Lessons from a man embarking on his fourth crowdfunding pitch

Putting together an appealing crowdfunding pitch, one which catches the attention of backers or investors and gets them to part with cash, is a fine art. Whether you’re after £10,000 or £1m, there has never been more competition from high street investors.

Derek O’Sullivan is in the midst of using equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs to raise £100,000 for Crua Outdoors, an outfit developing what he calls the world’s very first thermally and acoustically insulated tent or tenting system.

O’Sullivan has assembled a crowdfunding pitch for both equity and rewards platforms, and sat down with Real Business to provide some sage advice.

Please tell us a little about your business and entrepreneurial experience?

I founded Crua Outdoors in 2015 when I recognised a real gap in the market for insulated tents. Also, I wanted to solve my own problem. Before that I was involved in the insulation industry, which was my first journey into self-employment. So this was a very natural progression. Every day is a school day in the startup world however, which keeps it interesting.

When did you first become aware of crowdfunding, and what was your impression of it?

It was mentioned to me by an Enterprise Ireland mentor. So I began to investigate further and got really interested in the way it empowered the entrepreneur and also offered a validation method. It allows us to interact directly with our customers which is great for staying in touch with consumer wants and needs. So, starting with the customer and working from there.

When did you first decide to use it and what platform was chosen?

We choose Kickstarter in 2015. This was mostly because it seemed the biggest and the platform with most interaction. That campaign went well and we have grown from there. We still ask some of those original backers for their opinions on new products and some of them became investors in our first Seedrs round. There’s no better validation than that.

How would you define the difference between rewards and equity crowdfunding, in terms of the businesses each are suited to?

Rewards really is based solely upon the product. The backers don’t care about the business so much – it’s all about being first to have the really cool products. I always say it’s the one “edge” product-based startups have over software/tech based new businesses. Focus during an equity crowdfunding pitch, on the other hand, is all about you and the business – as you would expect.

What have your biggest lessons from the three crowdfunding campaigns that you’ve completed?

Honest engagement with your audience is critical – reply promptly to questions. And, nowadays, the video is critical. That bar is always rising. But most important, you must prepare pre-launch. It’s definitely not a case of “if you build it they will come”. So make sure you have consumer or investor interest ready before you hit the go live button.

How has this influenced your approach to your fourth, on Seedrs?

Derek O'Sullivan has plenty of previous when it comes to crowdfunding
Derek O’Sullivan has plenty of previous when it comes to crowdfunding
On this occasion, we already have backers and investors from our previous campaigns to engage with etc. This helps as a lot of them really are in tune with the company and like to be involved.

We also tried to improve video production quality on our crowdfunding pitch as it is representative of where we are as a company. And we now know what information we must have ready by the time we launch a campaign – kind of pre-empt the difficult questions and be prepared. Finally, we now know how important it is to personally engage pre-launch, in a major way.

Do you think the investors on equity platforms have become more sophisticated?

Yes, without a doubt. I think it’s reflective of the fact that people have become more aware of, and comfortable with, crowdfunding in general. I think that the age of crowdsourcing in general has just begun, and will grow exponentially as people become comfortable with it.

How do you think the industry and the way it is regulated needs to change?

Equity crowdfunding is well regulated, and platforms like Seedrs are very strict on things like due diligence and informing investors. The greater challenge lies in the rewards segment.

I think that elements need to be introduced to make founders stand over their campaign and follow up with shipments and other things. You do hear stories of shipping never happening for example, which will be damaging in an industry that should be based on trust. In other words, make people accountable.

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