What is the link between singer-songwriter David Bowie, and Marillion the neo-progressive rock band of the 1980s? How does this relate to The Future Shapers and the desire to be the go-to platform for Innovation Thought Leadership?

The Future Shapers, champion taking its own medicine. In creating a next generation business model, offering next generation organisations next generation guidance from a next generation platform, believe this requires the use of a next generation funding channel such as crowdfunding.
Here we will examine how Future Shapers are using the crowdfunding channel. It will look at the roots of the channel and how new entrants are experimenting with alternative crowdfunding offerings.

From David Bowie to Marillion

From The Rock Market To The Stock Market explored Rockonomics and David Bowie’s insight that “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. Artists better be prepared for doing a lot of touring, because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left.” In that piece it also talked about how the Blockchain and Smart Contract technologies were enabling artists to take back control of their music’s value and how The Future Shapers are taking the design and functionality of these new music platforms and applying it to Thought Leadership and media to enable single article sales in a pay per read model.

Today, it is nothing new to read how musicians and artists are using platforms such as Patreon, Indiegogo or Kickstarter and their tools for creators to monetise their content and raise funds for their future projects and albums.

But back in 1997, when the internet was in its infancy and the term crowdfunding wasn’t used the Marillion, a British Rock music band were short of money to put on a North American tour. The band came up with a plan to reach out to their fans to pre-sell their forth coming album. The band raised $60,000 (or £39,000) to travel the US.

The band emailed their 6000 fans database to ask if they would buy the album in advance. They received over 12,000 pre-orders, funded the writing, recording of the new album and the American tour, whilst creating a crowdfunding internet business model which is now mirrored by the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

The legacy of the 1997 Marillion tour will be felt for years to come, with everything from airlines to ice coolers now relying on the crowdfunding model to get ideas off the ground.

In 2001 Michael Lewis published Next: The Future Just Happened. He made the argument and prediction that rapidly evolving technology will upend the power structure of society. That the disruptive power of the internet and making information readily available would erode the power and mystique of many professions and elites were under attack. This did happen. But along the way intermediaries of traditional ‘elite’ industries were replaced by other oligopolistic players with seemingly greater control of the value chain.

Crowdsourcing from concept to commerciality

I first read about the massive power of Crowdsourcing in a 2006 article in Wired. Crowdsourcing describes the process by which the power of the many can be harnessed together, typically on the Internet, or with a dedicated enterprise software platform, to come up with a response to a challenge. Since then, the complex social, technological and economic developments have fused together to make Crowdsourcing an increasingly powerful force in more and more areas of our daily lives.

Crowdsourcing is now part of our lives, whether we’re aware of it or not. A couple examples in The Future Shapers domain are, the innovation and idea management software solutions sector. I explored this in my thought piece Fostering innovation with technological solutions – Part 2, and the Innovation Scan offerings which include the likes of Leading Edge Only a global marketplace of innovations, where innovation providers, entrepreneurs, fast-growth start-ups, SMEs and other organisations showcase their innovative solutions to a global audience and respond to corporate innovation challenges where the answer may be a readymade solution or proposition.

According to Jeff Howe, crowdfunding differs in one essential aspect from other applications of crowdsourcing. The crowdsourcer taps people’s excess capacities. Crowdfunding, isn’t dependent on the crowd’s knowledge, creative energies, or judgements. It allows access to a wider audience to invest smaller more accessible levels of funds and much lower costs. It enables the democratisation of investing accessible relatively smaller amounts of capital from the global community and since 2006 the market has widened and matured to an estimated annual value of $90bn.

Getting out there, putting skin in the game and doing it

One of the core goals of The Future Shapers is to be congruent throughout our value proposition to our stakeholders. That is not just to talk about what is happening out there, but where appropriate to practice what we preach and get out there and get first-hand experience of doing it. We believe this brings credence and relevance and skin in game, in line with Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s thesis is that this is necessary for fairness, commercial efficiency, and risk management, as well as being necessary to understand the world.

