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Crowdfunding fashion: Interview with label-founder Klaus Buchroithner of Vresh

Klaus Buchroithner runs the streetwear label Vresh and with his campaigns he regularly makes it into the headlines of various newspapers and online magazines. With his Vresh Box he attracted investors to finance his independent label by rewarding them with a special edition of individually designed T-shirts and a small, symbolic stake of his company. With his “Zuckerberg shirt” he even gained international media coverage by promoting a basic grey shirt, very similar to the one Mark Zuckerberg is wearing all the time. And for the production of his Vresh Jeans he turned to Crowdfunding and ran three campaigns, two of them successful. In an interview he told us his story and how Crowdfunding helped him boosting his fashion start-up.

Crowd-Fund-Port: You are running your fashion label Vresh for several years now. Please tell us more about it and how everything started?

Klaus Buchroithner: Vresh is a sustainable streetwear label. From 2019 we will exclusively produce basic styles from organic and recycled materials in cooperation with small family businesses in the EU. I have been working in the textile business for more than 12 years and everything started with the crazy idea of my brother, opening a Skateshop in our small city of Eferding/Austria. Soon it developed into a textile wholesale business with which we distributed international brands in Austria and Hungary. During my school time I took over the shop and opened a second shop in another city. Since the support of the brands was often bad for small retailers like me and the margin was too small, I decided to establish my own brand in the end of 2012 and do a lot better.

Crowd-Fund-Port: You are producing jeans for almost a year and a half. The first series was financed with Crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Why Crowdfunding?

Klaus: In my opinion, Crowdfunding is a perfect tool for launching a new product on the market. You can’t expect to raise a huge sum without your own community and engagement, but if you’re willing to invest some time and money, you get good feedback from the market, some pre-orders that you can convert into long-term customers and generally a lot of attention.

Crowd-Fund-Port: How did you prepare for the first Kickstarter campaign back then?

Klaus: I’ve been following the topic of Crowdfunding for quite some time and looked at many campaigns and researched the background. There is a lot of reading material on the Internet now and of course the consulting appointments with you (note: the interview was conducted by Crowd-Fund-Port partner Wolfgang Gumpelmaier-Mach of ikosom.de/Crowdfunding-Service.com) were also very helpful. External consulting helped us to implement the project better. For example, we re-recorded our video after some people in our community suggested improvements.

Crowd-Fund-Port: You also started a Crowdfunding campaign on wemakeit, unfortunately without success. What experiences did you have with the two campaigns?

Klaus: Basically, you can’t expect too much from the individual platforms. That was certainly better a year or two ago. They can give you a good boost, but most of the work you have to for yourself. Our failed campaign on wemakeit was no coincidence. We launched the campaign about a month too late, and then the temperature rose unusually strong. It’s very difficult to sell jeans at summer temperatures, even if you deliver them in September. That was certainly a great learning for me – starting the campaign during the season and not before.

Crowd-Fund-Port: To what extent did this experience help you in planning and implementing your last (third) campaign on Indiegogo and why did you crowdfund jeans again?

Klaus: We concentrated on the essentials and offered a product that already worked well the first time. This time we took the feedback of the first campaign and adapted the product accordingly. Only the change from Kickstarter to Indiegogo was a mistake. We already had 200 satisfied customers on Kickstarter, they probably would have been ready to buy. A new account on a (for the user) unknown platform is a big hurdle, especially in Austria and Germany – combined with the payment method credit card. But because we already had some experience, we knew on which channels it would be worthwhile to be present during the campaign and that’s how we pulled this off in the end.

Crowd-Fund-Port: I know you work a lot with your community and let them participate in the process of creation. Is that your secret recipe?

Klaus: That is definitely a very important part for our success. We are currently trying to find ways to involve the community even more actively in branding and try creating a stronger bond. Especially for small independent labels like ours this is essential.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Do you see Crowdfunding as an essential part of your (communication) work?

Klaus: It is definitely a good instrument, especially if you offer innovative products. For us, such a campaign can always be the market launch for a completely new product segment. You get a lot of attention and see whether something is working or not.

