Fed up with conservative investment professionals leaving a trail of broken dreams, a trio from South Australia has launched an online platform to help would-be start-up founders and other entrepreneurs nurture their ideas. Co-founded by Kalif Auditore (CEO), Nick Boniciolli (COO) and Joshua White (CTO), Joey Crowd is being billed as the world’s first crowdfunding platform driven by social media.
Like other crowdfunding sites, Joey Crowd provides incentives for people to fund campaigns such as product pre-sales and other exclusive rewards. In addition, the platform enables established businesses to raise money through equity and lending.
According to Joey Crowd’s founders, what really distinguishes it from other alternative finance platforms is its three-pronged USP – specifically, KnackMap, Street Team and Future Store.
Developed by Joshua, ‘KnackMap’ is the software powering Joey Crowd’s in-built social media dashboard. It enables users to control their social media accounts, develop and grow their fan base and automate campaign post (and thus drive campaign traffic) all from one spot.
Meanwhile, ‘Street Team’ was conceived as a means of helping entrepreneurs promote their offering to people outside of their immediate network. The feature, which is still being developed, will enable users to tap into a pool of influential bloggers and pay them to ‘spread the word’ about their campaign on social media so that it builds momentum and gains traction.
Once a user’s campaign has been successfully funded on Joey Crowd, they can continue to sell their offering through the platform’s ‘Future Store’, eliminating the need to set up their own e-store or retail using an Etsy or Ebay account. Critically, it’s a channel through which users can sell their wares to the late adopters who didn’t participate in the initial crowdfunding campaign.
Dynamic Business recently had the opportunity to speak with Kalif and Nick – two-thirds of the Joey Crowd C-Suite – about the genesis and growth of their platform as well as their mission statement and plans for the future.
“People shouldn’t have to give up their dreams”
Kalif and Nick met at Adelaide University’s Entrepreneur Challenge in 2013. When their respective teams failed to show up, they struck up a conversation and became friends, ultimately winding up as finalists in the competition. They conceived the idea for Joey Crowd soon after, the aim being to establish a platform that democratises finance and removes barriers to entrepreneurs raising capital.
“People who have fantastic ideas and are business savvy should be able to raise funds,” Kalif said. “They shouldn’t be forced to give up their dreams for lack of opportunities around finance. However, the angel investors, venture capitalists and institutional investors have a monopoly on start-up investments. Yes, they understand the intricacies of due diligence but they’re only a small fraction of the human race. What about everyone else?
“Nick and I saw an opportunity to create a crowdfunding platform that takes the complexity out of investment decisions, thus allowing anyone to confidently invest in deserving start-ups. We wanted to empower people to invest with their heart, as well as their heads, and to help give life to projects that mean something to them. We also wanted to show younger generations how much fun it is to create – and invest small amounts of money in – new businesses that have the potential to change lives, perhaps on a global scale. It’s important to sustain and support creativity because it leads to social evolution and progress.”
Nick added that Joey Crowd’s distinctive name and mascot – a kangaroo joey with a jetpack – were selected not just to distinguish the business from other crowdfunding platforms but to really capture their mission statement.
“We wanted to convey our support for early-stage visionaries, come across as a bit rebellious and harness the popularity of an iconic Australian animal,” he explained. “The joey is well known around the world. Our joey doesn’t like to follow the crowds – we gave him a jetpack because he’s creative and adventurous, he has his own dreams.”
Seeking finance overseas, building a two-sided market
In 2014, Nick and Kalif encountered Joshua while searching for someone with the necessary experience in software production and digital marketing. They hit it off with Joshua, who shared their vision, and quickly brought him into the fold. Finding early-stage investors for Joey Crowd was initially an uphill battle for the co-founders. Rather than being deterred, Nick said the experience affirmed the trio’s shared belief that the traditional process of raising capital was outdated and needed to be revolutionised.
“When we pitched the idea to investors in South Australia in 2014, they laughed at us,” Nick explained. “The concept of crowdfunding was still largely unfamiliar, especially in Australia where investors had a very risk-averse attitude when it came to funding tech start-ups. By sheer determination, we found success overseas. We were able to build our platform with the $50,000 provided to us as seed capital by an investor in Texas, USA. Our next funding round, in mid 2015, closed within five days. To date, we’ve raised funds from 4 different countries – Italy, Singapore, Australia and the US.”
According to Kalif, the biggest challenge he and his partners have faced – since raising the capital necessary to develop their vision for Joey Crowd – has been building a two-sided marketplace.
“Nick, Josh and I are constructing a platform that will help creative entrepreneurs find the necessary means to build their project and make them successful,” Kalif said. “At the same time, we also cater for investors. We want to make the process of investing through Joey Crowd a positive one and to give investors the best chance of turning a profit. Understanding both users – the entrepreneurs and the investors – has been incredibly important. In fact, we strive to know them so well that we can identify what they want before they do! Ultimately, we want to build a bridge between these two different users and help them to communicate and trust each other.”
“In five years, the platform will look completely different”
Since the soft launch of Joey Crowd in April, Kalif, Nick and Joshua have been hard at work developing a sophisticated investor matching system and otherwise optimising the platform for users. In addition, they’re having discussions with interested third parties who see real value in the USP. In terms of what people can expect in the next few months, Kalif said the partners are launching some innovative projects and that the Future Store will soon feature a range of extraordinary products from around the globe. Beyond the next few months?
“Outside of Australia, we’re focusing on establishing a presence in China and Singapore,” Kalif said. “Ultimately, we want to be a global platform. We have a five-year production plan, which will see us continue to grow the community and evolve the platform – despite being the only social media orientated crowdfunding platform in the world, it’s still just an early version of our vision. Five years from now Joey Crowd platform will look completely different from what it is now. What won’t change is our core objective to support anyone who has an idea or a business they would like to test or take to the next level.”