How Bringing “Sourcing” Back to the “Crowd” Can Translate into “Funding”

Crowdsourcing existed way before Jeff Howe famously neologized it. (How’s that for a fancy word for giving a name to something that didn’t exist before?) Now crowdsourcing has a permanent place in our popular lexicon—and that’s got to tickle Jeff Howe to no end! Wouldn’t you like to say you invented a word? Does it up his pay grade? Does he get invited to do Ted Talks? These and other questions take up too much of my time…..

As a little primer, let’s remind ourselves about how crowdsourcing works. Example: Just this morning I emailed a bunch of friends requesting names of acupuncturists they could recommend. They’re (hopefully) going to use their experience and contacts to help me find my dream acupuncturist at the perfect rate, location, bedside manner, etc. So now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the recommendations to come dribbling in.

The genius of using the Internet, or course, is that while my email went out to a few select friends true crowdsourcing uses the power of the Internet to disseminate requests and to deliver back a slew of germane leads.

Sites like eLance and oDesk and Mechanical Turk crowdsource workplace freelancers—also known as virtual assistants, since they could be located in the other hemisphere, which means not only will you never meet him or her (let alone be sure of their true gender) but you’ll probably not ever speak in real time.

Sittercity crowdsources child and pet sitters. I have used them to great success, finding a terrific, caring person to hang out with our dogs when we need to go out of town (thanks, Ingrid!) and so have my in-laws for their little Westie.

The design industry was an early adopter to crowdsourcing. Sites like Crowdspring and 99Designs have been matching clients with experienced web, logo, and graphic designers to varying success. I say “varying” because  most require that professionals work “on spec” and that can be a sticking point. But as a former writer who pitched editors regularly—and by “pitch” I mean I had to have a fully fleshed out story including sources before I got the thumbs up or down—I’m used to this. (I didn’t say I liked it.)

But the point is this is not new. Here, however, are some new industries enter the playing field and, flawed or not, I think it’s about time.

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Crowdsourcing Medical Diagnoses

Crowdmed.com is a long time coming. It’s a site that allows people with medical conditions that have perplexed the medical establishment to present their symptoms to the crowd for solving.

Crowdmed was started by Jared Heyman. His sister Carly had a condition that went undiagnosed for too long, much to the family’s frustration. As a means to help her—and also test out his medical crowdsourcing theory—he posted her symptoms on his site and….guess what? She got a diagnosis! You can read the story here.

There are two ways to participate. You can either submit a case, or you can suggest diagnoses—no medical degree required. To me, that’s not crazy; that’s simply utilizing the power of the crowd. (And the New York Times has had a successful column called Diagnosis that does exactly the same thing to great success.) Though crowdmed is very new, there are already many case studies you can read about.

Here’s where the “funding” part comes in. According to their site:

 Once you’ve proven your capabilities in making smart suggestions and point assignments, and have received good peer and patient ratings, you can fully participate in all cases on the site and earn even more rewards. . . Medical Detectives who contributed to these suggestions are awarded points, status, and even cash compensation from those patients offering it. But the greatest reward for most of our Medical Detectives is knowing they’ve helped people get their lives back.

Crowdsourcing Fashion and more

Crowdsourcing fashion ideas seems like a natural. I wrote a piece about Betabrand a while back. You can read it here. While their business model always included getting the thumbs up from the crowd before turning a mockup into a finished product, they recently added a crowdfunding component: submit your creations and if they are successfully funded you can earn up to 10% of the profit.

Reddit, the iconoclastic, glorified message board, recently launched redditmade which they say:

Allows users to create almost anything you want on, whether it’s a hat, sticker, glass, or something super specially customized and unique. We’ll help you make it happen! Want to make a T-shirt? You can create your design and make your campaign go live in just a few minutes. Creators get to decide how many they want to sell and for what price. They then have 30 days to reach their goal. If enough people pledge to buy production begins. Creators can receive all the profits, or they can donate them to any other person or cause you want.

According to its site, “Reddit is differentiating its service from existing ones by privacy features – managing all payment processing, item production, and shipping itself, user information never needs to be handed over to the project creator.”

That’s just for starters. Here’s an Entrepreneur article that delves into crowdfunding fashion further. Or just google “crowdfunding” and “fashion” and see what goodies come up.