Crowd-Fund-Port: What’s coming next? Will there be more Vresh-Crowdfunding-campaigns?

Klaus: I can imagine bringing an entire collection onto the market by pre-selling it via our own website. The parts that sell well are added to the collection and if they don’t work, they’re not getting produced.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck!

***

This interview was originally published in German on Crowdfunding-Service.com.

Crowdfunding Games: Interview with Kickstarter’s Michael Liebe, Outreach Games Europe

In May, we featured several games projects on our Facebook-page. In addition, we asked Michael Liebe for an interview and he agreed. Michael is based in Berlin and is responsible for Outreach Games for Kickstarter in Europe. He is also the head of #gamesweekberlin and founder and CEO of Booster Space.

(c) Sandy Kramer / Booster Space

Crowd-Fund-Port: You are supporting Kickstarter in the field of Games in Berlin and in Germany. What is the question most asked by the Games Developers in Crowdfunding?

Michael Liebe: As Outreach Games Europe, I am not only responsible for the German, but also for the European region. That said, my focus obviously lies on Berlin, the D-A-CH region as well as France, Spain and Poland. The most common question asked is at which stage of a project creators should start communicating (right before: Is my pledge goal reasonable?). Yet as goals are super individual, I cannot stress enough that for everybody who wants to go into self-marketing, aka independent game development and distribution, needs to start building a community and followership as soon as possible. So best start communicating that you are working on something (you do not need to reveal the details in the beginning) as soon as you start working on it. The Kickstarter campaign is a milestone within this complex of self-marketing, not the means to an end. The means of communication is your game or project!

Crowd-Fund-Port: There is a lot of support from the government for the Games Industry in Germany, the new state secretary for the Digital Agenda Doro Bär is a big supporter. What would you like the government to do more with regards to Games and Crowdfunding?

Michael Liebe: I am very happy about the development in the government to position Dorothee Bär as sort of CDO of Germany. She is a great advocate of the games industry – and not only in the field of serious games, but also in it’s pure form of entertainment. On a regional level, such as in Berlin, it is possible to combine crowdfunding funds as part of the funding mix with public grants. This is a very important fact for independent creators. I hope the German Games Fund (working title) will also allow for that. What would be awesome is that developers could announce the public grant within their crowdfunding campaign and tell a story like: if we raise this amount of money, we will get our public grant of X EUR. This is legally not possible at the moment, but would create great momentum in the community. Another thing is taxes in Europe. Like in Portugal for example Kickstarter campaigns cannot be launched due to some legislations. Also are there very few tax advisors who actually have the expertise on how to deal with the money raised on Kickstarter. This is mostly because of no clear statement of the tax offices on how to tax it (except for saying: you need to report it and tax it). Here it would be great to have a clear statement, which ideally does not apply in full amount the VAT + Income taxes, or else it diminishes the value of the money raised in a too high level.

Crowd-Fund-Port: One of the biggest game Crowdfunding campaigns was Star Citizen but they have not delivered the final game yet, even after years of development. Should the platforms do more to ensure the implementation of the campaigns?

Michael Liebe: Thats a big one. Yet, Star Citizen is an exception. It is designed to be an ongoing process and for backers it (can be) part of the fun to ongoingly be part of the development of the game. In other cases, fulfillment is not the exception but the the rule. Hence most projects are realized after the campaign was successful. As crowdfunding platforms are not a shop, there is no legal way to stress creators on fulfillment. It is part of the philosophy of crowdfunding that the community joins the adventure of creating something new.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Thank you for the interview!

*** Do you have more questions about games on Kickstarter? Get in touch with Michael via mliebe (at) kickstarter.com. ***

Energy Crowdfunding made in Germany – Interview with Torsten Schreiber

Torsten Schreiber is one of the co-founders of German equity-based Crowdfunding-platform bettervest and project-partner of Africa Greentec. He calls himself a “Serial Social Heropreneur” and his vision is to change society from within by means of social entrepreneurship and to push the energy revolution forwards, not only in Germany, but also in lower developed areas. In an interview with Crowd-Fund-Port he talks about energy Crowdfunding and explains his plan to #unfucktheworld.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Torsten, you are strongly developing the idea of financing (green-) energy-projects through Crowdfunding. Please tell us a little bit about you and your projects.

