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The best source for news and information about crowdfunding for good.

Crowdfunding for Social Good

Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Interviews

Stories that include video interviews.

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‘Unstoppable’ Mom, Cancer Survivor Creates New Fertility App

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Have you ever had a question you wanted to ask a doctor but couldn’t find one to ask? Have you ever wanted a second opinion but decided it would take too long or cost too much?

Alice Crisci did. Unlike the rest of us who’d had such problems, she decided to do something about it. She founded Ovum Medical to provide MedAnswers, an iPhone app that gives patients direct access to doctors and other experts to answer questions. Crisci plans to launch Android and web versions of the service before the end of 2017.

She traces the history of the company to her own scare with cancer. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was only 31 years old.” Three weeks after her cancer diagnosis she launched a nonprofit called Fertile Action.

Alice Crisci, MedAnswers

“When I was diagnosed with cancer I didn’t see a second opinion oncologist until I was already going through treatment. He didn’t even agree with the treatment plan that I was going through. So I connected the two oncologists in a conference call so I could hear both of their approaches.”

Last year, she came up with the idea for MedAnswers and began working to bring it to market. The app is already available for free in the App Store.

The app allows multiple experts, typically medical doctors, to offer answers and then to vote them up or down so users can see a consensus forming around the best answer.

Today, the company is conducting two simultaneous securities offerings to raise money, including a crowdfunding campaign via Start Engine. There, she set a goal of just $10,000 but has raised over $107,000.

For now, the app only provides answers in the fertility space but the plan is to broaden the reach of the experts organically until it covers the universe of health care questions. “We called it MedAnswers and not infertility answers or oncology answers because we want to help people in their moment of health care crisis,” Crisci says.

Jenifer Gausman, a life-long friend and committed investor in the company, says, “MedAnswers solves the information overload by less reliable sources by connecting patients to experts that answer their questions.”

MedAnswers, iPhone app

Christina Stramacchia got to know Crisci through a fertility group on Facebook. She is using the app and says, “I have posted several questions – response time is excellent, and the feedback is professional and informative. Many times the responses are aligned with my RE [reproductive endocrinologist] and nurse opinions. In some cases, when I present the information I have gathered on MedAnswers, they are able to elaborate on the explanation I was given on MedAnswers.”

Crisci explains that she has found experts in seven fields related to infertility who have signed up to provide answers on the app. The fields include reproductive endocrinologists, embryologists, geneticists, genetic counselors, psychologists, urologists and reproductive attorneys. [Insert your own joke about multiplying lawyers here.]

These are early days for the young social enterprise. The app launched in the App Store only in June. Crisci acknowledges that “we’re still newbies.”

Gausman says, “If Alice has her way, she will ensure every patient seeking fertility answers will have that access. She is unstoppable.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

How This New Innovation Could Be The Sliced Bread Of Solar Industry

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Andrew Yakub may be onto something. Big. Sliced bread big.

Yakub, 30, is the CEO and founder of Rayton Solar. A physicist who had used particle accelerators for cutting silicon had launched a solar installation business. Fearing the end of Federal tax incentives that might slow his business, he was thinking about ways to cut the cost of solar enough to make it economical without them. He surmised that the silicon in solar panels could be sliced with a particle accelerator rather than with blades, radically reducing wasted silicon.

From that foundation, Yakub has built a promising startup. Targeting a 60% reduction in manufacturing costs, he hopes to both lower costs to customers and operate with better-than-industry average margins. In addition, he expects the solar panels to be 25% more efficient. With those goals, he raised $2.8 million in seed funding.

Watch my full interview with Yakub in the video player at the top of the article.

Rayton Solar is now raising up to $50 million via a crowdfunding or Regulation A+ round from the public. Ordinary investors can participate. So far the Santa Monica, California-based company has received $4.2 million in funding commitments via the offering.

The first use of the new funding was to purchase the large particle accelerator the company will use to slice silicon for the solar panels. The custom equipment has been ordered; delivery is expected in January, Yakub says.

Yakub got his start in particle physics working as a design engineer at the UCLA Particle Beam Physics Laboratory. Those relationships have proven key to building the business.

Andrew Yakub displays prototype solar cell

James Rosenzweig, the Distinguished Professor of Physic in the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy, now serves on the Rayton Solar board. He says, “The concepts concerning use of particle beams in cutting materials for solar panels is an exciting spin off of the types of research we engage in at UCLA.”

