Online crowdfunding is little more than a decade old and yet, in that short timeframe, billions of pounds have been raised by ambitious, growing businesses on digital platforms with help from tech-savvy investors. Since websites like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter and GoFundMe founded in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively, a constellation of platforms have sprouted across the globe offering entrepreneurs a fertile place to raise money and connect with new customers in addition to the venture capital route.
But not all crowdfunding platforms were created equal and, despite the wealth of choice on offer, its easy to make the mistake of picking one crowdfunder, when another is more suitable for your particular business needs.
So here is a beginners’ list of the top 10 crowdfunding platforms operating in the UK. It’s by no means exhaustive, and we recommend you research beyond this list, but it should give you a firm grasp of what’s on offer.
Top 10 crowdfunding platforms:
Crowdcube was founded in 2011 by British entrepreneurs Darren Westlake and Luke Lang. Businesses looking for funding upload descriptions, pictures, and videos to describe the offer and incentives for investing.
The platform operates an ‘all or nothing’ model, meaning businesses listed on the website either hit their investment target, in which case they receive the funds, or fall short and don’t get a penny.
The principle underpinning this is that businesses ask for enough money to achieve a target. If they don’t raise the money, they won’t be able to achieve that target and therefore investors with money pledged to the business could lose out.
Crowdcube has a good track record of big-money raises, including in December 2018 when UK fintech Monzo raised £20 million for just over 2 per cent equity. There have also been successful exits including E-Car Club and Campden Town Brewery.
Founded the year after Crowdcube, Seedrs is another British crowdfunding success story. It is headquartered in East London’s Tech City and, at time of writing, has raised just under £1 billion for growing companies.
There are around 30 live fundraisings happening at any one time and most of the businesses requesting cash are based in the UK, although there is also a minority of overseas operations.
The business was the first to create a secondary market for equity shares, meaning investors can trade their stakes to new investors without waiting for invested businesses to go through a new funding round, or do a trade sale, to realise a profit.
Patreon is a fast-growing US crowdfunding platform that focuses on ‘creators’, or individuals and small businesses in the creative spheres. It is popular with software developers, Youtubers, content creators and artists, with many earning thousands of pounds each month from donations.
Unlike equity crowdfunding firms, the people who give via Patreon do so for goodies and extras, as well for the love of what the person or business is doing. Patreon fundraisers offer unique experiences that regular customers, viewers, or listeners do not have access to.
In most cases, the more money you give each month, the more access is granted by the account holder.
Perhaps the Western world’s most famous crowdfunding business, Kickstarter was an early entrant into the market. Like Patreon, the site offers users rewards and incentives in exchange for cash pledges.
The Brooklyn-based platform has hosted nearly half a million projects, more than 17 million backers and over $4.6 billion in pledges. This, despite the fact that Kickstarter does not guarantee that any funded project will be completed, or even that the money given will be spent in the way project owners say it will.
Founded early in 2008, IndieGoGo is the longest-lived platform on this list. Headquartered in San Francisco, it gives people with spare cash the chance to back anything from an artist to a fintech business.
Like Kickstarter and Patreon, funders are given gifts or special access in return for donations. That could be anything from a signed piece of merchandise to dinner and drinks with the recipient of the cash.
The site charges 5% commission on donations and enjoys around 15 million visitors, on average, per month. Projects enjoying large-scale funding include Stick-N-Find, which helps people retrieve lost phones.
A Tesla museum dedicated to the scientist Nikola Tesla received well over a million dollars, including a donation from Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur whose most famous business bares the inventor’s name.
UK fintech Funding Circle uses the principle of the crowd to generate loans between individuals and businesses. The idea is to give people an opportunity to grow their money while giving growing firms the opportunity to secure finance at below the market rate.
The concept has proven so successful that, today, Funding Circle is listed on the London Stock Exchange, having facilitated more than £8 billion in loans.
UK companies can borrow up to £1 million. The rate of interest was initially set during an auction process – usually with the lowest interest offer winning the right to lend. But in 2015 the business took over rate-setting, using a formula that incorporates risk level and the repayment term.
A Funding Circle alternative, RateSetter matches businesses in need of finance with investors looking to make a return on their spare cash.
Borrowers can apply for loans and pay back over a period of between six and 60 months. More than 500,000 people and businesses have used the service, partly because of its mature approach to risk.
It is estimated that only between 12 and 15 per cent of loan applications are approved by the site.
Crowdfunder is yet another UK fintech; this time headquartered in Newquay. The site is aimed at projects of all descriptions and while it has a heavy charitable emphasis, sole traders and limited companies can raise funds too.
The site has provided £70 million in funding for all kinds of projects and, at time of writing, it is waiving fees for groups fundraising in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
As standard, it takes three per cent of money raised as well as a transaction fee. Businesses can offer rewards in exchange for donations and like with almost all crowdfunding websites, it offers free training and support to its client base.
By value of money changing hands, GoFundMe is the most successful crowdfunding platform on the list, with well over $9 billion transacted in its 10-year history.
The platform focuses on one-off projects and causes, in which people and businesses request donations for a stated goal. Unlike the other organisations on the list, GoFundMe offers no equity, nor does it require fundraisers to offer anything in return for money.
For this reason, it is extremely popular at the lower end of the fundraising scale, with users typically asking for small amounts of money for simple reasons, such as paying tuition fees.
The actor Edward Norton is estimated to have a fortune of around $300 million, a part of which was earned with the sale of his crowdfunding platform Crowdrise to GoFundMe in 2017.
The website’s unique selling point is its emphasis on gamification and rewarding people for donating to its user base of charitable organisations and not-for-profits. Crowdrise takes a five per cent fee for each donation and users choose whether to include the fee in their donation or pay it on top. As you can see, crowdfunding is a market with lots of players offering subtly different services to their target markets. Whatever stage your business is at, it pays to put in hours of research to find the one that fits your model best.