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Exploring the true power of the crowd – it’s not all about money

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The reality – was crowdfunding the right decision?

 

Our campaign has been fantastic so far. We are getting great support from crowd investors and have already achieved our funding target. The publicity we have received from the campaign has also been incredibly valuable and we have seen an immediate benefit in terms of app downloads, customer leads and downloads of our software developer toolkits.

We also managed to secure the match-funding available from LCIF which was a huge boost to the start of our campaign.

So we’ve ticked off all the items on my “should you crowdfund” checklist. However, it hasn’t all worked out quite as we imagined.

We certainly underestimated the amount of work involved running a crowd campaign.

We’ve leveraged our own personal networks extremely hard and I’d guess that almost half of our crowd investments have come from our extended network.

We were also lucky with some of our publicity. Google kindly launched a product in the same space as Chirp three weeks ago and we reacted quickly with some of the media that had already covered us to make sure we were mentioned in virtually every piece of news around “Google Tone”.

We didn’t see that coming but Google unknowingly validated the space that we are competing for as well as telling a whole lot more people about what we do.

Commitments to our fundraising from existing investors have been fundamental to the success of our campaign. Without doing all the hard work to secure these before we started crowdfunding, the crowd would have waited too long for someone to take the lead.

But the biggest surprise throughout the last month has come from an area we had completely overlooked.

Crowd innovation

 

Opening up our business and our technology to the crowd seems to have lit a fuse and suddenly we’ve acquired the biggest team of innovators we could imagine – you, the worldwide digital community, “the crowd”.

The excitement drummed up by our crowdfunding campaign and product releases has created a fantastic response from developers and potential customers asking if they can use our technology for a range of applications wider than we have ever considered.

Just a few of my favourites include: a Bitcoin transfer app; Chirping ice cream vans; electronic attendance certificates, endorsements and badges; a blind-date app; a means of downloading measurements from devices in remote areas without internet; time-setting for digital wall clocks; and sub-aqua drone sensing.

Some of these ideas are super-smart. Some are a little quirky. Some might turn into our next big scalable market opportunity. Others will no doubt go nowhere. I have my own opinions on which are which and maybe you have yours – but the wonderful thing is that we don’t have to choose. We can let the crowd take our technology and place every bet for us.

I’ve done my time on MBA-style courses and there is a lot talked about “Open Innovation” – improving innovation within a business and expanding the markets for a company’s product by using knowledge flowing in and out of an organisation. But I think our situation is a bit different. The crowd seems to have taken on more than its fair share of our entire innovation function.

So why is this happening now? OK, we have quite a cool technology and it isn’t difficult for people to imagine ideas for it. OK, awareness has increased thanks to some great press coverage recently – not least thanks to Google entering the sonic data market with its Google Tone product.

But there is more to it than that.

By conducting a crowdfunding campaign, we have effectively made our entire business available for public examination. Our business plans, our valuation, our financials – all there for anyone to see. We have opened up our doors at the same time we have opened up our technology.

This is more than open innovation. This is innovation from the crowd inspired by open business. The ability to deliver funding, awareness, customers and innovation all at once.

That’s truly the power of the crowd.

Richard Mann is CEO of Chirp. Chirp is currently fundraising on Crowdcube.

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