As crowdfunding continues to grow in popularity, we’ve seen more and more “civic” crowdfunding sites pop up in the United States. Back in August we brought you an interview with Kansas City startup neighbor.ly and also during the summer we reported on Tampa startup Citizinvestor.
Now our friends across the pond in the UK are getting into the civic crowdfunding space. UK startup Spacehive is offering people in the UK the opportunity to crowdfund civic minded projects. These can include anything from planting a garden, to developing an open neighborhood wifi.
Crowdfunding was sparked and started in the United States with sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. In the UK there are already sites crowdfunding startups, like our good friends at Up And Funding. The civic crowdfunding space is new for them though.
Crowdfunding typically exists in two models. There’s an all or nothing model, where the crowd has a goal to raise and projects are funded once all of the money is raised. Other sites like Indiegogo allow people to raise money for projects but every dime goes to the project’s founder regardless of whether or not they hit their goal.
With Spacehive it’s the all or nothing model. Someone with a civic project will go online to their site. Once they create the project and the project is approved by Spacehive, they are free to raise money to their goal. The funds for the project will only be released once the goal is hit giving backers a little more piece of mind that the money is going to what it’s intended for.
We got a chance to talk with the team from Spacehive, about their civic crowdfunding platform and their cool name. Check out the interview below.
What is Spacehive?
Spacehive is the UK’s first crowdfunding platform specifically designed for civic projects. This means that we offer people a space to put forward and fund community projects online. These can range from a new community centre to a town centre WiFi hotspot – basically anything that you believe will improve your community and that gets the support of enough funders!
Crowdfunding is a concept that originated in America with sites like Kickstarter – it works by taking online cash pledges from businesses, public bodies and ordinary members of the public and using them to fund popular projects.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
It’s a pretty straightforward process – we want to make funding a community project as easy as buying a book online.
Anyone – an individual, the local council, a community group, a local business group – can upload a project to Spacehive.com. Then people can have a look, comment on the project and you begin to build up a sense of community around the project using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter.
Once the project has been verified by one of our expert partners, it can begin fundraising. At this point, people can pledge any amount of money – just a few quid or a substantial sum – and only if the project meets its target, do these pledges become donations.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Chris Gourlay is the founder and CEO of Spacehive. Chris is a former Sunday Times journalist reporting on architecture and planning. He has won awards for Spacehive from the Lottery-funded Big Venture Challenge, UnLtd, and Deloitte.
Where are you based?
We are based in central London.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
London has a vibrant, fast paced start up culture which is just the right size to be social. It is perfectly possible to meet all the interesting people you want and need to meet to learn about start-ups and your industry. Everyone is really helpful and it’s a fun place to get started!
How did you come up with the idea for Spacehive?
Chris was frustrated by the dearth of investment and creativity in our public spaces, and hopeful of a better way of doing things, so he left journalism to launch Spacehive.
Spacehive is inspired by the runaway success of crowdfunding in the creative arena – Kickstarter has been used to raise millions of dollars for a whole range of amazing projects – and Chris wanted to pump investment and creativity into our neglected public spaces.
How did you come up with the name?
The ‘space’ part is obvious – we are about public space and our mission is to improve our public spaces at a community level.
As for ‘hive’, that’s a reference both to the ‘crowd’ part of ‘crowdfunding’ and the concept of the ‘hive mind’ or collective consciousness. The power of crowdfunding lies in the people who make projects happen by pledging money but also by talking, tweeting and posting about projects and getting the word out about the amazing projects communities are putting out there.
Put this together and you have Spacehive – an online platform that is, ahem, ‘buzzing’ with activity and driven by its users.
What problem does Spacehive solve?
Spacehive was born in response to the lack of creativity and funding in public space. Funding for public space projects in the UK has been halved from £1.2 billion before the onset of the recession. We aim to tap into the abundant creativity that exists in the UK by allowing ordinary people at the local level to come up with ways to improve their communities and then make those changes happen.
What’s your secret sauce?
Our secret is a pretty open one: the power of crowdfunding lies in the users. Our projects take off when they have really active project managers with an engaging idea that captures the imagination of the community.
One of our current projects, the Porty Light Box, has attracted 64 pledges in just a couple of weeks because the people of Portobello, Edinburgh saw something that captured their imagination in the idea, put forward by a local guy, of transforming a dilapidated but iconic telephone box into a piece of public art.
People are at the heart of everything we do and they are the secret to our success. Our platform just helps them to make it happen
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We are funded by the Big Lottery Fund, UnLtd and other socially minded private investors.
What is your go to market strategy?
We partner with experts in our field who share our goals for the improvement of public space. These partners then work with us to find and fund community projects in their fields of interest.
These partners include the Association of Town Centre Managers (ACTM), Locality who are the UK’s largest network of community organisations, Groundwork, a community green charity, and many more.
We are in the process of joining forces with JustGiving, the largest funding platform in the world with access to 15 million users.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
It has been a challenge to win over traditional planners who are new to the merits of our model and have worked within a rigid structure for a long time.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Our chairman, Rod Schwartz, is a real inspiration to us. As CEO of ClearlySo, the global hub for social business, Rod has helped to launch dozens of innovative startups in the sector. A pioneer in the emerging social business market, in 2003 he transformed Catalyst (a venture capital firm he founded in 1997) into a social business consultancy. Since then, the sector has blossomed, becoming one of the fastest growing areas of the UK economy.
What’s next for Spacehive?
We’ve got the model up and running so now we are going to work with our partners to deliver a wave of crowdfunded projects across the UK. Our ‘High Streets’ initiative is really taking off as we host more and more projects designed to improve our town centres.