Collaboration of the Month – Crowdcube

Crowdcube

Collaborative Investment

I’m going to bet that most of you have heard the term “crowdfunding” and are aware of what it entails. Many of you have probably visited Kickstarter or Indiegogo to have a look at what exciting (or ridiculous) projects are seeking funding. Perhaps one or two of you have even taken a step further and contributed to a project that has peaked your interest. However involved you have become, crowdfunding has become a viable, and exciting, option for entrepreneurs looking for early stage funding to launch their ideas.

Let’s Rewind a Bit

I should probably spend a little bit of time explaining what crowdfunding is to those readers who aren’t so clued up on the concept. Please feel free to skip over this section of you have even the slightest understanding of what crowdfunding is.

The concept is actually pretty simple and, to be honest, the clue is in the title. Crowdfunding is the term given to the practice of raising capital, typically for a project or new business venture, from a large number of people. That is the essence of crowdfunding, it is in the details (as with most things) that things can get a bit complicated and confusing.

Generally speaking there are three types of crowdfunding: equity-based, credit-based and rewards-based. Again, these are rather self-explanatory; in equity-based crowdfunding the finance is provided in exchange for equity in the business, in credit-based the finance takes the form of a loan and on rewards-based platforms the investors receive a “reward” from the creators of the funding campaign. These rewards-based platforms are exemplified by the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, two of the most recognisable platforms.

Right, I think that’s enough background reading!

“Investing Just Got Exciting”

Or, at least, according to the people at Crowdcube. Now, they may be overstating things a little. I have certainly never found investing very exciting, but I think that there are plenty of people who do. However, that’s the point of crowdfunding, to bring investing into the realm of people like me. To give us the opportunity to poke our heads behind the curtain and play at being an angel investor.

Crowdcube falls into the category of mixed crowdfunding platforms, offering both rewards-based and equity-based campaigns. This means that certain campaigns on Crowdcube allow investors to become direct shareholders in the company they invest in and enjoy all of the benefits (and risks) that entails. The exciting part is that the minimum investment is £10, so unlike the investors in Dragons’ Den there is no need to sit ominously in a leather chair beside a large pile of cash when making your investment decision!

I should mention that there are details such as the class of the shares offered and the rights they come with (such as voting rights), so you really should read all of the fine print if you are going to make the investment.

Probably not the safest way to display your wealth...!
Probably not the safest way to display your wealth…!

Formula 1 – Crowd Powered

I could have chosen from a number of platforms for this article, there is certainly no shortage of them. Crowdcube grabbed my attention, however, with an investment call that appealed directly to me, a Formula 1 fan!

Ailing Formula 1 team, Caterham, launched a rewards-based campaign to raise £2,350,00 in order to allow them to race at the final race of the 2014 season in Abu-Dhabi. The world of Formula 1 has always been the realm of the mega-wealthy and uber-famous. Teams are usually financed by people who own super-yachts and football clubs, and sponsorship money drawn from global brands adorn every inch of free space on the cars. Until now.

The campaign was incredibly successful with over 6,000 investors raising a sum of £2,354,389, successfully sending the CaterhamF1 team to race in Abu-Dhabi.

That, for me, is the purest example of the power of crowdfunding. 6,467 people wanted Caterham to race in Abu Dhabi and, through Crowdcube in this instance, they were empowered to rally together and do something about it, rather than hopelessly waiting for a wealthy investor to make a decision about the team they support.

Who knows what this could mean for the future. Will other struggling F1 teams turn to crowdfunding to raise the exorbitant sums necessary to succeed in the sport? Will ardent football fans, dismayed at the decisions of the super-wealthy owner of their club finally have an avenue to do more than simply armchair commentary? It is too early to tell, but I think that is the true excitement of crowdfunding.

Collaboration of the Month – EatWith

First Things First

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the subtle change in the title of this post. Collaboration of the Week has miraculously transformed into Collaboration of the Month, what’s up with that?! In all honesty, I was probably a little overambitious when I thought of writing a weekly post about a cool collaborative consumption idea. As it turns out, it didn’t take very long for the weekly schedule to be lost completely and the last Collaboration of the Week was posted months ago! However, collaborative consumption excites me far too much to simply abandon the idea so, with a bit of realistic thinking, it is back as a monthly post. I have already identified a good few months worth of inspiring businesses to highlight so if this is something that interests you keep checking back in. Now, onto this month’s collaboration!

EatWith – You’re Invited

Do you enjoy going out to a restaurant for a meal with friends? How about going over to a friend’s place for dinner and a few drinks? If you’re anything like me (and having an interest in collaborative consumption implies that, in a small way at least, you are) then you are quite fond of both. But, have you ever thought about doing both…at the same time? Combining the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of a dinner party at a mate’s house with the high-quality food and experience of eating out at a restaurant. Well, whether you have thought about it or not, EatWith gives you the chance to do just that.

"Waiter, more wine!"
“Waiter, more wine!”

The premise is really rather simple (as all collaborative consumption ideas seem to be). Aspiring chefs, or hobbyist cooks who simply enjoy having people over for dinner, create a listing for their dinner party on the EatWith website. The listing contains information on the type of food that will be served, how long the event will last for and even the “Host Style”, whether the host sits down to enjoy the meal with guests or simply prepares and serves the food – restaurant style. Of course there is also the usual background info on the host, rough location of the event and the price. Would-be diners simply search through local listings and book a space at a meal that appeals to them or, if the date doesn’t suit them, can suggest a date to the host.