Crowdsourcing Video Expertise

I talk to clients all the time who are perplexed about whom to hire to help them create a pitch video. Just a couple of days ago it was reported that two companies—one US-based, the other European—got smart and combined their expertise to “offer platforms that enable videos to be created for brands by a combined community of more than 120,000 film makers, writers, editors, and small production companies.”

The merger, called Vizy, asks individuals, brands or agencies to submit a proposal of needs. Participants must then present a creative summary or storyboard ideas for review. Vizy chooses the filmmakers to create completed videos and offers performance testing of submissions. Clients only pay for the videos they end up using.

No question, crowd dynamics is here to stay. So is this a good move for crowdsourcing in general and the crowdfunding industry specificually? I’d love to hear your comments.

Another question to readersQ5l0Jp

As a purveyor of information about crowdfunding, how am I doing? Am I delivering information that you care about? Are there gaping holes that you have been holding out hopes I’ll get around to filling? I don’t get a lot of “unsubscribes” but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I personally continue to accept blogs and newsletters in my in-box that I immediately send to the trash, just because I don’t want to offend by unsubscribing. I hope that’s not the case…but I’m here for you, so tell me what you need and I will try my best to accommodate you.

Case Studies? You are aware of my column on Crowdsourcing.org, right? It’s called Rose Recommends and each week I cover a single campaign created a brave soul who is willing to be critiqued in the hopes of getting it right—and helping others.

More Q & As? I really do try to interview people who’ve been wildly successful at crowdfunding. But timing is everything and they often so busy fulfilling their campaign promises a sit-down is hard to come by. But I keep trying.

Platform profiles? I hope this isn’t want you want, because there are so many other sources for these type of reviews and I try to keep my content to the kind of information that doesn’t look like it just came off wholesale rack, if you get my drift. I want to provide specialty-grade material. Think Stella McCartney vs. Target. 😉

Crowdfunding for US Veterans? Here’s a Way to Get the Word Out

Tip of the Week

 

Remember Bob Woodruff ? He is the journalist who worked as co-anchor for ABC News until he was hit by a roadside bomb while on assignment in Iraq, in 2006. His head injuries left him with lingering aphasia, the loss or inability to express speech.

He may no longer be sitting behind the big desk but he’s far from off duty. According to the site, the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s mission is to “ensure that injured veterans and their families are thriving long after they return home.”BWF_stacked_lockup_outlines

With so many crowdfunding campaigns and organizations dedicated to similar missions, we know there are cracks in the system. In order to redress this in a creative way, the Foundation is requesting your stories in a project called “Writing for Heroes.

It is our hope that we can expand the conversation, through Writing for Heroes, a collection of stories by our team and those we work with: grantees, caregivers, family members, and of course, those who have served.

I would encourage anyone who is thinking about running a crowdfunding campaign that will help veterans to write and submit a story. Whether you’re the injured veteran, a family member of one, or even if you heard a story from someone that was especially moving to you, please commit it to print and send it in.

Story has the power to heal. And it also has the power to raise capital. And please send this to anyone you know who might benefit.

 —Remember, only 1% of American citizens serve in our all-volunteer army.

Who’s Got the Crowd Investor-Consumer’s Back?

Tip of the Week

The first post of the New Year should mark time in a special way. That’s why I’m excited that I get to write about Dara Albright’s inaugural column on Crowdfundinsider called Crowd-Investors Corner.

What’s unique about Dara’s tips column is that she is filling a vacuum in the crowdfunding and crowdfinance ecosystem that’s way overdue. While there is no shortage of information that is designed to help the entrepreneur get a leg up on how to navigate the industry and ensure the best chance of success, barely a pixel is given to assisting the investor/consumers—end users, all of us—on how to spend our money wisely.

But the news gets better. images

Because while there are plenty of articles out there generating industry information, Dara is in a bit of a class of her own. She’s a Wall Street insider when it comes to know-how but an outsider when it comes to financial innovation. Pretty much every Big Thing that’s gone down in the industry, she’s had a hand in: from producing events to driving the political discourse of the JOBS Act.

But broad knowledge aside, to me what makes her work memorable is that she’s a bridge builder who’s not afraid to be provocative. In other words, she’s interesting, and in a sea of vanilla information sometimes you get desperate to find a real voice. I know I do!