Crowdfunding is going to make up a huge part of the future and there are many variants and types of crowdfunding. Everything from investment or equity crowdfunding through to pre-selling products and music tour tickets, to microfinancing loans. The sector is maturing and innovating constantly as the consumer base, economic environment and enabling technologies change.

Darren Westlake CEO of Crowdcube, thinks investment crowdfunding is the “new normal”. Full disclosure, The Future Shapers are currently running a crowdfunding campaign with Crowdcube. We have been through the robust verification and regulatory checks that give enable the investor community to compare and contrast in a measured balance manner. As it is not uncommon to have from consumer goods, to fintech, to life sciences to media available side by side to invest in.

In an interview for Wired in 2015 he noted “We’re not displacing the older ways of raising money and the establishment. It’s about adding to it and adding value to those more established players.” He went on to say that the UK is a “world leader” in equity crowdfunding, with an expected wider democratisation set to open up everything from hedge funds to IPOs in the next few years.

This is and will be contingent on the regulatory environment as the sector matures. In his interview Westlake called out regulation as component for the success, noting that the UK was one of the first countries in the world to introduce “bespoke” regulation for crowdfunding, quickly creating an exciting market.

Just this year alone we’ve seen successful raises for ImpactRI and Manigo on the Crowdcube platform and according to Beauhurst, they are raising more money from less deals than their main rival Seedrs.

Refunds in crowdfunding – the model is maturing

Antonio Weiss and Matt Brown are the founders of Thomas Clipper, a UK lifestyle brand that crowdfunds design-led products, such as sturdy double-edged razors and Italian-leather wash bags. The two have recently launched a line of French-made cologne on First Edition, their own crowdfunding platform for boutique craft brands.

Thomas Clipper launched their first product the double-edged razor on Kickstarter, but felt as they matured that the customer experience of pre-selling of product offering could be improved. The inherent incentive structure to over promise and under deliver can present challenges for consumers. A simple mechanism to completely change that and maintain all the integrity of the crowdfunding is refunds. If people don’t like it, if the product doesn’t arrive on time, give them their money back. If people don’t like the product give them a refund or exchange which is normal within a business context. yet for some reason on the many of the product crowdfunding platforms this has been forgotten. In First Edition there are refunds which adds a greater level of legitimacy and robustness to the model and firms using it.

Become a Founding Member of The Future Shapers

The Future Shapers are now looking to take the platform to the next level. Our goal; to build the largest innovation thought leadership reader base and be considered as the go-to-place for innovation insight. As such, we’re extending our digital platform to enable the re-correlation of knowledge to value. We plan to develop an Ethereum smart contract to enable and support our pay as you read model. We passionately believe that single article sales are the future of online media and we are asking for your help and contributions to assist us in bring it to life.

We’re asking you, our technologists and agents of change, to fund this new model of innovation thought leadership. Not to donate so a few more blogs can be written about a hot topic or two, but rather to invest in a long-term solution to the provision of well researched, consumable, value-adding thought leadership.

Just as we believe that great thought leadership is now needed like never before, we believe that media that exists to serve our community of readers via a value-adding product should be worth paying for. So, help us build the next generation of media platforms by becoming a Founding Member of The Future Shapers.

By investing, you will enable us to reach an audience of tens of thousands through our continued media partnerships and grow our community of paying members, all eager to engage in constructive discussion about ideas and innovation-led solutions that matter.
By investing, you’ll enable us to build the most innovative technology solution that can start to ‘return value back to knowledge’ and enable you to launch, lead and be part of Next Generation Organisations.

We also hope that as we grow, others will too. We want our success to inspire the arrival of diverse new media organizations across the world; progress long overdue after years of industry contraction.

Ours is a disruptive domain that needs the collaboration of many strong voices combined with well-researched, value-adding thought leadership in order to help shape the future for all of us.

The vanguards of any industry are the ones that aren’t passengers but ones that create and shape the future. So, invest in The Future Shapers, be part of the future, own part of the future.

Many thanks for your continued support.