‘Kickstart' your business: DUBVEE.com helps WV start-ups raise m - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

‘Kickstart' your business: DUBVEE.com helps WV start-ups raise money

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DUBVEE founder Shane Richardson offered tips for successful crowdfunding campaigns to participants at the 2013 Create West Virginia conference Oct. 24. DUBVEE founder Shane Richardson offered tips for successful crowdfunding campaigns to participants at the 2013 Create West Virginia conference Oct. 24.

There is a relatively new term in the world of business start-ups.

"Crowdfunding" is one of the most popular ways to get up and going without risking any assets by putting them up as collateral against your — most times, unproven — concept.

It's also a good way to see if potential philanthropists, customers or investors will catch your vision, or at least your enthusiasm.

Perhaps the world's most popular crowdfunding platform is Kickstarter, which was founded in 2009.

But West Virginia has its own crowdfunding website that caters to its own aspiring entrepreneurs — DUBVEE.com 

DUBVEE founder Shane Richardson spoke in an opening morning session at the 2013 Create West Virginia conference about "Internet Based Crowd-Funding: What it Is and How to Succeed at it."

"There are other sources for crowdfunding at the national level," he explained. "But DUBVEE focuses on West Virginia campaigns. It's more local. 

"Someone in California may not care about revitalizing a coffee shop in Richwood, West Virginia."

Richardson spoke to session attendees in Richwood about the concept of crowdfunding.

"You may not know one person that can write you a check for $2,500," Richardson stated. "But I bet you know 100 people who, if you had a good idea, would give you $25. 

"That's the essence of crowdfunding. This technique allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to bypass banks and investors and pitch their ideas straight to the end customer."

Richardson also shared some "crowdfunding basics" at the conference.

Good news, bad news

"Internet-based crowdfunding uses website platforms which allow you to post your idea using a built-in template to create your presentation, including your campaign description, video pitch, funding goal, timeline and thank-you rewards which you offer as incentives to contributions," he explained. "Success requires a strong community from which you can draw support. 

"Campaign creators must take an active role in running what is truly a full-fledged fundraising campaign, including consistently promoting the project page via every channel imaginable."

It's not only the potential investment dollars that make crowdfunding a good idea. There are also the benefits of brand awareness, attracting new customers, market testing and customer feedback when putting a project out there for all to view, according to Richardson.

But beware of doing it without also investing some effort, he warns.

"There is a potential for downside," Richardson said. "If you haven't prepared, break promises, under-deliver or fail at communication, your reputation is in jeopardy. Success requires you to be educated, prepared, communicative and creative through every step of the process from pre-planning to reward fulfillment.

"If you prepare properly, promote diligently, work hard to connect with those who back you and fulfill your rewards in a timely manner, crowdfunding can be an unparalleled opportunity to launch your idea. It could become the first step in launching your entire company. Literally, in the matter of months, you could have customers, market buzz, your first inventory and some operating cash to grow."

Why do people respond?

In addition to wanting to feel like they're part of a new, innovative and perhaps exciting business adventure, donors often respond to pleas because of the exclusive rewards that come with helping an entrepreneur raise cash.

"Most people aren't quick to part with their hard-earned money without something in return," Richardson said. "Successful crowdfunding campaigns include special thank you perks or rewards for backers. It's a driving force — the larger the pledge level, the larger the reward."

Richardson used an example of a band raising funds to record its new album in a studio. 

The band could offer a copy of the CD to donors prior to a public release for a pledge of $15. For a $500 pledge, a donor could potentially preview the material and name a song, along with all of the smaller perks, such as a mention in the liner notes mention or free tickets to an upcoming show. 

"A unique experience, VIP treatment or behind the scenes looks are excellent choices," Richardson said.

Local vs. National appeals

Richardson said he is frequently asked why another crowdfunding platform is necessary when Kickstarter and others are already popular and established.

"There's probably thousands of West Virginians signed up on Kickstarter," Richardson explained. "But there's no notification system that alerts them of newly launched campaigns in their region or interest. One would have to be proactive and log on daily to see what new campaigns have launched. 

"We take a more persistent approach with campaign awareness. If you're a free member of DUBVEE.com, you'll receive a weekly newsletter and Facebook posts of all the new campaigns, and you can easily decide which ones you want to support. You won't miss out on the things that interest you most."

Richardson said DUBVEE.com also provides one-on-one consulting with any interested entrepreneurs to answer questions about the platform and the process as well as best practices.

"These campaigns are meant to be local-centric or community-based," Richardson added. "It's ‘For West Virginians by West Virginians.' If someone has a product or service that has national appeal, I'll immediately recommend they use one of the other national platforms."

In a recent test by Create West Virginia, parallel campaigns were run on both DUBVEE and indiegogo with equal marketing. DUBVEE outperformed indiegogo by more than $1,500. 

Pitching ideas

Obi Henderson's recent DUBVEE project — "Dreams Impacted" — launched Oct. 12 but fell short of his goal when the campaign ended Oct. 26.

His pitch on DUBVEE stated: "Support a mission preparing at-risk youth to take solar tech and entrepreneurship to the next level so we are able to compete worldwide."

Henderson was one of the entrepreneurs competing in a "Pitch Your Idea" contest, vying for a $2,000 prize during the Create West Virginia conference in the "Social Impact" category. 

During the course of the eight different campaigns in the contest, more than $14,000 was pledged in two weeks.

"I'll definitely compete again next year and also work with DUBVEE again," Henderson said. "It was a great experience for me, and it allowed me to get involved in the community and meet some new people. 

"DUBVEE is an awesome opportunity for entrepreneurs," Henderson added. "I received a lot of encouragement and networking at the (Create West Virginia) conference. 

Tuesday Taylor of What's Real WV also attended the "Internet Based Crowd-Funding" session at the Create West Virginia conference.

"I think DUBVEE will encourage West Virginians to invest in their own neighbors," she said. "It should encourage people to want to make a difference in their own state. I really liked it. I loved the breakout sessions."