Of course the win-win here is going to be that through Dara’s column, entrepreneurs and innovators will have yet another opportunity learn, to get inside the heads of the investors and consumers, which will drive them to higher standards.

So bookmark the page! I look forward to installments that I’m sure will be as eclectic as they are edifying.

Happy learning. Happy New Year.

A Procrastinator’s Guide to #GivingTuesday

I’ve got plenty of time, I hear you all saying, because that’s what we all say when it comes to deadlines.

So if, like me, you find yourself behind the eight ball this #Giving Tuesday, but still want to do your part, here are a few eminently worthy causes you can consider. I’ve been following all these organizations to varying degrees over the past year or so and find them all to be doing one helluva job finding creative and inspiring solutions to some of the more intractable problems.

Watts of Love

John and Nancy Economou’s journey to bring light to such places as the Philippines, Mozambique, Haiti, and more, began when they witnessed first-hand the devastation darkness can have on families and whole societies in developing countries. Theirs is a fairy tale-cum-calling to change that. Being in the lighting business themselves, they designed and developed a really cool solar-powered lantern that not only provides invaluable light, so families could work later into the night, but also saves people from overexposure to toxic kerosene fumes. Their work grew from there. To see all their solar-light products, go here or check them out below.

WATTS

The lantern also ingeniously includes all possible USB drives so that villagers with a lantern could become entrepreneurs by selling their “power” to those who need a cell phone charge. These things may sound small to you and me but they’ve have an astounding positive impact on people’s bottom line.

 

 

Fallen Soldiers March: Service Dogs for Wounded Veterans

The Fallen Soldiers March is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization devoted to raising the funds required to purchase Service Dogs for Veterans. Because of the government’s position not to provide Service Dogs to the majority of Veterans equally who are challenged with mobility, PTSD, neurological challenges and other invisible conditions these folks are filling a tremendous void. There are no full-time paid positions under current leadership unless a corporation or foundation underwrites a separate operating budget, which are then allocated to be used to purchase service dogs for veterans.

dog

Sitara Foundation

Sitara Foundation is the charitable arm of Sitara Collections. The Foundation was started by Linda Singh and her husband Vinay who wanted to build a school in honor of his recently deceased father who valued education—all on their own dime. That’s how Shiksha Vikas Vidyalaya or SVV School was born.

ourschool

In the meantime, Linda fell in love with the local crafts made by the women artisans. To share them with the world she launched Sitara Collections. She returns a portion of the proceeds to the people and culture sharing their gifts with the world by funneling net proceeds of Sitara Collections directly to the Sitara Foundation to sustain its vision of giving back.

The Himalayan Stove Project

Because cooking shouldn’t kill. That’s not me talking, it’s Julia Roberts, who graces their website in a moving video.

Rather than talk your ear off about all the reasons you should contribute, check out their infographic, which says it all.

Indoor Air Pollution

They are way more on top of #GivingTuesday than I, so go to their Facebook page for more details.

WaterForLifeCharity

This amazing group of people have been working hard in multiple developing countries to bring them clean water in the form of a compact, inexpensive, water filter. There’s an individual filter and a family size to choose from. Here’s a video that contrasts our lives to those in many parts of the world. I hope it inspires you to help, as well as to be more cognizant of not wasting this valuable resource.

Many, if not all, of these organizations are gearing up to launch crowdfunding campaigns. When they launch, they will be on point and fully prepped, because they’ve been in pre-launch mode for months, which, if you know me is music to my ears. So you should give to their campaigns, too!

Oh, if you need an explanation on #GivingTuesday, or to understand how this all works, go here.

Happy #GivingTuesday!

Perfecting the Art of Storytelling for Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Last Saturday Yvonne Brown, host of Blog Talk Radio podcast “Find Yourself, Live Your Dreams, and Be Happy,” invited my on her show. What a blast!

My contribution—no surprises here—was about perfecting the art of storytelling to kick butt on your crowdfunding campaign. Because you all know I think framing and telling your story effectively is beyond important. I’ve seen campaigns that were great crash and burn because their story did not shine through the clutter. With such a crowded playing field you can’t afford that to happen to you.