Torsten Schreiber: I see Crowdfunding as an enormous chance to significantly engage young entrepreneurs to work closely on emotionally impactful projects and by doing so, further help to increase the prominence of a visionary project such as ours.

Our vision is to become the largest eco-driven, renewable de-centralized energy water and communications provider in the global south, by empowering men and women to self-determination and prosperity.

My personal motivation and drive comes from the deeply rooted conviction and desire to be able to change society from within by means of social entrepreneurship and the believe that we can live with our planet in peaceful harmony. My primary goal for which I try to recruit companions, is active climate protection.

Crowd-Fund-Port: It all started with bettervest, a German Crowdfunding-platform, which you co-founded. Which projects can be found there?

Torsten: bettervest started with the idea of strengthening the global energy revolution by introducing energy efficient concepts and projects. In order to make a significant and visible difference, as much effort is needed in actually saving energy by means of efficient technologies, as is by introducing and implementing new technologies such as Photovoltaics, water and wind power.  My main project, Africa GreenTec develops specific, fitting and holistic solutions to address this very need.

Crowd-Fund-Port: So Africa Greentec evolved from one of your bettervest projects, right?

Torsten: The Solartainer® project marked the first funding record for bettervest in 2015. Ever since, the platform and various new project related partners, successfully focus on less developed areas. The platform showcases interesting projects in the areas of renewable energy, efficient heating, efficient power and new business models.

I realized, the best way to put my talents to work, would be by fighting climate change in Africa and by enabling locals to take charge of their own lives by providing them with new and exciting technologies.

Crowd-Fund-Port:  Obviously cross-border Crowdfunding is important here. How do you think it will develop in the next years?

Torsten: Following the political agenda of, for instance our German government, clearly illuminates that the classical foreign aid model neither represent a working future model to solve the problems of The Global South, nor does it successfully address the problems of mass migration. What is needed, are investments, particularly into infrastructure, energy, agriculture and education, but the systems are not designed for that. Large lenders like “Die Weltbank” or the “African Development Bank” really only finance projects starting at 100 million €, which represents a huge gap in particular for projects of up to 500.000 €. These gaps can successfully be closed by investment platforms like bettervest, which then can provide the opportunity to investors of The Global North to directly engage in impact investment. Until now, this privilege was only provided to large institutional investors and hedge funds. I firmly believe we shall experience tremendous market growth in this segment, if qualified partners, particularly on the African side are chosen. Years of erroneous foreign aid has clearly left its mark.

Crowd-Fund-Port: You are combining your knowledge about energy-Crowdfunding, entrepreneurship and development aid. What is your big plan?

Torsten: As founders, both my wife and I, share a lifetime vision to provide 3 million people in Africa with clean energy, water and access to the internet. Many of our friends and supporters envision us to become the largest de-centralized energy and water supplier on the African continent. Let’s see who ends up being correct.

Crowd-Fund-Port: What are your biggest learnings when it comes to Crowdfunding? As a project-owner, but also as a platform-owner? Any recommendations?

Torsten: In order to have a successful Crowdfunding campaign the initiator needs authentic partners, co-workers and a transparent project, as the Crowd wants to partake, wants to participate as close as possible. This is not always easy, especially with projects in Africa, as circumstances can change rapidly and unpredictably. As a platform, one should know the investors as much as possible and especially the project owner should be able to provide a detailed assessment of the funding potential. Both sides need to communicate honestly and clearly in order to properly manage mutual expectations from the beginning.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Thank you for the interview!