Scanning through the listings for London, the meals available are as varied as the hosts. I was immediately drawn to the Halloween Southern Supper Club, a vegetarian, New Orleans French Quarter inspired, four course meal served in a “subterranean dining room”. The host, Natalie, is a Cordon Vert trained chef who is looking to serve the “most authentic soul food dishes you have ever tried.”. Another interesting listing is the Experience World Fusion meal hosted by Emily Amuke, a quarter-finalist on MasterChef in 2013. Emily sits down to enjoy the meal with her guests, making use of EatWith to combine her love of cooking with that of meeting people.

"A toast to collaborative consumption and good food!"
“A toast to collaborative consumption and good food!”

EatWith has been described as the “AirBnB of dining” and, with a growing number of listings, in 17 cities around the world, its appeal certainly seems to be increasing as people begin to embrace the experiences and opportunities that collaborative consumption are making available. As with almost the entire sharing economy at the moment, there are questions of regulation and safety standards surrounding EatWith. However, I suspect these will resolve themselves, in one way or another, as the sharing economy establishes itself. As long as people enjoy going out for a meal with friends or cooking up a storm for the enjoyment of others, services like EatWith, that make it easy to do so, are going to have a place in the world. So, next time you’re in the mood for an evening out with friends, why not give the restaurant a miss and see what someone in your local area is cooking up for dinner…?

An Announcement!

Oh yes, a real announcement, about something super exciting…! If you follow me on Twitter (which I’m sure you do…) you will have noticed that I have been tweeting a lot lately about something called the Disruptive Innovation Festival. The reason I have been tweeting about it so much is because it is going to be a fantastic event. Taking place over a full four weeks, it is an online festival where you can see content from, and interact with, world leading innovators and thinkers like Janine Benyus, Sir Ken Robinson and collaborative consumption pioneer Rachel Botsman.

Registration is completely free and gives you access to every second of video, webinar, Google Hangout and forum content that will be generated. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, just by signing up you have the chance of winning a pair of hospitality tickets to a Formula E race of your choice, a year’s subscription to Wired Magazine, a copy of Adobe Suite for a year and even more! The Festival starts tomorrow so don’t waste any time! See you there…

The Economy is Changing

Last week Friday was the final day of the second annual Schmidt-MacArthur Summer School and the occasion was marked with an afternoon exploring Oxford, punting down the river (unbelievably nobody fell in!) and enjoying a sumptuous farewell/awards dinner. After an intensive week of lectures, interactive workshops and heated discussions, all centred around the circular economy, the relaxation was hard-earned by all.

The prestigious "Leeky Flows" award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.
The prestigious “Leeky Flows” award received by Kevin Shahbazi for losing his mentor during the week.

The week-long Summer School, held this year at Cranfield University, is an opportunity for the Schmidt-MacArthur Fellows and Mentors from all over the world to come together to share their thoughts and understanding of the circular economy. Through the intensive programme of lectures, workshops and activities it is also a chance to develop a deeper understanding of the principles and practicalities of transitioning to a circular economy. The week began with a “get to know you” session and escalated rapidly from there with the setting of the Summer School Challenge. Fellows were tasked with applying their learning to the question: “How can a city like Detroit evolve positive or regenerative cycles of development?” and were to present their solutions at the end of the week. A full run down of the week’s activities can be found here.

The Summer School experience was possibly the closest I have (and hopefully will ever) come to being caught in a whirlwind. I was swept up on Sunday evening, when I met some of the other Fellows for the first time, into the world of the circular economy and only came back down to earth on Friday afternoon in Oxford. I’m not even sure I have fully recovered yet! After five days of listening to and interacting with business leaders, thought leaders, designers, academics, subject experts and incredibly bright students I feel overwhelmingly that the momentum of the circular economy is building at a rapid pace. I am very excited to be a part of that momentum.

Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.
Fellows getting the chance to pose questions to Ellen MacArthur.

One of the highlights of the week was attending the CE100 Summit held at the Royal Institution in London. The annual gathering of companies that make up the CE100 as well as a selection of academic and business leaders, the summit was nothing short of inspiring. Hearing businesses present their successes in the circular economy, often achieved in the short year since the inaugural summit, demonstrated that the circular economy is not simply a dream, but can be made into reality. If the buzz on Twitter is anything to go by, then simply the engagement and debate provoked by the summit speak to its success.

A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.
A tiny selection of the Tweets flying around during the CE100 Summit.

With the presentations of the Fellows’ solutions to the challenge set at the start of the week and the relaxing afternoon spent in Oxford, the second annual Summer School came to a close. Those Fellows who travelled from distant lands have now returned and work will begin in earnest on all of our Circular Economy Innovation Projects. I am well on the way to creating a vision for fast-moving consumer goods in the circular economy, in the hope that sharing provocative, compelling stories about the possibilities of the future can spur the innovation and commitment needed to get us there.

The week may be over, but the Fellowship most certainly is not. As with the Fellowship that set off for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, the road before us is a long one. But it is an incredibly exciting one, supported by people who are committed to turning the idea of a circular economy, an economy that is regenerative by design, into a reality.

PS: If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting space, take a look at the video below!