Rosenzweig says that Rayton’s technology is “a potential game changer for solar manufacturing.” This is driven by the parallel impacts of cost reduction and increased efficiency.

Yakub, previously recognized by Forbes as one of the 30 under 30 to watch in energy, earned a degree in physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Yakub has a passion for solar as a part of the path to eliminating global reliance on fossil fuels. He notes enthusiastically that California is moving to get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources. He cites a prediction from the International Energy Agency that by 2050 the world will get 50% of its energy from renewables, representing a 50-fold increase in renewable energy production over just three decades.

He gushes about the economic revolution coming in Africa, mimicking that of South Asia. He sees off-grid and micro-grid uses of solar across the continent allowing the country to thrive without the expense of building an electric grid similar to ours. He sees an economy there built on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

Ultimately, the market will determine if Rayton Solar’s technology is the winning technology, but early signs suggest that slicing silicon with a particle accelerator could be the sliced bread of the solar industry.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Your Support To Bolieve’s Mission Helps Educate Kids in Bolivia

Bolieve will produce handmade backpacks and by selling each backpack, they will provide a day of education to an average of 25 kids in Bolivia. They are raising money on kickstarter. Recently I caught up with Gabriel Ruiz to learn more about the effort; here’s what he told me:

What is the social benefit you hope to achieve with or through your crowdfunding campaign?

Bolieve’s mission goes beyond high-quality handmade products by incorporating social entrepreneurship. For each handmade backpack sold, Bolieve will provide a day of education to an average of 25 kids in Bolivia. By implementing the one for one model, it will tackle the top factors of poverty, lack of job opportunities and quality education.

How much money are you hoping to raise and why? How much have you raised so far?

I’m hoping to raise $30,000. The main reason is to reduce the production cost of the handmade products by order a higher quantity of items, therefore, we can make a bigger social impact. So far I’ve raised $1,600 ans we have 26 days left in Kickstarter.

Whom are you trying to help with your project and why?

As a native Bolivian, I have a enormous desire to help communities in need from Bolivia. I’ve seen the struggles that they have and I’m sure that with social entrepreneurship I can make a considerable positive impact in Bolivian communities, not just by donating money for education but also serve as an example to Bolivian entrepreneurs so they can begin contributing to different social obstacles.

What rewards, if any, are you offering to your supporters?

The rewards basically consists on Handcrafted Bolivian Backpacks, we also offer handmade bracelets. All of our products are handmade with high quality “Aguayo” and Leather. Aguayo is a traditional handmade weave absolutely beautiful.

Check out the campaign:

Visit the website.
Follow on Facebook.
Follow on Twitter at @BolieveOfficial

 

New Author, Podcaster Launches Radio Show With Crowdfunding Campaign


Tony Loyd is a podcaster who interviews social entrepreneurs. He has just been invited to host a weekly, drive-time radio show. He’s also finishing up a book. To launch all of this, Tony is running a crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood.com.

Tony lives by the mantra “miracles happen when you are in motion.” He says, the radio show came about because he was out and about, was producing a podcast and another host of the radio show connected him to the producer.

His book, Crazy Good Advice, features ten lessons from the 150 episodes of his show, extracting patterns and insights from the great social entrepreneurs he’s interviewed.

Tony is out to change the world.

He says, “Our business is focused only on amplifying the stories of social entrepreneurs. Stories move us. They take us out of our logical brains and help us to connect with one another.”

“When people hear stories of social good, they are engaged, informed and inspired,” he continues.  “Because social entrepreneurs are everyday people like you and me, when listeners hear their stories, they see themselves as possible changemakers too.”

The audio format is powerful, Tony says. “The stories inspire people to take action. Listeners are more inclined to give time, talent, and treasure to help a cause. Or, they take the leap and become changemakers themselves. The circle expands and encourages more social good and more stories that need to be told.”

Tony Loyd

Tony Loyd

More about the Social Entrepreneur:

Twitter: @SocEntPod

Every Monday you hear interviews with social entrepreneurs, founders, investors and thought leaders. They share their successes, failures and what they have learned along the way.

Tony’s bio:

Twitter: @TonyLoyd

Tony is the executive producer of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

Tony has provided leadership to Fortune 500 companies for over 25 years, with global brands such as John Deere, Medtronic and Buffalo Wild Wings. He has extensive experience conducting strategic planning, leading organizational design, creating talent management strategy and conducting leadership development workshops.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and crowdfunding speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Nonprofit Crowdfunding Explained


Salvador Briggman, author of Nonprofit Crowdfunding Explained, says he shares all you need to know to succeed with your nonprofit crowdfunding goals.