If you want to have a listen you can either go here, which will also allow you to check out Yvonne’s entire library of podcasts. Or you can stay right on the page and have a listen. It’s a quick 30-minute listen with what I hope will be some helpful tips you can take to your campaign.

Just scroll down.Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.32.37 PM

If you have questions or want to continue the conversation, don’t hesitate to ask.

Forget Crowdfunding Advice! Learn by Example

Tip of the Week

I don’t know about you but I learn best by example. You could give me all the hypotheticals in the world and that’s usually what they remain: egg-headed theories.

Most crowdfunding advice, written in the form of blog posts at least, is dispensed this way; I’m guilty of it myself. (Though I like to think I drill down well when I’m consulting with individuals.)

The stuff you guys read can be so general that when you try to incorporate it into your own crowdfunding campaign you’re stymied. I get that.

So after reading a story in The Nerdist yesterday about the creative approach they took to nabbing Tom Hanks on their podcast —that’s right the Hollywood acting god—I had to share.

If I had a dime for every time I talked to a project creator who was trying get funding to turn a cool project from a prototype to mass production, I’d have a bunch of dimes.

I suggest they send out prototypes to the hotshots in their sphere of influence and they say, Can’t be done. I only have [fill in small number here] prototypes, they’re expensive, and I can’t take the risk. I get that, too.

So that leaves us to puzzle out how to capture the imaginations of the people that matter so they give your idea a twirl. Much head scratching ensues—without much resolution.

Which takes me back to this Nerdist story. In a burst of creative genius those guys did something I think you project creators should take to heart. What they did was they researched Hanks and discovered he’s a collector of typewriters. Then they sent him a vintage typewriter with an invitation, typed on the machine and left in the roller. (Is that what they’re called?)

You can read the story with the very happy ending here.

It IS possible to get some primo press if you do your homework and let your creative freak flag fly. 1130714sir36vusni

Please don’t settle for the pat and pathetic form letter. These will get you nowhere, believe me. I get them all the time and after getting annoyed I delete. Why should I work harder than you? The people at The Nerdist worked hard and their efforts paid off.

Try it. And report back your success stories, please.

 

Deposit a Gift, a Veteran Crowdfunding Platform You Should Know

The crowdfunding space is saturated with platforms that come in all shapes and sizes. This makes the tough game of crowdfunding even tougher: how is the new crowdfunder to choose the best site for their needs? When we can, The Crowdfundamentals likes to highlight some stand-out sites. We recently spoke with Dana Ostomel, the founder of Deposit a Gift so she could help readers get to know her platform next time they find themselves in need of cash. DAG2

Take Hurricane Sandy, for example. When it landed on Manhattan, The New York Foundling’s mother/child center was hit hard. Their team was scattered across the Tri-State area and no one could access the office because they were below 14th Street. That’s when the team of New York-based crowdunding veterans  at Deposit a Gift (DAG) came to its aid. They had them up and running with a customized site in 24 hours, helping them raise much-needed cash in a few weeks.

When did Deposit a Gift launch?

We launched at the end of 2009. We actually existed before most anyone knew about crowdfunding. It was certainly not the mainstream vehicle for raising money that it is today. At the time of our launch, people were merely looking for a polite way to ask for cash gifts, and all that existed were bridal registries. We wanted to fill that void. So when we started, we were like a mash-up of a department store registry and a wedding website.

What kind of trajectory has your business model seen?

What became apparent after a year of being in business was that what we had really built was a super-flexible platform to ask for money for anything, which is what crowdfunding is about: telling a story to show what you need money for and how you will use it, to entice people to give.

Can you talk a little more about DAG’s evolution?

Actually, it was our users who made the mental leap for us that if you could register for your honeymoon, why couldn’t you “register” for what your school needs, to help a nonprofit, or to support a friend with cancer or funeral expenses? So that’s how we began to essentially disrupt the existing space. We became a cash gift registry service you could use to ask for money for anything.

This is a classic example of what is meant by “power of the crowd.”

It’s true. One innovator was Papa Roux restaurant in Indiana that used DAG to raise money for a restaurant expansion. They felt awkward taking straight cash from their loyal customers, so the site was a way for them to make a donation registry for the materials they needed so that people could contribute to earmark specific needs.

In 2014 how does DAG distinguish itself from all the other crowdfunding platforms?