Interview with Lukas Angst, inventor of KEEGO, a squeezable metal bottle

KEEGO is a true innovation in sports gadgets. It is the first ever bottle made with elastic titanium. Born in Switzerland, designed and developed in Austria, produced in Denmark it is also a true European product that has fans around the globe. Founder Lukas Angst is a sportsman himself and was looking for a way to combine the all the benefits of a light and squeezable plastic bottle with the clean taste and endurance of a metal one. At the moment Lukas and his team are running a very successful Kickstarter-campaign and still there are more than three weeks left for funding. In an interview with Crowd-Fund-Port, Lukas explains the idea behind his innovative product and how he prepared for the Crowdfunding-campaign.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Lukas, you are the founder of KEEGO, an innovative drinking bottle for athletes. What’s so special about it?

Lukas: KEEGO is a sports bottle made of an entirely new material. We combine Titanium with an elastic core to create a bottle that is light, squeezable and cleaner than the usual plastic bottles.

Crowd-Fund-Port: What is the idea behind KEEGO?

Lukas: Nowadays in sports all of the gear is high-tech. Athletes often don‘t compromise when it comes to their equipment. At the same time the sports bottles have stayed the same for the last 30 years and are quite low-tech. The idea was and is to change that.

Crowd-Fund-Port: A few weeks ago you started a Crowdfunding-campaign on Kickstarter? Why?

Lukas: We were eager to get a market feedback after all this time of development. Since KEEGO has USPs that could work for many different types of athletes this is also a great chance to learn more about them and where we should plan our market entry. On the financial side the Crowdfunding campaign allows us to validate our business plan and pay some of the tools and materials needed for the first production run.

Crowd-Fund-Port: How did you prepare for the Kickstarter-campaign?

Lukas: We tried to talk to as many experienced Crowdfunders as possible and to get input wherever we could. Four months before the launch, we set up a landing page to collect leads (e-mail adresses) of potential backers. We tried out different facebook ads and targeting to drive traffic to the landing page and constantly optimized the campaign. Three months before we launched on Kickstarter, we produced the video and additional content needed for the page. About the same time we opened a Facebook group for friends and interested people, to get as much feedback as possible on various aspects of the product, the content and the campaign.

Crowd-Fund-Port: What’s the goal of the campaign?

Lukas: Our goal was 25.000 Euros and we reached this initial goal quite quickly. Soon we had set a stretch goal (60.000 Euros) and are now about to reach the second one (120.000 Euros). The goal is to just keep going and take it day by day.

Crowd-Fund-Port: After the campaign ended successfully, what are the next steps?

Lukas: We work hard to finalize the product and make sure that KEEGO out of the production meets the high requirements we have set. Once we pleased all the early backers from Kickstarter, we have to establish a stable supply chain. Additional topics are financing, team building and the go to market strategy.

Crowd-Fund-Port: Thank you for the interview and good luck with your campaign!

Interview with Nut & Feder – a social design company

In autumn 2015, a workshop project for refugees from the Verein Ute Bock went online on wemakeit.com called bockwerk. The idea behind it: to create a perspective for refugees through craftsmanship and design. Within a few weeks, more than EUR 30,000.00 were collected for the project via Crowdfunding. In the meantime, a lot has changed and bockwerk is now called Nut & Feder and is relaunching itself as a social business.

I was asked to talk about bockwerk at the workshop “Crowdfunding and Crossborder Fundraising” in Dresden at the beginning of November 2017, because I accompanied the project as a Crowdfunding-consultant. I took this opportunity to meet with bockwerk initiator Christian Penz in Vienna.

In an interview, he explains why the project had to rename itself, what the new company’s orientation is and what has happened since the successful crowdfunding campaign.

Wolfgang: Dear Christian, you are the founder of Nut & Feder. Please tell us, what’s the idea behind it?

Christian: Asylum seekers do not have regular access to the labour market during an open procedure and are confronted with special barriers on the labour market even after a positive asylum decision has been made.

Nut & Feder understands work as a central element of social inclusion. For legal, social and cultural reasons, refugees face particular barriers in the labour market. Our goal is to involve people with a refugee background in a work process from the outset and to offer them long-term training and employment opportunities.

In the 15th district in Vienna, as well as in the “Zwischennutzungsgebiet Creau” in the 2nd district,Nut & Feder operates wood workshops in which people with a refugee background are integrated into a company structure. In collaboration with designers and architects, they produce furniture and market regional products with social added value. People with a fugitive background are integrated into the planning and production process of high-quality products as trainees or employees.

