In the fast-paced world of tech companies, perhaps no concept has done more to revolutionize business models around the globe than the idea of crowdfunding. Basically just a way to get people with good ideas in front of people with capital, the result has been nothing less than revolutionary for their democratic methods of simply letting the best rise to the top. Thus far however, there have been specific hindrances to crowdfunding in the Arab world – including but not limited to, for example, some websites requirements for countries and banks that they will accept projects from, and a new idea that has largely only been proven in the Western world thus far, to name a couple. In the last couple of years, we have updated you on ones that have opened specific to the Arab world, and seek here to update you on the best of crowdfunding now, in the Arab world and out of it, to help you determine what’s best for your project.
Previously featured here in bazaar when they were just getting started, they now have an established track record in funding projects. Launched in July of 2013, this crowdfunding site is specific to the Arab world. “Zoomaal” comes from the Arabic phrase pronounced “thoo maal,” which means ‘someone with money’ as a direct translation. This is a perfect, concise way to describe an Arab crowdfunding platform. It also helps that it sounds unique and catchy in English too. The vision of Zoomaal is based heavily on supporting Arab creativity and innovation. And since crowdfunding is based on acquiring money from the people, projects need to be creative and innovative in order to have appeal and thus get funded. Started with just 60 projects, they now seem well established with lots of fully funded and in-process projects to support.
Started in July of 2012 by husband and wife team Vida Rizq and Lotfi Bencheikh, Aflamnah – which simply translated means “our films” in Arabic – is a platform aimed at filmmakers from the Arab world and is based in Dubai. While there have been projects from MENA on Kickstarter, the filmmakers have typically been based in the U.S. or the U.K. where you must have an account to collect the funds for your crowdfunding campaign. Aflamnah offers a combination of the Kickstarter/Indiegogo models, in that there is a USD 110 upload fee to post the project to their site, then they ask for a 6% commission on the money raised and don’t penalize those who haven’t reached their target goal with extra fees. It also lays out a structure of tiers and rewards for donating money to a project that is similar to other sites. Furthermore it also has an advisory committee that is made up of leading figures from the fields of business, finance, legal and creative to support in ensuring the success and continued development of the Aflamnah business.
Originally launched with a focus on film, Indiegogo pivoted to include funding for literally anything and is becoming known for financing personal and cause-related campaigns such as that for the bullied bus monitor, which raised over USD 700,000. It accepts all projects without review. As Indiegogo says on its website, “Our platform is available to anyone, anywhere, to raise money for anything.” While its success fee at 4 percent is 1 percent lower than most websites, it does charge one of the highest fees in the industry – 9 percent – if you don’t meet your goal.
The most well-known of the crowdfunding websites, Kickstarter focuses on creative endeavors including design, the arts (film, publishing, music), gaming and technology. While Kickstarter can’t be used to fund businesses per se, it does accept products and has had some remarkably successful campaigns, including about 50 that have generated over a million dollars in funding. Kickstarter “curates” its projects, meaning it has a rigorous submission process, and if you aren’t approved to post, it can be quite disappointing (Indiegogo accepts projects from around the world, while Kickstarter only accepts project creators from the U.S., U.K. and Canada.)
This one makes the list for its seeming lack of rules, when compared to the others. A friend of mine recently attempted to pay for his Masters education this way. Admittedly, there was something that felt a little tacky or uncouth about it. But, if you are bold enough to ask, and people support you enough to want to help, it is hard to fault a person for trying – more power to you! The key to Gofundme is that there are no deadlines or goal requirements (and thus, no penalty for missing a goal); you keep every donation you receive. They charge roughly 6-8% depending on several factors, plus a per donation fee. I think I will start a gofundme for a buyout of my bazaar contract and a round-the-world trip…any supporters for me out there?!
There are many crowdfunding options out there to meet the needs of your projects. Make sure to properly understand the fees, as well as any restrictions involved before picking the one that is right for you.