The prevalence of crowdsourced funding for startup businesses and charitable projects is on the rise, and local residents are using the online platforms for everything from video game production to supporting a children’s shelter.
“I think crowdfunding is a great thing, both for creators and backers,” said Chattanooga resident Shaun Inman, who has backed projects and is currently raising money via Kickstarter for his latest venture. “Creators get a feel for what the market is interested in, and backers get to tailor the market to their interests. It’s a win-win.”
According to Econsultancy.com, there will be more than 530 crowdsourcing platforms by the end of the year.
According to USA Today and Crowdsourcing.org, about 450 crowdsourced Internet sites raised about $1.5 billion in 2011.
Local residents have raised money through platforms such as Kickstarter.
And founder of Chattanooga-based Smart Furniture and Delegator.com Stephen Culp—along with co-founders Stephen Scarbrough, Heather Ewalt and Andrew Scarbrough—has created Causeway, an online platform that connects budding civic entrepreneurs with community members who have resources to help them.
Area residents have submitted five different causes to the site in the past few weeks, Scarbrough said.
“I am really excited about the variety and wide reach that these causes bring to the table,” he said via email. “One of the cool things about Causeway is its potential to reach into every need of the community, and we really see this with the most recent causes.”
Retro Game Crunch
Inman—who developed an old school, Nintendo-style video game last year—has a new Kickstarter project underway.
“We want to make six games in six months, sort of like a prolonged game jam," he said via email. "We crunch for three days, get feedback, then polish for another 30 days.”
The project, Retro Game Crunch, has already been featured as a staff pick on Kickstarter and is rising on the Popular Games page, Inman said.
Those who back the games will provide feedback on them, he also said. Backers can play the game on the website as soon as the team has finished.
To meet their Kickstarter goal of $60,000, they need 2,400 people to contribute $25.
As of Sunday night, the project had 518 backers, who had pledged a total of $19,521.
If they meet their goal, they will put the funds toward printing and shipping rewards for backers.
The rest of the money will allow them to work full time on making the games.
“Making games involves a number of time-hungry disciplines: music composition, character design and animation, background painting, interface design, architecting, engineering, debugging, level design, play testing—the list goes on,” Inman said. “Time is money, but the inverse is also true. The Kickstarter contributions will ensure we have time to devote to creating unique, fun-to-play games.”
Creating the games under a time crunch is exciting and challenging, he also said. The project is as much about making the games as it is about the finished products, he said.
“Retro Game Crunch's constraints don't leave time for prolonged deliberation,” Inman said. “We're forced to work instinctively. Having designed and developed software for almost 10 years, I've learned when to trust my gut.”
Scarbrough said that Causeway has been growing and allowing communities to help themselves.
Leaders have been approached by officials in another city in the Southeast. Leaders there are in the final stages of launching their own Causeway platform, Scarbrough said.
“And we think this is just the beginning,” he said. “We’re excited about helping all communities, starting with Chattanooga, to host local causes and find local solutions.”
Local causes, such as the Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter, which is celebrating 140 years in the local community, had a successful project last year and is raising money again this year.
“The Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter takes care of hundreds of kids a day from early education and child care to full-time housing for children in state custody who need residential services,” he said. “The Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter relies heavily on donations and fundraising, so Causeway, being a community crowdfunding-type platform, is a perfect fit for their cause.”
Scarbrough is also excited about the causeway project End Cystic Fibrosis This Decade: A CF Smackdown.
Donations to the cause will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and a local source has agreed to give a one-for-one match to all donations given toward the cause, Scarbrough said.
Causeway already provides a 10 percent match with the 10 for 10 challenge, but leaders are “thrilled” to see someone else in the community provide a match.
And Causeway leaders are always looking forward to figure out how to create an even greater community impact.
“We’ve been in operation for a little over a year, and we’re constantly improving the website, incorporating feedback and looking for better ways to help communities help themselves,” he said. "You should see improvements coming in its technology, its mentor involvement and in the scope of impact. We’re all in and excited about the impact people in Chattanooga are making in the community and are proud to be able to partner with Chattanooga to be part of the solution.”
Updated @ 10:15 a.m. on 11/19/12 to add hyperlinks.
Updated @ 10:29 a.m. on 11/19/12 to correct a factual error: Stephen Scarbrough was interviewed for this article, not Stephen Culp, as originally reported.