PledgeMe: NZ's homegrown KickStarter gathers steam

by Toby Manhire / 02 May, 2012
Among a healthy crop of crowdfundable projects, Uncle Bertie's Botanarium, from Duncan Sarkies and Lawrence Arabia.

Online crowdfunding for creative projects continues to grow and grow.

In the last year the leading exponent, KickStarter, has gone from a little-known niche platform to a major online player.

Having recently turned three, KickStarter is not without its problems – see Felix Salmon’s interesting “Growing pains” post – but its achievements are mind-blowing.

In 2011 it pretty well doubled its activity, with 27,086 projects launched, just shy of $100 million pledged and more than 30 million visitors. The project success rate was 46%.

And new records keep being set. With 17 days to go, the Pebble smartwatch is closing in on a staggering US $8 million in pledges, from more than 50,000 users. Their goal was $100,000.

The best-known New Zealand effort on KickStarter is Taika Waititi’s Boy – or, more specifically, his (successful) effort to raise funds for US distribution of the film.

A bunch of other New Zealand projects are enjoying KickStarter success, too, as Chris Keall details at the NBR.

But New Zealand has its own crowdfunding platform, too. PledgeMe was born last year, but accelerated its efforts with a re-launch at the start of 2012.

It has a number of interesting projects shaking their hats eagerly at browsers.

Not least of which is Uncle Bertie’s Botanarium (see video at top of page), from the magnificent Duncan Sarkies (disclosure: old friend), the rightly acclaimed musician Lawrence Arabia and clever illustrator Stephen Templer. There’s even a star turn by Jemaine Conchord.

They’re producing an illustrated podcast, modestly titled Uncle Bertie's Botanarium Episode I: Cheese Dreams in the Gravy Isles. With only 10 days remaining, they’re about halfway to their $7,000 target.

You can pledge anything from $5 to $1,500 with a range of rewards on offer. For $1,500 you get a load of booty plus a bespoke dinner party – “with entertainment provided by Lawrence Arabia, Duncan Sarkies and Stephen Templer. Delight your guests with music from Lawrence Arabia's latest album, readings from Duncan Sarkies' latest novel [and] a souvenir framed Stephen Templer sketch of the occasion.”

Whether or not they’d throw their keys in the bowl I don’t know, but you can only ask.

Some other projects of note at PledgeMe: Mike Riddell’s Stand Tall music video; a poetry collection by Sarah Jane Barnett; and a bevy of comedians Rhys Darby is trying to get to Edinburgh. Only two days to go on that one.

I put some questions to the site’s co-founder, Anna Guenther.

Why a NZ crowdfunding platform? Can't we just use Kickstarter?

New Zealanders can't use Kickstarter currently (unless they have an American partner, or an American bank account/social security number). There are a few global platforms Kiwis can use, but we think the beauty about PledgeMe is that we're an online platform that is helping foster a local offline community of kiwis supporting the arts. That and our supporters are charged in NZD.

How has it fared so far? What's success rate, hurdles, etc?

Really well! We're on par with Kickstarter et al with our success rate (approx 50%), just currently at a smaller scale. The real hurdle is educating the public about what crowdfunding is, and getting our project creators to understand that they need to tap into their crowd of fans, family and friends.

Best funded project to date?

Quickest funded was A Man Runs into a Woman, a project to fund the publishing costs of a poetry collection. They were funded in less than 24 hours, have almost raised double their goal, and still have 24 days to go. Most funded successful project was Stand Up, a community project which raised over $11,000 in five days. We've also done a recap of some of the "best of" moments so far in this blog.

Who has invested in the site?

At the moment it's just [co-founder] Camilo Borges and me. We have a pretty expansive network of mentors/contacts though, and have been funded through MSI and Grow Wellington. We also have brand ambassadors based around New Zealand.

Having fun?

Totally. There's nothing better than helping creativity locally, and crowdfunding rocks. Kickstarter raised over $100million last year for over 27,000 creative projects, and are still growing exponentially. We're hoping to replicate a homegrown version of that success.

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