Salvador says his goal was to share the insights that for-profit crowdfunders are using so that nonprofits could get those benefits, too. He’s excited by the potential for crowdfunding to help nonprofits get the word out about their inspiring work.

He notes that peer-to-peer fundraising is a better model for crowdfunding than a traditional, centralized approach. By empowering supporters to do the fundraising for your organization, you let them reach their friends directly and expand your reach infinitely.

Salvador points out, “You can’t leave anything to chance.” You have to equip your team with tweets, posts and links that they can instantly share without work or thought so that coming up with something to say isn’t their responsibility.

In this way, he says, a small group of advocates can help you raise more money more quickly.

Salvador, who says his superpower is understanding emotions, points out that you can’t get people to do anything without tapping into their emotions. Your crowdfunding campaign needs to do that.

Salvador’s business, CrowdCrux, provides information about crowdfunding in a variety of forms, including a blog, a podcast and books. He says, “I am solving the problem of the need for education about crowdfunding. I solve it by providing original free content and premium products to get people to their goals faster.” Salvador offers a free course on crowdfunding.

Salvador Briggman, courtesy of CrowdCrux

Salvador Briggman, courtesy of CrowdCrux

More about CrowdCrux:

Twitter: @crowdcrux

CrowdCrux is the #1 source online that will take you from a novice to crowdfunding pro. I put out a podcast, that has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, a blog, which had more than 1 million visits in 2015, and a YouTube channel that’s rapidly growing. I’ve also written four books on various topics related to crowdfunding. I started KickstaterForum.org, which now has over 7,000 members and co-own CrowdfundingForum.com.

Salvador’s bio:

Twitter: @sbriggman

Salvador Briggman founded the popular blog, CrowdCrux, which has been cited by the New York Times, The Wallstreet Journal, CNN, Forbes and more. He helps entrepreneurs raise money on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. He also covers new developments in the crowdfunding industry.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and crowdfunding speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

JOBS Act Opens New Window For Small Company IPOs


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

With the “dot com crash” in 2000, largely by regulatory design, small company IPOs all but disappeared from the American economic landscape.

A scarcely noticed part or title of the 2012 JOBS Act sought to address that directly by reinvigorating Regulation A, raising the cap from $5 million to $50 million and creating a path for a Reg A offering to be an effective IPO (initial public offering). The new rule is commonly called Reg A+.

In early 2016, Elio Motors went public using Regulation A.

The rules weren’t effective until mid-2015 and the market is just beginning to mature. Rod Turner is the founder and CEO of Manhattan Street Capital, one of the players in this nascent marketplace.

Turner says his firm has 18 clients preparing their Reg A+ offerings. Watch my discussion with Rod at the top of this article.

Rod is passionate about using capital for good, creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs and creating companies that will employ people at scale. He’s also a Forbes contributor who has written about these topics.

Rod says, “Mid-sized companies have very limited access to growth capital. Regulation A+ provides an excellent solution in that our companies can raise up to $50 mill per year from investors of any income level worldwide, and the shares can be publicly tradeable, making them more appealing to the investor and providing liquidity to the company founders.”

Allowing ordinary investors to participate in offerings of small companies, gives them the opportunity to participate in their growth. Back in the 1980s, Microsoft went public as a relatively small business and ordinary investors were able to participate in the growth of the company exceeding two orders of magnitude. On the other hand, Facebook didn’t go public or allow ordinary investors to participate until the company had reached a valuation of $100 billion–only wealthy investors participated in the creation of value.

The new marketplace is exciting. Watch the interview with Rod to learn how your organization can take advantage of Reg A+.

Rod Turner, courtesy of Manhattan Street Capital

Rod Turner, courtesy of Manhattan Street Capital

More about Manhattan Street Capital:

Twitter: @Manhattanstcap

Funding platform for mature startups and mid stage companies. using Regulation A+. We take companies through the whole Reg A+ offering process to achieve a successful Reg A+ offering. Our website technology integrates the necessary services so companies can make their offering work efficiently on Manhattan Street Capital.

