Employing the power of crowd funding to catapult an emerging business idea to the next level carries an equal measure of risk and reward.
Two seasoned producers, Jason Cooper and Jay Armitage, are examining the issue in an upcoming feature movie, “Kickstarted.” Set to debut next summer, the film will document the crowd funding stories of entrepreneurs and artists.
Although Kickstarter is one of the largest and best known crowd funding platforms, in 2012, there were about 800 such applications, said Sean Carr, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Batten Institute at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.
“The important thing to remember about crowd funding is that it’s not just about money,” said Carr, who is also the Batten Institute’s executive director. “If you have a compelling story to tell about what you’re trying to do … you have the potential to engage an audience. That’s what you get with crowd funding.”
With Carr as moderator, Cooper and Armitage last week shared an inside look at their in-progress film at Start Up Now, an entrepreneurship conference that drew several hundred people to Darden.
Cooper and Armitage were among about a dozen featured experts at the conference who shared their insight into the challenges faced by startup companies. Other experts included Vince Talbert, who founded Bill Me Later, a company that was acquired by PayPal for $1 billion, and Darden professor Saras Sarasvathy, an expert on entrepreneurship.
The event’s overall goal was to provide insight into how startup companies and the people behind them can maintain their momentum.
Crowd funding leverages the visibility, power and nearly instant feedback of social media to raise money for business ventures or projects. The filmmakers have firsthand knowledge of the issue — they used Kickstarter to fund their documentary.
“You don’t hear about how hard it is to deliver … As soon as you hit that launch button, everything is on the line. It’s incredible how difficult it becomes asking people for money,” Armitage said. “That’s what we want to capture.”
Cooper’s production experience includes work on shows such as “The Biggest Loser” and “Deal or No Deal.” Armitage has worked on “Breaking Bad” and “The Vampire Diaries.”
As production continues on the documentary, Cooper said they’ve found that unexpected success clearly ups the ante and the stress factor, even for seasoned entrepreneurs.
“How do you deal with suddenly getting 5,000 percent more money than you ask for?” Cooper said. It’s a question, Cooper said, for which no boilerplate answer or strategy exists. Armitage agreed.
But Cooper said they’ve met some people who appreciate and need the attention and push that the social media aspect of the crowd funded approach provides.
“You’re building a community of people around whatever your product is,” Cooper said. “You want people to feel a sense of ownership in what you’re doing … These are people that are going to be your customers, your testing ground, your biggest marketers, and it starts with your own community.