I’d say it would have to be that we offer a micro-site versus a donation page, and every aspect of it is customizable, from the navigation items that are actual clickable URLs and not just tabs on a page, to having over 200 backgrounds to choose from. So you can really craft your site to match any mood, brand or situation.

As we evolved from the early days, we held onto what we knew people really loved about DAG and added all of the elements that are essential for online social fundraising. What that means is that we have a different look and feel from other crowdfunding sites. We aren’t a knock-off of Kickstarter.DAG1

Remember, our first customers were busy brides in the throes of planning a big event. So it’s meant to be very user friendly. As we innovated to serve under-resourced nonprofits and schools, with them in mind we’ve created a toolset that is meant to make their life easier and allow them to do more with less.

What about your ticket sales feature?

That evolution in DAG’s growth is an interesting story fueled by another early DAG user. A friend of a man with testicular cancer created a site to rally people to his friend’s aid. They used Deposit a Gift to raise money online for medical expenses. But they also used our site to sell tickets for a bar fundraising event and to take payment for the auction items. We thought this was a great idea! So we created an official ticket sales feature to fill the need our users told us they had. And the cool thing is that the ticket sales actually feed the thermometer, too.

No other crowdfunding site has this. The functionality allows you to integrate with traditional fundraising events by selling tickets on the crowdfunding site to do what we call “opening up the virtual doors on the event.” You drive everyone to your crowdfunding site for everything, and use the ticket sales as a means to ask for incremental donations. We also have a receipt-customization tool to save you time and money on separate followups.

How hands on are you?

We’ll get as hands-on as you let us. We’re invested in your success and recognize that one of the biggest disconnects with crowdfunding is the public’s understanding of what it takes to set up and market a campaign. These things don’t run themselves.

So individualized customer service has been part of our ethos from the beginning. We always ask people why they choose us, and often they tell us “I liked the way your site looked. It was warm, friendly and seemed easy to use.” And then once inside the system, they are happy to affirm that it is as easy as it looked.

One of the special qualities about Deposit a Gift is that we really participate in all of life’s biggest moments, and we don’t take that lightly. Whether it’s a death in the family or the launch of your entrepreneurial dream, we want you to feel really taken care of. You can even speak with us on the phone.

Today there is a niche platform for everything? Why wouldn’t someone choose that route instead?

The Deposit a Gift platform is more flexible and customizable. By definition a niche platform is limiting. We don’t believe that is necessary. What you want to be looking for is a tool that allows you to set up your campaign in the exact way that you want to, because the reality is that crowdfunding is really a tool for you to “work your network.” You’ve got to make the compelling case for why people should give and share.

Do you think in this way the average crowdfunder is savvier today?

It’s still a very new concept for many. But more and more people are realizing it’s not about the website that you use. So it makes sense to go with the site that is going to give you the tools and support that you need—and choosing a “brand name” site isn’t necessarily best. There are a lot of disgruntled people that learned the hard way those sites leave you to fend for yourself. We will never do that.

Can you describe the difference between DAG and a white label service?

A white label service basically refers to companies that offer the software technology to create your own crowdfunding platform. We are customizable in the sense that we provide a banner area that allows you to brand your campaign.

By the way, white label services are not as complication-free as you think; and frankly, it isn’t as important to keep people on your website for the transaction as some might tell you. That is kind of old thinking. People are used to clicking over to another site to give; it’s not necessary to use complicated software to keep them on your domain. Our set up is extremely simple—and it doesn’t carry the hefty upfront costs of some white label services.

How do DAG fees work?

We follow the traditional pay-as-you-go crowdfunding model, with a twist. Our base fee is already about a percentage point lower than most sites, and then we offer two plans that you can upgrade to, that can bring your fee down as low as 5.5%.

What types of categories of campaigns tend to use DAG?

A lot of our customers are people who’ve never done this before and require a lot of coaching, support and encouragement. We find that we’ve got a real sweet spot with schools and are bringing crowdfunding innovation to help them tap into audiences who care about their kids, but are never asked to give. Poinsettia Elementary school out in Carlsbad, CA has done five campaigns with us. We’ve done everything from help them save their art program to crowdfunding their jogathon.

To read more about Deposit a Gift, go here.

