Crowdfunding For Business Startups: How It Works & 5 Traits

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Crowdfunding, an innovative financing method, has emerged as a viable way for startups and businesses to kickstart and expand their operations. It opens doors for inclusive financial support, circumventing traditional financial gatekeepers.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the concept of crowdfunding, its various forms, and the many advantages it provides. We will also discuss the step-by-step process to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign, different crowdfunding platforms, and tips for choosing the most suitable crowdfunding for business startups.

Understanding Crowdfunding

At its core, crowdfunding is the collective effort of numerous individuals who pool their resources to support initiatives by others or organizations. It is a powerful tool that allows people to financially contribute to causes they believe in, projects they find intriguing, or products they’d love to see become a reality.

There are different types of crowdfunding, each with a unique purpose and target audience:

  1. Donation-based Crowdfunding: This is commonly used for charitable and social causes. Backers donate money without expecting anything in return, other than the personal satisfaction of supporting a cause they believe in.
  2. Rewards-based Crowdfunding: In this type, backers contribute to a project or business in exchange for a product, service, or experience. This type is popular among artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs as it allows them to test the market and fund their projects without incurring debt or giving up company equity.
  3. Equity-based Crowdfunding: This form allows backers to invest in a company and receive shares or a stake in the business. It’s like traditional investing, but the investor pool is much broader and not limited to accredited investors.
  4. Debt-based Crowdfunding: Also known as peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, this type allows individuals to lend money to others in return for interest payments. It’s an alternative to traditional bank loans and is often used by individuals and businesses who might struggle to secure a standard loan.

Successful crowdfunding requires a compelling story or product, an effective marketing strategy, and a lot of hard work. It’s not just about posting a project online and waiting for money to roll in. The most successful campaigns are those that engage their audience, keep them updated, and deliver on their promises.

A small business similar to the kind started from crowdfunding campaigns
Photo: Unsplash

The Multifaceted Benefits of Crowdfunding

1. Access to Capital

One of the most significant advantages of crowdfunding is its ability to provide startups and businesses with access to capital. Startups often struggle with securing funds through traditional means such as bank loans, angel investments, or venture capital. Crowdfunding offers a unique solution to this issue. By presenting their ideas to a broad audience, entrepreneurs can tap into a pool of potential investors who are ready to fund promising ideas.

Crowdfunding platforms are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, which significantly broadens the potential investor base compared to traditional funding methods. This democratization of investment means that a good idea, regardless of the entrepreneur’s location or connections, has a chance to secure the necessary funds to come to fruition.

2. Market Validation

Crowdfunding not only provides access to capital but also serves as an invaluable tool for market validation. By putting an idea out into the public domain, entrepreneurs can gauge whether there is real demand for their product or service.

If a crowdfunding campaign reaches or surpasses its funding goal, it’s a clear indicator that the market is interested in the product or service. This validation can be incredibly helpful to entrepreneurs who might otherwise spend considerable time and resources on a product or service that doesn’t resonate with their intended audience.

Furthermore, market validation via crowdfunding can attract additional investors who may have been initially hesitant to invest. The successful crowdfunding campaign serves as proof of concept, reducing the perceived risk and making the venture more attractive to subsequent investors.

3. Community Engagement

Crowdfunding is not just a transactional exchange; it’s an opportunity to build a community around a product or a brand. Backers of crowdfunding campaigns are often individuals who believe strongly in the product or the mission of the company. They are not just passive investors but can become brand ambassadors, providing word-of-mouth marketing and positive reviews.

This community engagement can be invaluable for a startup or a new product. It helps create a base of loyal customers even before the product has officially launched. Moreover, the community often provides valuable feedback, helping entrepreneurs make improvements and adjustments to better meet the needs and expectations of their target audience.

4. PR and Marketing

A successful crowdfunding campaign can generate considerable media attention. This publicity can attract more backers, increasing the amount of capital raised. Even after the campaign ends, the buzz created can continue to benefit the business by attracting new customers and possibly even traditional investors.

Moreover, because crowdfunding platforms are online, campaigns can go “viral,” quickly reaching a large number of people. This wide exposure can significantly increase brand visibility, making it an effective marketing tool.

5. Retain Full Control

Unlike traditional funding sources, certain types of crowdfunding (like reward-based and donation-based) don’t require entrepreneurs to give up any equity in their company. This means they can maintain complete control over their business, which may not be the case with venture capital or other types of equity financing. The entrepreneur can make decisions without needing to consult with or seek approval from investors. They can stay true to their vision and retain the freedom to run the business as they see fit.

Woman holding crowdfunding cash for her small business startup
Photo: Unsplash

An Overview of Different Types of Crowdfunding

There are primarily four types of crowdfunding. Each comes with its own set of rules, target audience, and purpose. Let’s take a detailed look at each of these:

1. Donation-Based Crowdfunding

As the name suggests, in donation-based crowdfunding, individuals donate to causes, projects, or businesses without expecting a return. It’s largely used for social, charitable, or community causes or personal needs such as medical expenses, educational costs, or disaster relief. On platforms such as GoFundMe or JustGiving, donors contribute simply because they believe in the cause.

