Ever since the first non music related project went on the Kickstarter platform, crowdfunding has grown to new heights. After the JOBS act was passed last year, it became a blistering inferno of new startups, companies and websites. If you were looking for a good crowdfunding solution on Google you would come up with over 9 million results. Now there are new startups out there like StandOffer, and Athens Ohio startup 530Funds which are helping to make the crowdfunding space, easier to navigate.
530Funds opened up their beta on November 12th and are continually iterating to make the site exactly what the crowd needs, offering good information about available crowdfunding options. One of the main obstacles they have to overcome in building a platform like this is that every time they release another version, 10 more crowdfunding sites have popped up.
Also, at the present time, crowdfunding for equity is still not legal. Although the legislation is passed we are still waiting for the SEC to develop the regulations around crowdfunding for equity up to $1 million dollars. We interviewed a startup last Friday, from Richmond, called LendingClouds, that has sidestepped the SEC by offering royalties instead of equity.
We spoke with Richard Rodman, the founder of 530Funds. Check out the interview below.
What is 530Funds?
530Funds is an all-in-one site for the crowdfunding industry. Individuals can come to our site, learn about crowdfunding, use our search engine to find the best crowdfunding site for them, use our company profile page to view extended descriptions of the companies, log onto their user profile to contact individuals in the industry, meet new people, and promote their project. 530Funds is truly a one stop shop for everything crowdfunding. We launched our beta product on November 12th 2012 and have been in constant contact with crowdfunders, owners of crowdfunding platforms, consultants in the industry, and experts in many different fields. We have also released a few updates, with our big update and redesign coming at the end of December. 530Funds believes that the crowdfunding industry knows what they want, so instead of us building them a product, we allow the crowd to build themselves a product. Since our launch, we have implemented over ten new changes and features. We joke around on our Twitter account (530_funds), and Facebook about how the crowd asks for it, and we deliver, but it’s true! We are some smart guys, but we’re aware the only person who knows what they want is the user, so that’s what we live by at 530Funds.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds
We have four founders of 530Funds. Richard Rodman is the co-founder and CEO, Tom Jaracz is the co-founder and CFO, Max Heckel is the co-founder and CTO, and Rohan Kusre is the co-founder and CDO. When forming our team, we stuck with the “hustler, hacker, and designer” approach. This is not the first time around the block for any of us. Richard, Max, and Rohan started a previous company called FlashCrop, which has won several awards and received seed stage funding. Richard is the president of the Ohio University Entrepreneurs Club and remains an active entrepreneur in the community. He is truly passionate about crowdfunding, and loves seeing users choose their own route, and create companies. Tom has a background in finance, and is a true entrepreneur. He leads the finance end of 530Funds very well and prides himself on swift perfection. Max is a software developer who has worked with multiple digital media startups including FlashCrop, MyEventMetrics, LifeInAthens, and Ed Map. He is excellent at delivering intuitive and beautiful user interfaces as well as incorporating the newest trends in software design. Rohan has designed the user interfaces for FlashCrop and MyEventMetrics among other things and is also a graphic designer at the Athens News. His strengths lie within the realm of intuitive UI, brand imaging, and data representation. Our team has proven over and over that we can implement suggestions from the crowd faster than anyone in the industry, and we take pride in that. Our team gets pumped up to bring a new feature to the market that poeple asked for, it’s the best feeling!
Where are you based?
We are based in Athens, Ohio. Ohio University has helped 530Funds along tremendously. We are all very involved in the climate that Ohio University is developing with Columbus. Our CEO is the head of an entrepreneurial organization, we are clients of the Innovation Center, we participate in every competition (and even host some), we have our offices located at the university, and our advisors are all here! We love Athens and all the entrepreneurial spirit that is within it.
What is the startup culture like where you are based?
The startup culture in Athens is awesome. Our offices are located in the Bobcat Hatchery, so we have 6 other startups working around us. In the past year we have noticed more and more people deciding to take charge of their future and start a company. The accelerator program over the summer was another great experience in which all of us entrepreneurs were working side by side. Every corner you turn and every door you open, you don’t know if the next Mark Zuckerburg is standing on the other side. Who knows, it could be 530Funds pretty soon.
What problem does your startup solve?
530Funds solves many problems in the crowdfunding industry. Before we launched, individuals would have to use Google to find the best crowdfunding platform to list their project. They would then have to go to a number of blogs and sites to find out how to market their project successfully. In the future, per request of our users, we are releasing a user profile that will allow people within the industry to chat and promote their project. At this point in time, individuals have to rely on a number of social and professional networking sites to communicate with the crowd. Remember, if you have any problems that we have not yet addressed, please email us and we will get to work right away.
What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The first challenge that we have faced in the startup process is aggregating a new exponentially growing industry, and figuring out the best way to make it searchable. It is difficult to aggregate a new and growing industry, as it’s hard to discern serious players from those that will soon fade away. As for the search engine itself, we knew that the typical webcrawl-based engine wouldn’t work and so we had to build a new one from scratch that was tailored to the market we were targeting.
Who are your mentors and role models?
Our biggest role models are Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Richard Branson, and Kevin Oleary. We are all passionate entrepreneurs and love a good story. We try to shape our actions off successful entrepreneurs of the past and present. This way, we can duck around the mistakes of others, just as our role models suggest.
What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?
530Funds is not just a search engine, we’re the first diverse platform for everything crowdfunding. From beginning to end, you will never have to leave our site. As far as our team, we consist of two golfers (4 and a 6 handicap), a gymnast, and a member that was born in India.