We provide some services directly, others we provide by introducing our companies to specialized service providers: Specialized CrowdFunding Marketing agencies, Legal, Broker/Dealer, Investment Banks, Underwriters, Broker Dealer Syndicates, Market Makers, escrow, transfer agent and auditors.

Rod’s bio:

Twitter: @iamrodturner

High energy strategic thinker. Excellent leader. Engineer with skills in all areas. Experienced M&A expert. Crowdfunding expert.

M&A experience: At Symantec I led the takeovers of their first acquisition (TimeLine), and their most strategic acquisition, Norton. I drove the merger processes to ensure success and upside. The implementation of the Norton merger has been called “the best ever in Tech.” I also lead the successful acquisition of PCAnywhere and an AV technology company into the Norton Group. Mobile Automation was acquired by iPAS and Our Neighborhood Energy was acquired by CBD Energy Australia. Two informative experiences of being acquired.

Founder, CEO Manhattan Street Capital and FundAthena April 2015 – now

RegA+ growth capital marketplace for mid-sized companies. Adapting IPO business model to the Internet, using new SEC RegA+.

Advisor to startups and CEOs of large companies, 2004 to current. Chairman & cofounder CirrusLS SaaS, bank lending. Strategic Advisor AssistMyCase (SaaS Legal research). NetQuarry, a .NET app dev platform. Our Neighborhood Energy, electricity retailer in Australia. Workshops for Warriors, non-profit trains Veterans in advanced workshop skills free of charge. Numerous other startups.

Founder, Chairman and CEO, START.ac: April 2011 – June 2013. Built business CrowdFunding marketplace with Mentors, advisers and unique innovations for scale.

Chairman, Artslant. Sept 2008 – current: CEO 2008 through 2010. Grew revenues 12.5%/month compound, and site page views by 700%.

Managing Partner, Irvine Ventures 1999-2003: Founded Irvine Ventures with Safi Qureshey, investing in tech startup companies, mentoring entrepreneurs. Raised $32million in angel and venture capital for, and built six startups.

Chairman & Founder, Mobile Automation 1996-2004. LAN & Internet software configuration, MSP and Enterprise IT market. Angel financing (Peter Norton), VC from Greylock (Dave Strohm). Sold the company to iPass (IPAS on NASDAQ) in 11/04.

President & CEO, Knowledge Adventure 1993-94. Grew revenues from $240k/month to $1.5m/month. Raised $12 million venture capital from Mayfield (Mike Levinthal).

Symantec 1985-1993. At startup, Executive VP for worldwide marketing, sales & product management. Promoted to division General Manager with P&L 5/87. Raised three rounds of venture capital, lead investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (John Doerr). In 1987 as GM, I ran the merger and accelerated the first company acquired by Symantec-Breakthrough Inc, TimeLine project management, and the Q&A database line. Trebled product group revenue in three years while generating 100% of Symantec’s profit. Grew Symantec revenues from zero to $250mil/year. IPO 1989.

In 1990 Symantec acquired Peter Norton Computing (maker of the Norton Utilities), and I was GM for the merger and the business. Introduced the Norton Antivirus in ‘91, the main profit generator for Symantec. In three years we grew Norton revenues from $20/mill/year to $200mill/year, taking the Norton group from 25% of Symantec’s revenue to 82%.

Acquired two companies into the Norton Group.

Chairman, Cofounder 1984-1990: Microport Software Inc. Startup ported UNIX System V to the 286.

Ashton Tate/dBASE 1981-1984: Startup microcomputer database software company, 12th employee. VP of US marketing and sales; GM of the International division. Grew sales from $2m to $150m/yr, IPO in ‘83. Made dBASE the market leading database on the PC by 1983.

Aston Univeristy 1975-1979: First Class Honors, Bachelor of Science in Energy Technology (Electrical & Mechanical Engineering) from Aston University, England. Stanford: Graduated Executive Institute 1983.

Interests: Married, with two sons. Boating. Racing cars. Public speaking. Altruism. Leadership. Innovation Born on a farm in the UK, moved to Silicon Valley to get into VC funded startups. My accent is gradually migrating across the Atlantic Ocean.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

This Entrepreneur Is Working To Address Affordable Housing Crisis With Shipping Containers


The country’s fascination with tiny homes has led to a nascent movement using shipping containers for low-income housing. With some tiny homes and apartments having fewer than 200 square feet, the 40-foot shipping container and its approximately 320 square feet could feel relatively spacious.

