her to send an international parcel (roughly $30-40) on a $5 pledge/$10 pledge/..etc

And if you insist that one shouldn't offer returns on pledges less than (say $50), then wouldn't it act as a deterrent to contribute on European/American people?

Tonmoy

It is not as complex as you imply. The project driver that wants to appeal to people outside of India for funds will structure rewards that are viable for such supporters.  

Sending a card by post half way round the world is inexpensive.  Many projects are funding causes, charitable actions, music, art, movies, books, or software - in these cases either no reward is needed, or rewards can be delivered digitally.

CrowdFunding encompasses many types of projects. Some will appeal outside India, some will not. This is not a new phenomenon.  

I am not sure what you mean by "returns"?  If you mean rewards, then, as said above, rewards can come in a variety of forms, as the project driver chooses. And they can be adjusted according to what appeals and what does not.

Rewards are offered and chosen bu the project driver. They can be for a $1 pledge.  

If you are engaged in building a corwdfunding startup that will be based in India, I expect that you will have great potential to do well, and co-exist with START.ac. 

The market is big enough.

Best

Rod Turner

This is a very good idea. But how will you ensure control over the companies you have funded without having a presence in India? You may need to open up atleast once office locally.

Hi Aditi

The way that CrowdFunding works, it is not about control - it is more about trust, and about prevention. By taking appropriate steps, we can dramatically reduce the amount of fraud that takes place, and we can help our project drivers deliver a better result through our Mentoring and community involvement.  

But no CrowdFunding platform that I am aware of actually controls what a project driver does.  In my view Kickstarter take this to an extreme level. They are too hands off.

At START.ac, apart from a variety of preventative measures, we have PromiseReview, in which the people that Supported/funded a project rate the project that they fund after the project has completed. Simple stuff. But no other CrowdFunding platform does this today. This record ensures that if a project driver does a mediocre job of living up to the "Promise" of their project, they will not likely get supported on START.ac again.

If we were to need people on the ground in India, the fact that all our software development, QA testing and project management is ably done by professionals in India at our partner, Blisstering Solutions of Mumbai, would seem to be reassuring. 

Best

Rod

Dear Rod,


This is much needed here at India especially with Kick starter not present and I hope you achieve grand success.


I have a suggestion regards shipping


Is it possible to open a amazon fulfillment account which belongs to your venture.  


Start.ac can then provide services like receiving rewards and product shipments and forwarding them to amazon for fulfillment.It can then charge for this service at an appropriate commission rate as well.


 Of course some details are required such as proper shipping licenses  and efforts from start.ac to package the orders in the required format by amazon ( Which is surprisingly hard  to  understand , i got jumbled up in the labels and shipping sections  ) .


Using Amazon Fulfillment  will also remove all the distractions in customer shipping and inventory management which is not part of the crowd funding platform.


Some Calculations


Say I have to send customized T shirts as rewards to 100 backers in UK.


Assuming 0.5 lbs weight per unit , current shipping rates (FedEx) to London calculates to around 43$ for shipping one shirt. We can reduce it by half by taking risk of local shipping companies though it is not preferred certainly.


But instead if I can send 100 tshirts i.e 50lbs , shipping comes to about 280$.

Amazon fulfilment charges for standard products excluding digital comes to around 6.55$ for one tshirt.

[ Reference : http://www.amazonservices.com/content/fulfillment-by-amazon.htm#!pricing ]


So for 100 orders, my total cost comes around 935$( 6.55*100 + 280)


Thus it will cost me about 10$ per reward reduced from a potential 30-40$.


 Hence even a  commission rate of 50%  by start .ac , it will be cheaper for sending my products and rewards than normal shipping


With the price difference , this option will enable you to attract non digital projects more better in a range of countries not only from individuals but also start ups.


A small suggestion , let me know if I have missed out any fundamental limitations
Regards


Aditya

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