Piggybackr Gives Kids a Kickstarter of Their Own

Andrea Lo, co-founder and chief executive of Piggybackr; Keenahn Jung, co-founder and chief technology officer; Brittany Murlas, chief operating officer and vice president of community.

Andrea Lo, co-founder and chief executive of Piggybackr; Keenahn Jung, co-founder and chief technology officer; Brittany Murlas, chief operating officer and vice president of community.

A new crowdfunding platform built just for students–Piggybackr–has raised $325,000 in seed funding, according to Chief Executive Andrea Lo. (The site became available for public use Wednesday after several months in a private testing phase.)

Most young students in the U.S. lack an online bank account, or credit card of their own. Few have experience using email lists, Web analytics or customer relationship management tools. And creating a professional-quality video to pitch projects to possible backers isn’t quite the same as delivering a book report.

Then there’s the privacy issue. Parents don’t want to encourage kids to attract attention from strangers online, or in general, says Lo.

Existing crowdfunding sites, like pioneers Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Fundly (all venture backed) disallow minors from starting campaigns or setting up accounts, generally due to privacy concerns and strict federal regulations, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Its investors and founders say Piggybackr is as much about education as it is about crowdfunding–and it is COPPA-compliant.

“Going corner to corner selling candy bars is a learning experience, but it’s not a complete one,” Lo said. “Kids today are online and use mobile phones. We want to give them the power to reach people using the technology they have lived with their entire lives.”

Piggybackr allows students from kindergarten to college to fundraise on its platform. The company makes up to 5% plus a 30-cent fee per transaction from donors to the students’ causes and projects.

Kids 13 and younger require a parent or guardian’s approval to start a campaign on Piggybackr. All are encouraged to participate as groups of students, rather than as solo fundraisers.

Students within a group can rack up points for completing “dynamic tasks,” suggested by Piggybackr, like sending 20 emails to relatives asking for donations, or improving a pitch video to explain a project.

The points help Piggybackr users feel good about their efforts, instead of “embarrassed” about how much they raised (or didn’t raise) in dollar amounts, says Lo.

Piggybackr teams can be all-student, or students led by a parent, coach or teacher.

The largest student-led effort on Piggybackr (which ran during its limited beta stage) raised $14,565 for the University of California at Berkeley Alternative Breaks group. The group empowers students to spend their spring-break time volunteering for a good cause, by covering some of their travel expenses, among other things.

An angel investor in Piggybackr’s seed round, Robert M. Chang, co-founder of Remix Learning, says, “Piggybackr gives students a safe space to learn about, experiment with and get experience fundraising. They’re not doing this in front of the general public, or with strangers as they would be if they could even use something like Facebook FB -1.10%.”

The investor expects the company to grow in 2013 through the development of partnerships with community organizations that already ask students to fundraise, like the Girl Scouts of the USA, for example.

Lo herself was a Girl Scout, she says, and engaged in fundraising for countless public school activities, groups and causes, and later for her sorority. Piggybackr’s early partners have included First Robotics, which teaches kids about engineering, and some regional members of the YMCA.

Another investor in Piggybackr, Thomas Korte, founder of AngelPad, says: “This isn’t another copycat platform…Instead of idealizing that lemonade stand in suburbia, or using students to make a profit on physical goods that nobody really wants, this can really help communities and kids.”

Write to Lora Kolodny at lora.kolodny@dowjones.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lorakolodny

Source: Wall Street Journal – By Lora Kolodny


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