Wanona Satcher, the CEO and founder of ReJuve Corp based in Atlanta, is launching a new initiative to create “Plug-In Pods” using shipping containers. She hopes to create a flexible model for l0w-income housing that addresses need of a range of people, from millennial minimalists to seniors who may want or need to live backyard-close to family caregivers.

Be sure to watch my interview with Wanona at the top of this artice.

Two Plug-In-Pods, one home and one office, rendered side-by-side courtesy of ReJuve Corp

Two Plug-In-Pods, one home and one office, rendered side-by-side courtesy of ReJuve Corp

Recently, Wanona launched a crowdfunding campaign on the new ifundwomen crowdfunding site. She has already raised $11,920 toward her goal of $20,000 to construct a prototype dwelling in a container.

The costs for creating a dwelling begin with the $2,000 to $3,000 price for a container. Wanona hopes to keep the all-in cost between $20,000 and $40,000.

Wanona is seeking to use a land trust to create financial models that will keep the housing units affordable long into the future. For the prototype dwelling, Wanona has received a donated site.

Container homes could potentially have very long lives. Containers are designed to withstand weather when shipped across oceans, on trains or highways. The strength of a container could be an optimal space for a dwelling.

Wanona is working to acquire and equip a manufacturing a facility where the containers can be converted. This will create jobs and allow the completed homes to be shipped to a site for installation.

She hopes that the homes will contribute to solutions for poverty in America. By providing radically affordable housing, she hopes to enable people to find sustainably affordable lifestyles.

To learn more, visit Wanona’s crowdfunding page at ifundwomen.

Wanona Satcher, courtesy of ReJuve Corp

Wanona Satcher, courtesy of ReJuve Corp

More about ReJuve Corp:

ReJuve Corp is an Atlanta-based charitable urban design nonprofit for social good. Our team reuses and upcycles spaces and materials to develop permanent equitable communities and effective neighborhood services around the globe through cost-efficient and environmentally sound methodologies.

Wanona’s bio:

Wanona Satcher is an urban designer, landscape architectural designer, city planner, economic developer and has produced children’s theatre. Wanona holds Masters degrees in landscape architecture and community planning from Auburn University as well as Economic Development and Finance Professional Certification from the National Development Council in small business development and real estate development. She’s been featured in the Huffington Post, GOOD Magazine and was a Next City Vanguard. Wanona is currently working on a crowdfunding campaign to rapidly build affordable housing and entrepreneurial spaces in low-wealth communities.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

New Venture Seeks $50k to Teach Coding to Adults on Autism Spectrum



You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Oliver Thornton says his Aspergers is his super power. His brother, who is also on the autism spectrum, serves as a role model. Because autism hits close to home, he wanted to do something to address the unemployment rate for those with autism, which approaches 85 percent, he says. So, he launched Coding Autism with Austen Weinhart.

The two visited with me about their plans. Watch the interview at the top of the article.

Oliver, who serves as the company’s CEO, says, “Although we are pre-revenue, we just recently launched our crowdfunding campaign with the goal of fundraising a minimum of $50,000 on StartSomeGood. If we are successful with fundraising $50,000 on that platform, we will be able to cover the minimum costs to make the Coding Autism ASPIRE program happen.”

The money they are raising will go to pay the instructor, an assistant instructor, an occupational therapist, a social skills intervention expert, a career counselor and to pay for the space where the intensive 15-week course will be taught. Those who complete the course are expected to have sufficient skills to be able to begin a career as a software developer.

Oliver adds, that if they exceed the $50,000 goal they will be able to discount the tuition to the first class of students. If they reach $120,000, they can waive tuition altogether.

As of now, Coding Autism has raised $18,815.

Oliver says mentorship is key to the program’s success, “Research has proven that adults with autism tend to do significantly better in their careers and live more fulfilling lives when they have mentors and advocates. Coding Autism has made it one of its cornerstones to provide ongoing advocacy and mentorship services to all Coding Autism students. Our Coding Autism mentors and advocates ensure that all Coding Autism students stay on track with their curriculum requirements, their personal goals, their employment goals, and more.”

Readers can learn more and contribute to the campaign by visiting StartSomeGood.

More about Coding Autism:

Twitter: @codingautism

Coding Autism is a full-service professional coaching and training company that trains adults on the autism spectrum in professional skills such as software engineering, quality assurance, and web development. We also assist our graduates in finding employment within the software and technology industries. We do so by providing services such as immersive programs and bootcamps, resume workshops, career counseling, interview preparation, and coaching/mentorship, all of which is designed around providing an environment where people on the spectrum can thrive.

