Crowd Funding: How You Can Get it
When Amal Al-Agroobi talks about her film A Brain That Sings, about Emirati families with who have autistic children, her green eyes sparkle. She shot the film over the course of five months at the start of 2013, then took another 6 months for post production. At the end of it all, the film was nominated for a Muhr Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in December and helped raise awareness about autism. It was a big year for Amal. Yet none of this would have been possible if she hadn’t found a way to raise enough money to make the movie.
At the beginning, she tried to get support from government sponsors or film festival grants, but she kept running up against a wall somehow. Funding is often tricky for artistic or cultural endeavours all over the world, but to add to that, it can be taboo to openly discuss mental disorders like autism in Arab society. While the latter view is changing thanks to multilateral efforts to raise awareness (we’ve all seen the autism ads on bus stops across the UAE), funding is still difficult to secure in the arts. Amal also started to ask family and friends for financial support, but she needed a wider investor base than just people she knew. She needed at least $15,000 to start filming and triple that amount for post production costs alone.
After fruitless efforts to raise funds by applying to grants and loans, Amal turned her attention to a funding method that was growing in popularity online: the world of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding, already a rage in the West, is a way to outline a project or business proposal online and anyone who is interested – literally, anyone all over the world – can put money towards it.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are well known, global platforms, where countless entrepreneurs, artists, and techies have raised money to turn their concepts into reality. Amal used a regional platform, Aflamnah, which provides funding for creative projects across the Arab world. In fact, Aflamnah actually means “our movies” in Arabic.
“Without Aflamnah and the option of crowdfunding in general, this movie just wouldn’t have happened,” says Amal, who is half-Emirati, half-Syrian. “My film is a social documentary, so it actually made sense to raise funding online and engage directly with our community. We raised awareness about autism in the process.”
In the end, she raised a total of $125,000 to complete her successful film, which gave her the chance to promote it well. She’s already planning her next film, Proud to be a Sharjonian, about growing up in Sharjah.
Since its launch in July 2012, the crowdfunding platform has gone from two projects featured online per month, to 46 per month. They include films, music, theatres, art and start-ups. The minimum pledge is $10. To put a project up on the Aflamnah website, a selection process takes place by Vida and her team. Since its inception a year and a half ago, Aflamanah has raised over $200,000 for projects, ultimately taking a small percentage as commission.
“Our biggest challenge has been to find ways to educate the public on crowdfunding as a good option to raise money for projects,” she says. “This is slowly changing as more crowdfunding sites emerge on the scene and we get a few success stories, like Amal’s film.”
Eureeca is a new entrant onto the market in this space. Known as crowdinvesting, Eureeca invests in interesting projects in return for an equity stake in the business; so Eureeca would own a percentage of the whole company if they decide to invest. This helps the company raise money and also puts a value to it. Businesses can apply to have their funding proposals listed on Eureeca.com and set a funding goal, then the process begins to raise money for a great project.
The young company launched in May 2012 and has already funded some very successful businesses. Nabbesh.com, a company run by Loulou Khazen Baz which matches freelancers with people looking to hire them for short term projects, met its goal of raising $100,000 last year. Meanwhile, Harir.com, an online shopping club in the Middle East for design and lifestyle brands at discounted prices, was hoping to raise $50,000 last year and managed to raise $86, 397 instead – nearly doubling the funding goal. Current projects looking for funding include MyExWardrobe.com, which provides a unique avenue for people to buy and sell second-hand clothes and accessories that are in good condition, is currently trying to raise $52,500 by the end of February.
“From cafes to jewellery shops to handbag designers to e-commerce sites, we’ve looked at projects across so many different sectors,” says Joanne Kubba, head of strategy for Eureeca.com. “What’s interesting is that out of the ten projects currently on our platform, nine are run by women!”
If you’ve got a great idea for a business or need funding for the creative project of your dreams, consider turning to crowdfunding as a way to rise money to turn a plan into reality.
Surf The Web
If you want to embrace the do-it-yourself attitude to fund that music album, film, or trendy cafe of your dreams, go for a well-known, popular crowdfunding site like the ones listed here: