Benefits for the creator
Crowdfunding campaigns provide producers with several benefits, beyond the strict financial gains. The following are the non-financial benefits of crowdfunding.
- Profile – a compelling project can raise a producer’s profile and provide a boost to their reputation.
- Marketing – project initiators can show there is an audience and market for their project. In the case of an unsuccessful campaign, it provides good market feedback. It also has a signal value: observing consumers, consumers who are not involved with original crowdfunding campaign, show a strong preference for crowdfunded products compared to those funded with alternative means
- Audience engagement – crowdfunding creates a forum where project initiators can engage with their audiences. An audience can engage in the production process by the following progress through updates from the creators and sharing feedback via comment features on the project’s crowdfunding page.
- Feedback – offering pre-release access to content or the opportunity to beta-test content to project backers as a part of the funding incentives provides the project initiators with instant access to good market testing feedback.
There are also financial benefits to the creator. For one, crowdfunding allows creators to attain low-cost capital. Traditionally, a creator would need to look at “personal savings, home equity loans, personal credit cards, friends and family members, angel investors, and venture capitalists .” With crowdfunding, creators can find funders from around the world, sell both their product and equity, and benefit from increased information flow. Additionally, crowdfunding that supports pre-buying allows creators to obtain early feedback on the product. Another potential positive effect is the propensity of groups to “produce an accurate aggregate prediction” about market outcomes as identified by the author James Surowiecki in his book The wisdom of crowds , thereby placing financial backing behind ventures likely to succeed.
Proponents also identify a potential outcome of crowdfunding as an exponential increase in available venture capital. One report claims that if every American family gave one percent of their investable assets to crowdfunding, $300 billion (a 10X increase) would come into venture capital. Proponents also cite that a benefit for companies receiving crowdfunding support is that they retain control of their operations, as voting rights are not conveyed along with ownership when crowdfunding. As part of his response to the Amanda Palmer Kickstartercontroversy,SteveAlbini expressed his supportive views of crowdfunding for musicians, explaining: “I’ve said many times that I think they’re part of the new way bands and their audience interact and they can be a fantastic resource, enabling bands to do things essentially in cooperation with their audience.” Albini described the concept of crowdfunding as “pretty amazing”.
Risks and barriers for the creator
Crowdfunding, while gaining popularity, also comes with a number of potential risks or barriers. For the creator, as well as the investor, studies show that crowdfunding contains “high levels of risk, uncertainty, and information asymmetry.”
- Reputation – failure to meet campaign goals or to generate interest results in a public failure. Reaching financial goals and successfully gathering substantial public support but being unable to deliver on a project for some reason can severely negatively impact one’s reputation.
- Intellectual property (IP) protection – many Interactive Digital Media developers and content producers are reluctant to publicly announce the details of a project before production due to concerns about idea theft and protecting their IP from plagiarism. Creators who engage in crowdfunding are required to release their product to the public in early stages of funding and development, exposing themselves to the risk of copy by competitors.
- Donor exhaustion – there is a risk that if the same network of supporters is reached out to multiple times, that network will eventually cease to supply necessary support.
- Public fear of abuse – concern among supporters that without a regulatory framework, the likelihood of a scam or an abuse of funds is high. The concern may become a barrier to public engagement.
- Lack of participation – It is seen that some stories are more likely to get picked up than others based on the story. It is easy to get support if you “just tell a story.”
For crowdfunding of equity stock purchases, there is some research in social psychology that indicates that, like in all investments, people don’t always do their due diligence to determine if it is a sound investment before investing, which leads to making investment decisions based on emotion rather than financial logic. By using crowdfunding, creators also forgo potential support and value that a single angel investor or venture capitalist might offer. Likewise, crowdfunding requires that creators manage their investors. This can be time-consuming and financially burdensome as the number of investors in the crowd rises. Crowdfunding draws a crowd: investors and other interested observers who follow the progress, or lack of progress, of a project. Sometimes it proves easier to raise the money for a project than to make the project a success. Managing communications with many possibly disappointed investors and supporters can be a substantial, and potentially diverting, task.
Some of the most popular fundraising drives are for commercial companies that use the process to reach customers and at the same time market their products and services. This favors companies like microbreweries and specialist restaurants – in effect creating a “club” of people who are customers as well as investors. In the US in 2015, new rules from the SEC to regulate equity crowdfunding will mean that larger businesses with more than 500 investors and more than $25 million in assets will have to file reports like a public company.The wall Street commented: “It is all the pain of an IPO without the benefits of the IPO.” These two trends may mean crowdfunding is most suited to small consumer-facing companies rather than tech start-ups.
Benefits for the investor
There are several ways in which a well-regulated crowdfunding platform may provide the possibility of attractive returns for investors:
- Crowdfunding reduces costs – The platforms reduce search costs and transaction costs, which allows higher participation in the market. Many individual investors would otherwise have a hard time investing in early-stage companies because of the difficulty of identifying a company directly and the high costs of joining an Angel Group or doing it through a professional venture capital firm.
- Current early-stage investing is not efficient – Venture capital firms often neglect the consumer sector and focus mainly on high-tech companies. Crowdfunding opens up some of these neglected markets to individual investors. Crowdfunding doesn’t make sense in every industry, but for some, like retail and consumer, it does.
- Value of new investors – Investors can add value to companies when they act as brand advocates and they can even be used as a focus group. Crowdfunding allows individual investors to be a part of the company they invest in.
Risks for the investor
On crowdfunding platforms, the problem of information asymmetry is exacerbated due to the reduced ability of the investor to conduct due diligence. Early-stage investing is typically localized, as the costs of conducting due diligence before making investment decisions and the costs of monitoring after investing both rise with distance. However, this trend is not observed on crowdfunding platforms – these platforms are not geographically constrained and bring in investors from near and far. On non-equity or reward-based platforms, investors try to mitigate this risk by using the amount of capital raised as a signal of performance or quality. On equity-based platforms,crowdfunding syndicates reduce information asymmetry through dual channels – through portfolio diversification and better due diligence as in the case of offline early-stage investing, but also by allowing lead investors with more information and better networks to lead crowds of backers to make investment decisions.
Crowdfunding platforms also carry the risk of money laundering.