Oliver Thornton, courtesy of Coding Autism

Oliver Thornton, courtesy of Coding Autism

Oliver’s bio:

When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome shortly after my older brother was diagnosed with Autism. In 1994, the year of my diagnosis, having any variation of Autism was perceived as a horrific condition by society and experts in the medical field. In fact, doctors had told my parents that I would never develop adequate social skills and to not expect him to succeed independently in life.

Throughout my adolescent years, I struggled with my speech, making friends, and lacked self confidence in his intelligence and ability to succeed. One day, I had a realization. Through the motivational forces of autism influencers such as Temple Grandin, I transformed my mentality of what it truly meant to be an individual on the autism spectrum.

With this newly adopted mentality, I dove head on into my later years of college at California Lutheran University (CLU), where I was able to accomplish impressive feats such as obtaining my Real Estate Salesperson License, co-founding and spearheading CLU’s professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, and winning CLU’s 2016 New Venture Competition.

Since my college graduation, I have devoted my waking hours to building my father’s real estate team/Real estate representation at Compass in Beverly Hills as well as building my start-up Coding Autism, which helps and trains autistic individuals in professional skills such as software engineering, website development, QA, etc as well as assists in finding and obtaining employment in the software and technology industries. In recent months, I have been slightly drifting away from real estate and moving towards working on Coding Autism full-time.

I am confident that my entrepreneurial mindset, my gift of Asperger’s syndrome, and my drive to succeed and make the autism community more progressive will allow me to satisfy my highest endeavors with Coding Autism and my future ventures. Eventually, I sees myself manifesting into one of the most influential advocates, thought leaders, and mentors of the autistic community in my generation.

Austen Weinhart, courtesy of Coding Autism

Austen Weinhart, courtesy of Coding Autism

Austen’s bio:

I come from a background of extensive experience in the technology space, performing roles in marketing, quality assurance, and web development. Early on as a student at UC Berkeley, I was the president of the public relations student group, PR @ Cal. After graduating from Berkeley, I worked on both technical and marketing projects for high-profile clients such as Adobe, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and others. I was drawn into Coding Autism both for my passion for autism advocacy and also as someone who is a product of a coding bootcamp education myself. I am eager to create an environment where others can turn their lives around by learning to code, just as I did.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and crowdfunding speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

7 Crowdfunding Keys For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Lots of people hold themselves out to be crowdfunding experts. I haven’t met anyone who has raised more money in on Kickstarter and Indiegogo than Funded Today’s Zach Smith. He reports raising over $110 million total over hundreds of campaigns.

Smith visited with me (watch the video recording of the interview above) to talk about how to apply his experience and insights for social entrepreneurs.

He thinks of himself as a social entrepreneur, helping other entrepreneurs to be successful. He is almost a prototypical entrepreneur. Young, confident—even brash—he has built his company to 50 employees and reports “eight figures plus” in revenue. Funded Today charges 25 to 35 percent of funds raised, so in its short three-year history, we’d expect it to have generated over $30 million in revenue.

Zach Smith

His reputation in the crowdfunding community is such that when Hiral Sanghavi, co-founder and CEO at BauBax had his crowdfunding campaign stall at around $4 million, he called on Smith to help. He says, “They reached out to a completely different audience and got another huge wave of traffic our way which helped us add another $4.5 million to our total in the last 3 weeks and our campaign closed at $9.19 million.”

“FT has got access to thousands of crowdfunding campaigns and they’ve built a community of early adopters out of it. They were able to get our campaign in front of the right audience who are mavens, early adopters of technology and innovative products. We couldn’t have done that using only Facebook ads,” Sanghavi says.

Paid media on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, is a key tool that Funded Today uses to raise money for clients. Smith explains how you can do it on Facebook.

A good crowdfunding campaign begins with a crowd. A crowd is best represented by a list of email addresses. He suggests spending up to $5 per email address for people who are interested in your mission. Given that you’d like a list of 10,000 people and a list that long will cost up to $50,000 to build, he has another plan.

Ask, he says, someone in your mission space who has a list for a copy of the list specifically to use for building a Facebook audience. You should promise not to send email to the people on the list. Instead, you want to upload the list to Facebook for targeting advertising. Until Smith told me, I had no idea you could do this. Did you?

