By Mark Wilcox January 7, 2014
LARAMIE – Wyoming may soon more fully join the crowd when it comes to crowdfunding.
A Laramie company, the Local Crowd LLC, is pursuing a federal grant that would enable rural communities to find crowdfunded projects to support in their area. CEO Diane Wolverton is well acquainted with economic development because of her nearly 16 years at the University of Wyoming’s Small Business Development Center, where she was state director.
“[Economic development] is the world I know and I know they’re always looking for tools to fund the business community,” Wolverton told the Business Report in a phone interview today.
With that in mind, she is turning the concept of crowdfunding around a little bit. Traditionally, crowdfunding as popularized by Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others allows people to find a concept they like and support it, generally as either a donation or in return for a physical or intangible reward – like having a dish named after you at a restaurant you’re supporting, for instance. Musicians often use the concept to bring in funding for a project by pre-selling something that hasn’t yet been produced.
The idea, in general, is to harness the power of the Internet and social media to get funding for something that often doesn’t yet exist or hasn’t proceeded beyond prototypes for lack of funding. Wolverton would take that model and then apply it to locations, allowing people to feed into projects to support where they live.
“The vision behind the Local Crowd is using crowdfunding as an economic development tool in a local community,” she said.
Wolverton last year received a $5,000 state grant to write up a proposal for a federal Phase I grant worth up to $150,000 to prove the feasibility of her model. If it’s proven, she said she could then apply for a Phase II grant worth up to $1 million to really pursue the project.