2. Reward-Based Crowdfunding

Reward-based crowdfunding is popular among creative projects, new product launches, or artistic endeavors. Backers contribute funds in exchange for a reward, which is often the product being launched or other perks related to the project. The incentive to invest is the reward, which can range from the finished product, recognition in the product credits, to a unique experience related to the project. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are well-known platforms for this type of crowdfunding.

3. Equity-Based Crowdfunding

In equity-based crowdfunding, backers (investors) receive a stake in the company or project in exchange for their investment. This means backers become part-owners and stand to gain if the company does well, potentially earning dividends or seeing a profit upon selling their shares. However, it also means they share the risk, and if the venture does not succeed, they can lose their investment. Platforms like SeedInvest and CircleUp cater to this type of crowdfunding.

4. Debt-Based Crowdfunding

Also known as peer-to-peer lending, in debt-based crowdfunding, backers lend money to individuals or companies in return for interest payments in addition to repayment of the principal amount. It provides an alternative to traditional bank loans and can be more accessible for businesses or individuals who might struggle to secure traditional loans. LendingClub and Prosper are popular platforms for this type of crowdfunding.

Top Crowdfunding Platforms

1. Kickstarter

Kickstarter is one of the most widely recognized crowdfunding platforms globally, primarily known for facilitating funding for creative projects. Since its inception in 2009, it has grown to become a dominant platform in the reward-based crowdfunding space.

Kickstarter operates under an “all-or-nothing” funding policy, meaning that if a project does not meet its predetermined funding goal within a set timeline, the project creator will not receive any funds, and the backers are not charged. This model creates a sense of urgency and can incentivize backers to spread the word about the campaign to help it reach its goal.

Project creators on Kickstarter retain full ownership and control over their work, and backers are rewarded with unique benefits based on the amount of their pledge. The rewards often include a version of the product or unique experiences related to the project.

Kickstarter’s main categories include arts, comics, crafts, dance, design, fashion, film & video, food, games, journalism, music, photography, publishing, technology, and theater.


  • Wide Reach: Kickstarter has millions of backers worldwide, providing a large potential audience for campaigns.
  • No Equity Sacrifice: Unlike equity crowdfunding, Kickstarter creators do not give up any ownership stake in their project or business.
  • Strong Community: Kickstarter has a community of dedicated backers who are keen to support new ideas.


  • All-or-Nothing Funding: If a project does not reach its funding goal, the project creator receives no funding.
  • Fees: Kickstarter charges a 5% fee on the total amount of funds raised, and additional payment processing fees apply.
  • Product and Reward Fulfillment: The onus is on the project creator to deliver on their promises to backers, which can pose significant logistical challenges.

Kickstarter has helped fund high-profile projects such as the Pebble smartwatch, the “Veronica Mars” movie, and the “Reading Rainbow” education initiative. Its platform has proven to be a game-changer in the world of crowdfunding, allowing creators to directly connect with backers and bypass traditional funding methods.

2. Indiegogo

Indiegogo is a globally recognized crowdfunding platform known for its flexible funding options and its support for a wide variety of projects. Since its launch in 2008, Indiegogo has facilitated the funding of entrepreneurial, creative, and cause-related projects, helping people bring their ideas to life.

Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo offers creators the choice between flexible and fixed funding. In flexible funding, even if the project doesn’t reach its set goal, the project creator can still receive the funds raised. With fixed funding, it operates like Kickstarter’s model – if the goal is not met, funds are returned to backers.

The platform is open to almost every type of campaign, including innovations in tech and design, community projects, and creative works in film, literature, and music. They have also introduced an equity crowdfunding option, allowing backers to become investors in startups.


  • Flexible Funding Option: Indiegogo allows creators to keep the funds raised even if the campaign does not meet its goal.
  • Diverse Campaign Categories: Indiegogo accommodates a wide range of projects, including tech innovations, creative works, community projects, and personal causes.
  • Pre-Launch Page: Indiegogo lets you create a pre-launch page to gather interest and build an email list before the campaign goes live.


  • Fees: Even if you don’t reach your goal and opt for the flexible funding option, you’ll still have to pay a 9% fee. If you meet your goal, the fee is 5%, comparable to other platforms.
  • Less Traffic: Compared to Kickstarter, Indiegogo tends to generate less organic traffic, which can mean fewer potential backers discover your project.
  • Responsibility for Fulfillment: Like other platforms, it’s up to you to fulfill promises made to backers. Delays and failures can lead to backers’ disappointment and damage your reputation.

Indiegogo is a versatile platform suitable for a wide array of projects. It’s an excellent choice for entrepreneurs and creators who prefer a more flexible approach to crowdfunding, or who want to cater to a broad audience, including offering equity investment opportunities.