 

 

 

How to Shop for a Pitch Video Creator

Tip of the Week

I’ve been thinking about pitch videos these days, mostly because I’m asked about them all the time. I’ve also given some advice on the topic on my Rose Recommends column on Crowdsourcing.org. Here’s one on how to avoid manipulation. And here’s another about making sure your message is crystal clear. If you haven’t seen the column, here’s the link to the archives.

But just the other day I read an interview conducted by Good Magazine with Yancey Strickler. The Q&A covers a lot of topics—from how Strickler cut his entrepreneurial teeth to Kickstarter’s new, relaxed rules to the infamous Potato Salad campaign, so I’d suggest giving it a read.

What I really appreciated most, however, was his response to blogger Arye Dworken’s question about pitch videos.

Question: Is it a concern of yours that some campaigns have a flashier presentation with high budget videos, which inadvertently may reintroduce that intimidation factor?

“I would love to put more of a light on things that are more amateur. We don’t have the resources for that yet, but we would love to eventually move in a direction in which, say, someone shot something on their iPhone and we could be involved in bringing it the attention it deserves.”

This is such a good point. I sure hope Kickstarter decides to dedicate the resources soon—because it’s tough to believe they’re just too flat broke to hire a couple of researchers to seek out the low-tech but fabulous videos—and because right now there are a lot of crowdfunders spending exorbitantly on hiring a professional production company to create their pitch videos and that’s too bad.Video_Camera_Glossy_Icon_clip_art_medium

The problem is few of these production companies have crowdfunding expertise. Ironically, while these professionals are admittedly talented, if they are unfamiliar with the simple formula for a successful crowdfunding videos they will miss the mark—and you’re thousands of dollars in the hole, stuck with a pitch video that doesn’t work. Sometimes it mean you lose potential backers because the video doesn’t answer important questions, sometimes it’s because you appear too slick. It happens.

Fun fact #1: Did you know Ryan Grepper, the founder of Coolest Cooler, hired a 17-year-old to make his video?

Fun fact #2: Campaigns raise on average 114% more if they have a video.

Not so fun fact #3: I recently consulted with someone who suffered from many of the above problems—lots of money spent on a professional video, little to show for it because the video seemed more like a polished commercial than a pitch video. Worst of all, in trying to keep the budget numbers as low as possible, they shot in one day.

No problem there, except that a seasoned pitch video producer would have known to suggest shooting multiple endings for the video. One ending, which could be posted on your “hub” (probably website) well in advance of your launch date, would serve as a way to lure and entice folks to sign up for email notifications when the campaign went live.

The second ending would have been cut in when the campaign was up and running. That ending would have a call to action asking for viewers to contribute.

Conclusion: When shopping for a videographer make sure to ask candidates about their experience with shooting pitch videos. Ask to see samples. Give them examples of styles you like and then ask for a proposal, including a budget. This is common practice in the video production world.

And if all else fails, see if Grepper’s 17-year-old is available.

 

 

 

Raja is a Cool Cat You Should Know

Tip of the Week

Today is my birthday. And my gift to myself is to break my own rule and feature a campaign for no other reason than that I want it to succeed. Because its message, if we support it now, has real positive social implications for the next generation.

The campaign is called The Restricted Adventures of Raja the Cat. It was created by Red Rover, an organization that brings animals out of crisis and into care. Founder Nicole Forsyth is a beautiful writer and her “E-Books for Empathy” project is a community-based literacy program that helps children explore the bond between people and animals through stories and discussion. The ripple effect doesn’t stop there. Forsyth is offering teachers free downloads for their entire schools.E-Book_panel1b_400px

The graphic novel series is for 7-10 year olds and has got interactive learning built in to help kids practice their empathy skills—something we can all use. But—and I promise not to get on my high-horse here, but when it’s reported that the earth has lost half its wildlife population in the last 40 years—you understand the need for humans to begin living way more consciously and respectfully towards the animals with whom we share the planet.

The campaign is on Kickstarter and has only 9 days to go, so it’s all the more urgent it reach its goal.  Here’s the craziest /doable part: ACCORDING TO KICKTRAQ IT’S TRENDING TO REACH 99% OF THE GOAL!

Get ’em while they’re young! And pat yourselves on the back for being part of the solution.

Now I have a date with a cake.