Not only can you use that audience as a target, Facebook will automatically offer to create a “lookalike” audience that is much bigger. For instance, I uploaded my mailing own mailing list following the instructions on Facebook and it instantly helped me create a list of more than 2 million people who are like the people on my list.

Smith also shared his “Seven Ps” for crowdfunding success:

  1. Product: The crowdfunding reward or product must be appealing; for nonprofits, Smith recommends identifying recognition that donors will appreciate.
  2. Platform: Not only do social entrepreneurs need to decide which platform to use, but whether or not their business is a good fit for crowdfunding. If a reward can’t be shipped or delivered digitally, it may not be, Smith says.
  3. Presentation: The way you pitch your offering on the crowdfunding page, including the video, represents the presentation—and he says it makes a big difference. Smith says he helped ShotBox raise over $184,000 primarily by changing the presentation after the original campaign raised only $7,000 and had to be canceled.
  4. Promotion: The three key parts to promotion are paid media, press and partnerships.
  5. Price: Smith cautions crowdfunders not to discount the price, noting that it is easier to drop the price later than to raise it.
  6. Probability: He says that backers need to believe you can and will do what you promise. In other words, you need to develop trust by proving you have the smarts and other resources to necessary to pull it off.
  7. People: Your team needs to have the right people on it; they must be confident of success and committed to doing the work required to achieve it.

Marina Prospero, CEO of Perfectore Corp, is crowdfunding with help from Funded Today now. She says, “We were watching some very successful 6 figure Kickstarter campaigns and they all had one thing in common, Funded Today was their marketing partner. Several of these campaigns were products that focused on back and neck treatment. We figured if they have already been successful marketing these campaigns then they will definitely know how to market ours.”

She’s glad she did. “They have performed beyond my expectation.” With Smith’s help, she’s raised over $585,000 with an original goal of just $5,000. “Frankly I am blown away at how good they are and I am anxious to work with them again on our next invention.”

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Support the Web Development Training Program for Adults with Autism

Coding Autism will launch the first full-time web development training program specifically designed for adults on the autism spectrum. They are raising money on StartSomeGood. Recently I caught up with Oliver Thornton to learn more about the effort; here’s what he told me:

What is the social benefit you hope to achieve with or through your crowdfunding campaign?

It is completely unacceptable that our autistic community is experiencing an over 80% unemployment and underemployment rate. As passionate advocates who have either been diagnosed with autism ourselves or have family members affected with autism, we understand that with the right resources, training, coaching, and environment that individuals with autism can thrive in the workforce.

By contributing towards our campaign, contributors are contributing to the development of Coding Autism’s first web development bootcamp, the ASPIRE Web Development Immersive. This is a 15-week, full-time course where students will be learning the fundamental skills necessary to secure an entry-level web developer job. We cover both front-end and back-end skills, along with Quality Assurance and SCRUM principles. By the end of the course, students will walk away with a portfolio of full-stack web applications which they can use when applying to their first developer jobs.

This program would create the societal benefit of slashing the 80% autistic un/underemployment statistic that exists in our society and in turn creating highly qualified, skilled, and eager to work autistic employees to fill job vacancies in the tech industry.

How much money are you hoping to raise and why? How much have you raised so far?

Through out crowdfunding campaign, we are hoping to raise $50,000 as our tipping point goal. If we reach our tipping point we can cover the minimum costs to make the Coding Autism ASPIRE program happen. This includes providing the salary for the primary Coding Autism immersive instructor, an assistant instructor, an occupational therapist, a social skills intervention expert, a career counselor, the location that we will be hosting our program, the development of our curriculum, and marketing expenses to help promote our program and acquire qualified autistic students for our program.

If we reach our stretch goal of $120,000, we would be able to not only finance its first program, but we would also be able to 100% subsidize the enrollment fees for our first round of students, which is up to 15 in total.

As of day 2 of our crowdfunding campaign, we have raised $13,310, which is about 26% of our tipping point goal. We are hoping to use this momentum to not only surpass our tipping point goal, but to also surpass our stretch goal.

Whom are you trying to help with your project and why?

Through out company and our crowdfunding campaign efforts, we will and forever always will focus solely on helping individuals on the autism spectrum succeed. As we are a start-up, we want to tackle the issue of autistic un/underemployment first with our offerings before moving towards other demographics within the autism spectrum such as children and teenagers on the autism spectrum as well as non-verbal autistic individuals.

