For the past week, Brian Meece was lecturing at college campuses across the country about the power of crowdfunding. He also took some time to give CrowdCampuses his thoughts on the importance of crowdfunding within higher education.
CrowdCampuses: If you look at the crowdfunding portals today, you have the “catch-all platforms” and the “niche-platforms” that focus on a specific target audience. Are you more of a niche player or more of a catch-all platform?
Brian Meece: We are a very broad and open crowdfunding community. Most fall under one of four categories: arts, science/academic, entrepreneurship/small business, and social good. Virtually every funding campaign falls into one of those four buckets. The DNA of the company is then built around three things: liberating ideas, how crowdfunding builds community, and teaching the world how to use crowdfunding. So we present opportunities to everyone.
CrowdCampuses: Will the JOBS Act & the pending legislation that’s anticipated on the equity-side of the industry change Rockethub’s approach at all, and if so, how will your business model be different a year from now when the regulations are anticipated to be concrete?
Brian Meece: We’ve been working with the JOBS Act for a while, giving feedback on the legislation. We testified in Congress on the power of crowdfunding. We just recently met last week with the White House on crowdfunding. We’re very excited about the JOBS Act and what it can do for entrepreneurs in the United States. We’re always going to keep our product, but the talks that we’re having with the SEC are very favorable and we believe we’ll be able take advantage of it.
CrowdCampuses: If you could speak to students about crowdfunding and the potential that the industry has in its ability to influence their lives, what would the overall value-added proposition be for the average student to encourage him/her to get involved immediately?
Brian Meece: Think of us in 2002 talking about social media and how big it can be, and now in 2012, we’re talking about social funding. The next 10 years will be dominated by social funding the way the last 10 were by social media. Anyone who has an idea that they want to bring to life, they don’t have to rely on traditional funding modules. They can reach out to communities and bypass traditional mechanism to make things happen.
CrowdCampuses: Given the declining rate in which college graduates are able to land a job that is commiserate with their education, do you think educators should begin teaching students about crowdfunding? If so, what can RocketHub offer educators to help them update their curriculum?
Brian Meece: Anyone that’s interested in any entrepreneurial endeavor, either creative or business, needs to know about crowdfunding. It’s becoming a staple in the creative world and will quickly become a staple in the world of entrepreneurship in the next couple of years. What we offer to our users and to folks that show up to our lectures are crowdfunding success patterns based on real data that we have as a platform that has funded millions of dollars of projects. We can show, here’s what you do for success, and here’s what you don’t do. If you follow these patterns you’ll have success and if you don’t you wont. These are thing things that are important to learn.
CrowdCampuses: Colleges are facing tough times now. Increasing tuition costs, reduced availability of grant money, decreasing alumni donor pools, outdated technology, and under-resourced classrooms are among the many hurdles faced by institutions. How can RocketHub help institutions lighten the financial burden?
Brian Meece: One of the most powerful assets colleges have are their alumni and the community they are in. This whole model is really driven by communities and project leaders making things happen in those communities. You want to put together a project that will be exciting in the community and have the community rally around them. You want to have a way of giving back to that community. There will need to be some type of return, either emotional, a good or service, or a financial return, in the dynamic. But the network is there.
CrowdCampuses: Has RocketHub had any successful funding raises to date that are specific to collegian institutions, alumni groups, fraternities/sororities, or other student-groups?
Brian Meece: We’ve had a fair amount. One that pops to mind, there’s a student that raised $25,000 to fund a scholarship. Kids are raising money to go off to school. This is a very high leveraged way of fundraising now. I don’t see bake sales and carwashes going away completely, but we’re seeing a fusion of that with crowdfunding now.
CrowdCampuses: What is your personal vision for integrating crowdfunding into higher education?
Brian Meece: Crowdfunding is a movement, especially for the next five years. The technology is easy. I’ve been lecturing on campuses all this past week. Within the next week, we’ll be launching a new platform on RocketHub that has a new success school and we’ll be building out that educational part further. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t know about all of the traditional modules like venture capitalists or grants. But crowdfunding is highly accessible, so especially for folks that are at the early stages, like college students are, crowdfunding could be a great entry into that space. They need to know it’s a valid option and will gain more popularity and will have wonderful side effects besides just the funding. It’s very important.