We recently reached out to Pauliina Seppälä, co-founder of the Finnish rewards-based crowdfunding platform Mesenaatti with some questions about her platform, as well as the crowdfunding scene in her country, in general. Check out her responses (edited slightly for clarity) below.
Anton Root, Crowdsourcing.org: Why did you decide to start your own crowdfunding platform?
Pauliina Seppälä, Mesenaatti co-founder: I came up with the idea in the autumn of 2009. Having never heard of crowdfunding, I called it “collective consumption.” I talked to some people about it, but they didn’t quite get it. I went on with my life, until a year later, when I met Tanja Jänicke, who immediately took to the idea and we decided to found such a service.
Later that year, we ran into Kickstarter and discovered our idea is not unique, and that other people have already done it, and very well. After some initial disappointment, we decided that it makes sense to open up a local crowdfunding service in Finland, matched with the societal context we have, as well as the language and culture.
Why do you think Finland is a good environment for crowdfunding?
In a way it is not: people are used to the public sector covering funding for anything important, and people are not even accustomed to charity and volunteer work. Everything is already taken care of. Our idea, however, is to help the public sector, as well as foundations, distribute the funds more transparently — by using crowdfunding. We are working together with various institutions, both public and private, and try to gather them all to provide the funds for our projects. On Mesenaatti, organizations can also crowdfund, and not just individuals.
Additionally, the tax base is decreasing and the funds for fields such as art are becoming smaller, while the cultural industry, record companies as an example, are struggling to find the business logic in the digital era, so there is also a new need for additional funding. Also, in Finland as everywhere else, we now live a new age of connectivity, thanks to social media, and that makes all kinds of collective action possible.
What kinds of campaigns do you focus on?
We are a general platform for any kind of campaigns. They do need to address the public somehow, rather than being utilized for private use, though, like “I want to pay for my surgery.”
How many campaigns have you launched, and how many have been successfully funded?
We have launched around a hundred campaigns, out of which about 80 have succeeded in reaching the minimum goal. However, only a few have reached the full goal.
What’s the total amount of money you’ve raised, and how many people have pledged to campaigns?
Our projects have now raised a little over €300,000 from 6000 pledges. We cannot rule out that the same people may have pledged several times, however, so the actual number of backers may be lower.
What’s your business model?
We take a fee of 7 percent. We also build custom subpages for customers, where they can present themselves to audiences and showcase several projects simultaneously. These projects can be projects that the organization has funded, or ones that the organization runs themselves, or campaigns of their stakeholders (such as a record company running campaigns for potential new bands to list).
Are you thinking about equity crowdfunding?
Well, that is quite well covered in Finland, and our competences lie elsewhere, so it seems unlikely we would start that. We are cooperating with the Finnish equity crowdfunding platform Invesdor.
What’s the regulatory landscape in Finland regarding crowdfunding, both rewards and equity?
I don’t know so much about the equity side, except that crowdfunding seems to have caused quite a stir, and there is a lot of discussion going on about changing the laws and regulations. Also there is discussion on the EU level. As the reward based crowdfunding goes, it is important not to mix it with asking people to donate, as the Finnish money collection law is quite unique, and it forbids anyone to address the public and ask for donations, unless they are given a money collecting permit from the police. This permit, moreover, can only be given to nonprofit organizations for nonprofit causes. The reward is thus really an important part of reward based crowdfunding in Finland, so that the project can be seen as presales, or even micro-sponsoring, but not asking for donations.
The current government, however, is in the process of changing this money collecting law into a less strict version.
What are your goals for Mesenaatti? Where do you see yourself by the end of the year?
I hope the number and size of projects will start climbing faster, taking us towards a better situation business wise, and also that our recognition improves significantly among the potential audience. We are also looking at forming a pan-Nordic group together with four other Nordic platforms, called The Nordic Crowdfunding Alliance, which aims at enlarging our market together, and giving the best projects more visibility. There are also many developments for the platform that we intend to implement during the latter half of the year.Read More →
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Editor’s Note: David Drake of The Soho Loft and LDJ Capital writes in once again to cover the latest big announcement out of the crowdfunding world: today’s new that Realty Mogul has raised a $9 million Series A round led by Canaan Partners.
Realty Mogul, lauded as one of the top real estate crowdfunding platforms just one year after its inception in 2013, has successfully raised $9 million for its platform in a Series A round led by Canaan Partners.
This deal represents one of the largest Series A funding made by a female chief executive officer, and Jilliene Helman, Realty Mogul’s CEO, seeks to “bring the $11 trillion commercial real estate market into the 21st century.”
Realty Mogul maintains its transparency by always working alongside professional real estate firms and investment companies, such as AH Capital and Crawford Park Financial, making funding more accessible and investment opportunities more available. Since its launch in 2013, it has now exceeded the $100 million mark of total value of properties backed.
Realty Mogul is currently open to accredited investors who have a net worth over $1 million or an annual income above $200,000. The exclusion of non-accredited investors is in a bid to avoid regulatory drawbacks with the SEC, as well as to ensure compliance. It is with this in mind that Helman believes that, with this financial backing by Canaan, thousands of investors will have easier and more transparent ways to diversify their portfolios within the commercial real estate market that was once hidden behind a closed door.
Armed with modern technologies that make crowdfunding for real estate simpler, the company facilitates online investments of pre-vetted properties and gives investors 24 hour access to investments through an online investor dashboard. Even if investors decide that they would like to invest in a property, their funds are not committed until the full amount has been raised.
Realty Mogul, which approves every listing, has a wide asset base that spans commercial and residential properties as a way for investors to diversify their investments and, by extension, their risk. The investor is subsequently notified of movements on their investments, such as when the full figure has been invested, as well as receiving any resulting distributions, such as rental payments from the properties.
Operating originally from Beverly Hills, CA, Realty Mogul has branched off into several other states to include Tennessee, Washington, Seattle, Kansas, and Texas.
To date, approximately 6000 individual investors have invested $14.6 million in 58 properties across 14 states. Analyses of total figures, states, and capital injected by the company indicate that Realty Mogul is in fact the largest crowdfunding marketplace online, underwriting over $1.5 billion in last year alone. Data from Realty Mogul show that approximately 67 percent of the investments received through this platform are from repeat investors and that another 55 percent of this number consists of individuals making multiple investments.
According to Hrach Simonian, principal at Canaan Partners, “Realty Mogul will be the next disruption in a massive asset class just like LendingClub has been for the consumer credit market.”
Labeled the “Start-up to Watch” by Digital LA’s Digerati Awards, Realty Mogul is turning heads with its innovations and continued success. With this Series A funding facilitated by Canaan Partners, this crowdfunding platform is likely to attract more big spenders. Its secret may not be so much what it is doing, but its incorporation with real estate companies synchronized with its radical way of selling properties. With this much capital injected, and with so many potential investors lining up, the only way now for Realty Mogul is up.
Jilliene Helman of Realty Mogul will be one of the speakers at the April 24 Global Real Estate Crowdfunding Conference in New York.
David Drake is an early-stage equity expert and the founder and chairman of LDJ Capital, a New York City private equity advisory firm, and The Soho Loft – The Voice of Capital Formation – a global financial media company with divisions in Corporate Communications, Publishing and Expos & Events. You can reach him directly at David@LDJCapital.com.Read More →