Crowd funding makes projects possible

Brian Wilson’s has invested hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars into his latest film project, “Odes and Ends.”

He’s spent the past 10 years of his life carrying around a super-8 film camera, recording snips and clips of every day life. He’s used the footage to put together a few different films, and his latest effort takes what remained and uses it to create a narrative of its own.

“Along the way, it started to turn into something and have structure to it,” said Wilson, a Carbondale resident who teaches film at Washington University in St. Louis.

With the money for film already behind him, Wilson’s biggest hurdle in sharing his project began digital conversion, an expensive process, and reproduction. Having heard about Kickstarter, a crowd funding website, from friends who used it in the past, he decided to explore the possibilities.

Kickstarter allows artists or businesses to launch fundraising campaigns, seeking donations from the public to help accomplish a goal or launch a new product. In exchange, the entrepreneur or artist can offer various rewards based on the levels of contribution.

The Kickstarter user sets the goal for the campaign, and those who opt to donate won’t be charged unless the total amount is raised. Other sites have different options and policies.

In Wilson’s case, he set a campaign goal of $700, which he said he raised in about two days. His campaign remains ongoing, even though he’s surpassed the goal. With 10 days remaining, he has received more than $900.

That money will enable him to move forward with the project.

“I’m ready to,” he said. “If I had to do it on my own, I don’t know if I’d be able to do it.”

Wilson said the process was straight forward and easy. He said, though, users have to exercise caution when detailing their projects and rewards and must be prepared to follow through.

“It’s something you want to be honest about,” he said.

Business perspective

Crowd funding is in its infancy and still has many unknown elements, said Greg Bouhl, assistant director of entrepreneurship and business development at SIU Carbondale.

With other, more traditional funding sources tightening up and investments hard to find in an isolated area like Southern Illinois, though, it opens potential doors for individuals looking to start their own businesses.

While many crowd funding campaigns currently focus on arts-based efforts, there’s potential to expand into high-potential industries.

“It’s kind of cutting out the traditional Wall Street model and giving people an opportunity to invest,” he said.

Right now, the model of donating in exchange for perks or rewards doesn’t offer the level of return on investment many investors are looking for. That’s a crucial element of the process that will determine the future of trend.

Legislation is being considered that would clarify the legal aspects of crowd funding and the government’s role in the process, Bouhl said. This legislation will be key in the coming months and years. Once that happens, the doors will really be opened.

“It’s more of a novelty right now than anything,” he said.

Success story

Wilson found success through Kickstarter with a relatively small-value campaign, but another Carbondale company walked away with much more than they bargained for.

Dwarven Forge, which produces game tiles for miniature gaming such as Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer, started a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year with a goal of $50,000. When the campaign ended, the company had raised more than $1.9 million.

The company unveiled new “stretch goals” or bonus incentives that would be released if goal markers were surpassed, keeping the momentum moving well past the initial $50,000 goal.

Company officials declined comment.

Source: ADAM TESTA, The Southern • June 16, 2013 12:00 am


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