Wolfgang: Originally, you founded Nut & Feder as bockwerk and started a Crowdfunding-campaign under this name. Why did you change the name?

Christian: In order to achieve our goal of a growing workshop that gives more and more people access to meaningful employment, we needed a proper legal basis. We must be able to write invoices, even for larger orders with correspondingly higher sums. Selling products by receiving a donation will not work for us in the long term. In order to accomplish this, we founded a corporate form that fulfills the social mission from a predominant market income.

For tax reasons, such a continuation within the non-profit organisation Verein Ute Bock was not possible. So the bockwerk founding team and decision-makers discussed it and agreed to continue independently under the name of Nut & Feder with the appropriate organisational form.

Wolfgang: So there’s been a lot going on since the Crowdfunding-campaign. What are you currently working on?

Christian: On the one hand, we are currently working closely with the team of mostlikely architecture on the development and marketing of a multifunctional module. This module could be used as a stand-up table, tower, shelf (room divider), longer bench, pedestal or as a simple stackable stool. The module can soon be purchased directly on our website or can be built and taken along as part of a furniture-making workshop.

In addition, we are currently working with the Institute for Participatory Social Research to develop a set of instruments for implementing a social impact reporting in order to be able to make systematic and evidence-based statements on the social and ecological impact of our company.

Wolfgang: Where do you see Nut & Feder in the future?

Christian: We want to continue to grow and help as many people as possible, who are living in forced inactivity and give them access to meaningful employment/education. With the explicit inclusion of asylum seekers (regularly excluded from the labour market) and persons entitled to asylum and entitled to subsidiary protection in the operational structure of Nut & Feder, we want to achieve their institutional exclusion and create a basic prerequisite for social participation.

Last but not least, we are striving to increase market revenues by expanding and tapping additional marketing and sales channels and to achieve the greatest possible independence from funding and donations.

Wolfgang: Would you recommend Crowdfunding? Or can you imagine running a campaign again?

Christian: I can recommend Crowdfunding to others. After we finished our own campaign, we accompanied several campaigns directly or through one of our partners. With a comparatively low input of resources, we were able to reach out to a large number of supporters and transport our mission to a broader audience.

Well, I can totally imagine to raise funding this way again. It is possible that we will initiate another campaign around our new park-module in the spring of 2018. In doing so, we would like to test the marketability of the product, obtain feedback from the Crowd and, last but not least, lay a financial foundation for further development.

Wolfgang: Good luck with that and many thanks for the interview!

***

For further information on the project and its Crowdfunding-campaign, here’s he slides of the workshop: Crowdfunding and Crossborder Fundraising

The guy who crowdfunded a trip to Africa (and now writes a book about it)

Ernst Merkinger walked from Vienna to Marrakech and financed his trip via Crowdfunding. In return for their support, people got personalized video-greetings, they could book him for a multimedia-lecture or pre-purchase the book he will write about his travel-experiences. In a recent interview German newspaper FAZ.NET – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked Ernst about his motivations behind the project. Additionally, Crowdfunding-experts Wolfgang Gumpelmaier-Mach and Karsten Wenzlaff were asked to comment the project and the way, Ernst setup his campaign. Gumpelmaier-Mach and Wenzlaff are both members of ikosom and part of the Crowd-Fund-Port-project, which was also mentioned in the article.

Gumpelmaier-Mach explains “that it is important to win the trust of the supporters. After all, you need to convince strangers to spend money on your project. One of the reasons, why Ernst Merkinger’s campaign works well, is because he is constantly publishing interesting content on his Social Media channels. It is a trend anyway, to share and post one’s everyday life on Instagram. Ernst goes one step further and lets people participate in its daily life to make sure he can maintain his chosen lifestyle. ”

You can read the whole story and interview in F.A.Z. Woche from December 8th 2017.

Traveler and blogger Ernst Merkinger from Austria funded his trip to Marrakech via Crowdfunding. Copyright: Ernst Merkinger