Do You Know Your Unfair Advantage?

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve found in working with left-brain thinkers—the logical, analytical, and objective types who tend to be CEOs—is to go with me on the journey of mining for the gold in their own story. It’s a concept that to them seems secondary to the real point, which is selling the product they want to fund.

The problem is most of them are still living out the old paradigm where people bought blindly from companies with fat advertising budgets to create an “image” they could hide behind while placing the product front and center.

Except we now live in the age of social media, and that means people want to buy into YOU not your business plan or your marketing strategy. It’s a concept that trips up many an entrepreneur when they attempt convey their crowdfunding project in a way that engages, inspires trust, and creates the kind of passion that motivates someone to pull out her wallet now or risk a bad case of FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out.

How to bridge the divide?

Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks

I often find inspiration through pop culture. For example, I recently listened to an episode of This American Life, distributed by PRX, which opened my eyes to a fresh and more pertinent way to help entrepreneurs understand how to frame their story impactfully and effectively. Follow me in this story and I think you’ll find it pays off.

The three-act show always has a theme. In this episode it was It’s Not the Product, It’s the Person. It’s basically a repackaging of leadership author Simon Sinek’s mantra, “People don’t buy what you do, they why you do it.” Meaning, story is a thing, and if you want to crowdfund your great idea you need to be ready when opportunity knocks. If you’re having identity problems I encourage you to listen to this show.

Act One, entitled I Got 99 Problems and a Pitch is One, was produced by Alex Blumberg who, until recently hosted the NPR’s Planet Money, the podcast that focuses on economics and business. Like many a budding entrepreneur, Blumberg was looking for more meaning in his work. So he thought he’d take his love of podcasts and fill a vacuum he found both inside and outside public radio: He would be the go-to guy to create the kind of podcasts he loved to hear.

Blumberg was lucky; during one Planet Money podcast he’d interviewed professional investor Chris Sacca, the former Google employee whose initial investments happen to include . . . Twitter.

Here’s a sampling of how Chris Sacca talks:

The ideas that we back and the entrepreneurs we back, there’s so much conviction about the inevitability of success, it’s contagious. I mean, when I first sat down with Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, and he started talking about why Instagram, and pitching me on why I should get involved there, I sat down with, in the back of my mind, look, photo-sharing has been done a bunch of times. I feel lucky to have already gotten some money back out of Photobucket before. Like, I might be the one guy who’s made money in photo-sharing, and there’s no way lightning’s going to strike twice.

But as you listen to him, you get the perception that he’s actually looking through you to some spot behind you that’s five years in the future. And he just knows the inevitability of the success of his platform. And by the end of the conversation, you’re like, please take my money. So what starts as this, like, all right, kid, what– whaddaya got? It’s just, like, wow, let me get on this thing. The train is leaving the station.

The guy oozes FOMO.

Finding Your FOMO Advantage

That Blumberg got a face time with Sacca was a big deal. He prepared his pitch deck, picked the nicest pair of shoes he could find in his closest—and proceeded to completely and utterly blow it.

Sacca kept throwing him left curves—told him his pitch deck was a crutch and that he needed to “tighten up his story.” In the end, Sacca actually gave Blumberg his own pitch back to him in under two minutes, brilliantly.

But he didn’t give Blumberg any money.

What’s YOUR Unfair Advantage?31cd828

Chris Sacca says a lot of wise things during Blumberg’s interview with him. But my favorite—and the one that I think might help entrepreneurs think about how to tell their story without actually thinking about it as telling their story—is when he asks Blumberg the question, What’s your unfair advantage?

That question hit me like a sledgehammer! Framing “story” as an “unfair advantage” is a brilliant way to appeal to the competitive, analytical mind of a hungry entrepreneur. It narrows the focus of the left-brainer, gets his thinking razor focused in a way that the notion of storytelling, as a broad, right-brain concept, never could.

But here’s the thing: Whether you think of your business arc as an exercise in telling your story or finding your unfair advantage, the idea is that this is your opportunity to zero in on what it is YOU know how to do better than anyone else, the thing that can blow the competition off the map.

How can you make sure you’re on the right track? Check in with yourself. Is your heart pumping? Are your eyes on fire? Do you feel energized and alive? If so, you will inspire FOMO.

This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog.