Techspark Interview with Team Fundsurfer!
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Startup Profile: Crowd-funding platform Fundsurfer
July 7, 2014
Fresh out of the box, Fundsurfer is a Bristol-based crowd-funding platform for creative and social projects. Oliver Mochizuk, co-founder of not-for-profit party starters Brisfest, and web developer, Derek Ahmedzai officially launched the company in May with an aim to make crowd funding simple and fun.
We caught up with them in the artfully mechanical business-belly of theEngine Shed, their current home, to talk about their past, present and future.
You might be forgiven for questioning whether the world needs another crowd-funding platform, but Fundsurfer aims to provide a range of services above and beyond the normal model.
The two founders noted that although people have a rough idea of crowd funding, they don’t know how to put together a campaign, let alone a successful one. They need help and support, and that’s where they come in.
While a funding platform like Kickstarter is a solely online service, the duo will sit down face to face with prospective fund raisers before they’ve launched to provide expert support to maximise the outcome of the project.
As well as Fundsurfer, Oliver works in the film industry having used crowd funding himself to raise money for short films. This first-hand experience of fund raising struggles, particularly in the current climate of arts cuts and frugal banks, has been invaluable. He said: “I raised £1200 in four days [for the film] and it blew my mind. That was three years ago, and it immediately made me start working on our concept for crowd funding.”
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Similarly, Derek was one of the 91,585 people who made the Veronica Mars movie happen, the largest crowd-funding campaign to date;a campaign which really pushed the possibilities of crowd-sourced sponsorship into the mainstream.
Fundsurfer is only the second hybrid fund-raising platform in the UK, and certainly the first in Bristol. They currently offer rewards and donations-based and equity-based crowd funding with direct loans planned later on down the line.
“I like the pace of Bristol, its so relaxed, but there’s still a ton of energy to get things done; I don’t think we could be in a better place.”
“We will have all three major forms of crowd funding in one place,” says Oliver, “the reason being, we want people to stay with us for a long time; to build a relationship with our users.
“We don’t offer entirely mainstream crowd funding. The crossover between crowd funding and fund raising is still a bit nebulous, so we want to help people understand it. We are working to make crowd funding simple, that’s our biggest aim.”
Biggest success to date
Becoming a part of the SETsquared network partnership was a huge achievement for the business with Derek acknowledging: “our acceptance into the Engine Shed really validated what we’re doing.”
The Fundsurfer team: Derek Ahmedzai, Agathe Evain, Amy Morse and Oliver Mochizuki
And the day we met up with the pair had been huge too. “Today we had our first film project that successfully hit its target – a short documentary film about the privatisation of the NHS by a local Bristol community group,” explained Derek.
“It over-funded to 125%. For us, that’s exactly the type of project we envisaged Fundsurfer to be a part of.”
What’s different about them?
Firstly they’ve got Yuki, the Fundsurfer company mascot (right), named after Oliver’s long lost grandfather, Yukinaga Mochizuki.
“For us, almost none of our competitors seem to have a unique identity; they’re all very corporate and set up by financial and investment people. I can’t imagine what we would be without Yuki!”
But animated leporine aside, Fundsurfer has planned the lending side of the company so it can offer business loans of up to £1,000,000, providing startups and fledgling companies with an alternative way of raising funds.
So why would you want to use Fundsurfer and not the bank? First, there’s no application fee for crowd-funded loans. Secondly, the bank can take six to eight weeks to let you know its decision, while Fundsurfer can make a decision and have the money in your bank within seven days.
Oliver explains: “The market is going to hit £13billion this year and it’s been growing 90-100% per annum for the past three or four years; there’s so much scope for growth. We want to get it right in Bristol and then push it across the rest of the country… then the world.”
So what attracted them to try out the service in Bristol first?
“People respond well to us being based in Bristol. Its got a strong cultural brand and is the best UK city to live in by a considerable way,” explains Derek. “We are now going toe-to-toe with London in a number of different areas.”
“We are working to make crowd funding simple, that’s our biggest aim”
“I like the pace of Bristol, its so relaxed, but there’s still a ton of energy to get things done; I don’t think we could be in a better place. Plus it’s easy to cycle everywhere.
“The team at SETsquared and the Engine Shed have been invaluable to us as a startup. You come in some weeks and have you’ve got the best in Bristol: accountants, lawyers, PR people, all in these boardrooms for you to just go in and get advice.”
Many thanks to Oliver and Derek for taking the time to speak to us. If you want to find out more, the team offer a free 30-minute consultation at the Engine Shed. They’ll also be running networking events and crowd-funding workshops in the future. Just sign up to their mailing list to find out more. And follow them on Twitter too. And us, don’t forget us!
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