Indiegogo to add equity investment to perks-based campaigns this year

Indiegogo to add equity investment to perks-based campaigns this year

TechCrunch by Haje Jan Kamps

Since its launch in 2008, you’ve been able to back crowdfunding projects on Indiegogo in exchange for “perks.” Last year, the company added JOBS act equity crowdfunding to the mix. Indiegogo just announced that campaigns will offer both perks and equity in the same campaign later this year.

“I am really excited by how companies are able to get early market validation from crowdfunding campaigns,” Indiegogo’s CEO Dave Mandelbrot told me at CES today. “And the equity side of things has had a tremendous response already, too.”

It was already possible to run equity campaigns that offer perks to investors, but the obvious next step is to promote equity investment to backers of perks-based campaigns, too. There will definitely be some ducking and weaving with the SEC to make that a reality, but if Indiegogo pulls it off, it might make a huge impact on the exposure its equity platform is getting.

Focus on product-driven companies

About a year ago, the company made a conscious decision to focus specifically on product-led campaigns. Not necessarily just in tech, but definitely down-playing other aspects of its crowdfunding roots, such as charitable campaigns and music / film projects.

“There is still a place on our site for more artistic endeavors, but we have chosen to focus on making it easier for people to launch products,” Mandelbrot says. “We made the decision to double down on the product delivery side of things. We want to be the best crowdfunding platform, of course, but it’s equally important to us to help companies with what comes before and after. Marketing, logistics, picking a good partner — it is all part of the mix, and we want to help wherever we can.”

It was really only a matter of time before the company starts combining the pre-ordering mechanic (Indiegogo refers to the items bought in this manner as “perks” for backing a campaign), and the equity crowdfunding mechanic.

The two aren’t as different as you might think. When Facebook bought Oculus for a large stash of cash, it sparked outrage from Oculus’ Kickstarter backers. The backers felt that they had taken a risk on an unknown company, and that the company’s founders reaped all the benefit. Whether or not that is within the spirit of crowdfunding or not is a separate discussion, but Kickstarter itself is pretty clear: Oculus backers don’t really have a leg to stand on. They don’t have a claim to a slice of the giant wads of cash that Zuck threw at the Oculus team.

Stuff + Shares

There is an interesting dynamic that appears during a crowdfunding campaign — a level of real-time disclosure that doesn’t really happen any other way. During the campaign, a potential investor can see, in real time, how well the project creators respond to questions from backers, how much traction the campaign is getting, and a number of other performance metrics.

In my personal experience, a successful crowdfunding campaign triggers queries where a backer might want to buy a product, but they also want to pay another couple of thousand dollars to invest in the company. With the new mechanic, Indiegogo is making that possible.

It is not yet clear exactly what form the next generation perks+equity campaigns will take, whether they’ll get a separate name from the current offerings, and if Indiegogo will even be able to get this past the SEC — but if the company manages to tread all the needles required to do perks+equity, it might just prove to be a game-changer for young startups wanting to bring new products to the world.

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