As mentioned in the previous responses, autistic adults deal with the egregious reality that 80% of all adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed. With our program offerings through Coding Autism, we are creating opportunities for adults with autism to utilize the strengths of being on the autism spectrum to develop them into very highly skilled and desirable employees within the technology industry, an industry that has the highest amount of job vacancies in the US as well as pay an average salary of $40k+ a year.

What rewards, if any, are you offering to your supporters?

Personal Thank You Email: $10

The Coding Autism team is beyond grateful for any contribution that we receive. Each contribution is one step closer to accomplishing our goal of funding our first web-development immersive for adults on the autism spectrum. To show our gratitude, the co-founders will write you a personal thank you email for your contribution!

Social Media Shout Out & Personal Email From Co-Founders: $20

By providing a $20 contribution, you are moving us even closer to successfully funding our first program. To express our gratitude, we will shout you out on Facebook and Twitter as well as send you a personalized thank you email!

Early Bird: Coding Autism Shirt & Sticker: $40

The brackets in our logo represent open arms embracing people on the spectrum into the workforce. Show off your open arms (literally) with your own Coding Autism t-shirt! With this contribution reward, you will receive a Coding Autism shirt as well as a Coding Autism sticker that you can put on your laptop, your school binder, or anywhere else you would like! Early bird price is applicable until 4/04/2017, where this prize will jump up to $50.

Early Bird: Coding Autism Snapback Hat: $65

Are you a hat person? Or simply would like to rock one of Coding Autism’s snapback hats when you are out and about in town to show off how you contributed to and supported our campaign? With this reward, you are able to choose either a black or white Coding Autism snapback hat that you can show off to your friends and family! Early bird price is applicable until 4/04/2017, where this prize will jump up to $75.

Name Featured on Coding Autism Website: $100

How cool would it be to be forever remembered for providing the opportunity for people to achieve their dream jobs? With this contribution you name or company will be memorialized on our website on our contributors wall. This is a fantastic was to show the world your passion for the cause, and be recognized for your role in changing people’s lives.

Skype with the Founders: $250

Would you like to have a personal conversation with the people behind Coding Autism? With this reward, you will have the ability to have a 30 minute Skype conversation with both co-founders of Coding Autism, where you can ask them questions about how they got involved with starting Coding Autism, what there plans are for Coding Autism in the future or anything that is on your mind! This is a great way to share you input on where you would like to see Coding Autism go.

Early Bird: Custom Coding Autism Shoes: $400

Not only are these shoes insanely cool, but they are custom made specifically for this campaign. With this reward, you will receive a pair of Coding Autism’s customized “autism-blue” athletic shoes which you can rock at the gym, as street wear, or around the house! Early bird price is applicable until 4/04/2017, where this prize will jump up to $500.

Early Bird: Framed Poster of First Cohort: $750

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words… or a thousand dollars! The contributor for this award will received a framed poster of the first Coding Autism ASPIRE program signed by each student, founder, and employee involved! Early bird price is applicable until 4/04/2017, where this prize will jump up to $1000.

Meet the Founders: $2,500

If a Skype meeting is not enough, you have the ability to meet the founders in person! With the reward, you will have the opportunity to meet the co-founders of Coding Autism in person where you will grab dinner and have a night on the town! If you are from the United States, the Coding Autism co-founders will either fly you out to them or they will fly out to you. If you are from outside the United States, the co-founders will provide up to $750 towards travel expenses.

Sponsorship for Coding Autism Student Enrollment: $10,000

This award sponsors a student selected by Coding Autism for a guaranteed slot in their program. The sponsored student would provide the following responsibilities for the contributor. 1.) Skype call with the donor 2.) Personal hand-written thank you note 3.) Progress report on their learnings in course and plans after course completion 4.) The opportunity to meet the student in person (we will fly you out to them) 5.) Sponsorship named after the contributing individual or company. The contributor would also receive all of the rewards previous to this reward and the $10,000 voucher award.

Voucher for Student Enrollment in First Coding Autism Cohort: $10,000

This award provides the contributor 1 voucher, which claims a guaranteed slot for an adult with autism (their son, family member, recommendation, etc.) to enroll into Coding Autism’s first program. The contributor would also receive all of the rewards previous to this reward and the $10,000 Sponsorship reward.

Check out the campaign:

Visit the website.
Follow on Facebook.
Follow on Twitter at @codingautism

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