3. GoFundMe

GoFundMe is a global platform for personal crowdfunding, where people can raise funds for life events such as medical expenses, educational pursuits, or volunteering efforts. It’s also widely used to collect donations for community projects and charitable causes.

Launched in 2010, GoFundMe has grown into one of the most popular platforms for donation-based crowdfunding. Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, GoFundMe campaigns are not typically related to business startups or product development.


  • Ease of Use: Setting up a GoFundMe campaign is straightforward and user-friendly. You can start raising funds within a few minutes of creating a campaign.
  • No Deadline: There’s no time limit on your campaign. You can keep raising funds for as long as you need.
  • Emergency Friendly: GoFundMe is an effective platform for urgent needs, such as medical emergencies or disaster relief.


  • Fees: While GoFundMe doesn’t charge a platform fee, there’s a standard transaction fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 per donation to cover payment processing.
  • Limited to Personal Causes: GoFundMe is primarily designed for personal fundraising rather than business or creative projects.
  • Limited Rewards: Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, GoFundMe doesn’t offer a straightforward system for offering rewards to donors.

On GoFundMe, the emphasis is on sharing personal stories and connecting with the donor community on an emotional level. It’s an excellent platform for individuals and communities to raise funds for causes that matter to them. However, it’s less suitable for startups or entrepreneurs looking to finance a new product or business venture.

4. SeedInvest

SeedInvest is an equity crowdfunding platform, which means that backers, or investors, receive equity in a company in exchange for their investment. This platform has been operational since 2012, providing startups with access to capital from individual investors.

SeedInvest focuses on high-quality, high-growth companies and uses a rigorous screening process to select the startups that can launch on their platform. This makes it different from many other crowdfunding platforms, which allow most businesses to start a campaign.


  • Rigorous Vetting Process: SeedInvest screens each startup before it is listed on the platform. This thorough vetting process increases investor confidence and ensures high-quality investment opportunities.
  • Supports a Range of Business Stages: SeedInvest supports businesses at various stages, from seed stage to Series C. This allows the platform to cater to a broad range of investors and businesses.


  • Fees: SeedInvest charges a 7.5% placement fee on the total amount raised in a successful campaign. In addition, there are other potential fees, such as a $0 to $10,000 due diligence fee if the campaign is successful, and an escrow fee.
  • Strict Selection Process: SeedInvest’s rigorous vetting process means it only accepts a small percentage of businesses that apply. This can make it tough for startups to get onto the platform.
  • Regulatory Requirements: Due to the nature of equity crowdfunding, startups must navigate complex regulations and securities laws, which can be daunting for new entrepreneurs.

SeedInvest has positioned itself as a platform for quality over quantity, selecting only a fraction of the startups that apply to ensure they meet its high standards. This approach offers a level of assurance to investors, but it also means the platform might not be a fit for all startups, especially those in the very early stages.

5. Patreon

Patreon is a membership platform that allows creators to earn a sustainable income by offering exclusive rewards and perks to their subscribers, or “patrons”. Launched in 2013, Patreon is particularly popular with creators of ongoing content such as webcomics, podcasts, YouTube videos, and music.

Patreon operates on a subscription model. Patrons pay a recurring amount (usually monthly) to access exclusive content or experiences from the creator. It provides creators with a steady and predictable income source, enabling them to focus more on content creation and less on fundraising.


  • Steady Revenue Stream: Patreon’s subscription model allows creators to have a steady, predictable income stream, which is often not possible with one-off crowdfunding campaigns.
  • Strong Creator-Patron Interaction: Patreon provides tools to build a strong community and communicate directly with patrons, facilitating a deeper connection with supporters.
  • Flexible Rewards: Creators can offer a variety of rewards at different subscription levels, providing flexibility and opportunities for creative engagement.


  • Not Ideal for One-Time Projects: Patreon suits creators who release content regularly. It’s not ideal for one-time projects or startups that require a large amount of capital upfront.
  • Fees: Patreon charges a commission that ranges from 5% to 12%, depending on the plan chosen by the creator. This fee is in addition to payment processing fees.
  • Community Management: Building and maintaining a community of patrons requires significant effort and ongoing engagement from the creator.

Patreon has revolutionized the way creators monetize their content by allowing them to build a direct relationship with their audience and receive regular support. It’s a great platform for creators with a devoted fanbase and regular content, but less suited for entrepreneurs or creators with one-off projects or products.


Crowdfunding has democratized access to capital, offering an inclusive way for startups to raise funds while validating their business ideas. Its benefits extend beyond mere fundraising, including invaluable market validation, customer engagement, and broad brand exposure.

By understanding the different types of crowdfunding and selecting the right platform, entrepreneurs can craft compelling campaigns and leverage crowdfunding to convert their business vision into a reality. The journey of entrepreneurship is challenging, but with the right tools and strategies, it can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience.

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