2016 Year in Review: Crowdfunding

In 2016, crowdfunding continued to be a variable option for entrepreneurs turning to the masses for funds to start or grow their business. After taking an in-depth look at crowdfunding in 2015, the story remained much the same in 2016 – only about a quarter of the featured campaigns hit their goal.

Deciding what constitutes a business-based campaign to be included in the roundup is a tricky task – and one that’s evolved along the way. Fewer campaigns were featured in 2016, even as the crowdfunding field became increasingly crowded. Campaigns represent quality over quantity. Starting in April, we vetted inclusions down to a more curated list based on factors like well-thought out campaigns with ample information, a website or presence outside of the crowdfunding platform, or established presence in the Columbus business community.

Looking at the lineup for 2016, there are several familiar names on the list, representing businesses that launched during the year or are coming soon – some with and some without the help of crowdfunding. While funders were selective with their dollars, the campaigns that hit the mark represent enterprises that are gaining traction in the business community, spanning location-based businesses to product-based businesses.

Theft resistant, slash-proof bag Flack Sack emerged as the big winner for the year, grossing just over $2.3 million on a Kickstarter-Indiegogo double team. Those dollars come at the support of over 7,500 backers – some of whom are still waiting on their bags after a late-May campaign roundup. Updates on the Indiegogo page indicate supply chain issues that can plague campaigns that go exceedingly above expectations, with another note indicating bags made overseas are available for public purchase.

Also on the product side, a successful $25,000 campaign earlier in the year for buy-one, give-one tampon subscription service Aunt Flow translated into a late-October launch and honor as the Best Startup of 2016. Columbus-based bicycle shop roll: used $50,000 from crowdfunding to expand from selling other brands’ bikes to their own, introducing a universal frame that can be outfitted for sport, city or adventure riding. Warrior Wear launched the equivalent of the ubiquitous women’s yoga pant with yoga shorts for men and just over $6,5000 from Kickstarter. After an unsuccessful first run in 2015, iPad speaker case Amp got the $17,000 plus it needed to move forward.

Four businesses opened or maintained physical locations through the help of crowdfunding. In Clintonville, cat cafe Eat Purr Love earned $9,359 of pledges, and Tabletop Game Cafe, $10,315. Comedy lovers and supporters also propelled the opening of Downtown improv theater The Nest with $10,000. Over $5,000 of support went to funding Capital City Youth Strength’s program that provides free or reduced-cost strength and conditioning classes to youth

From farms to food trucks, food-based businesses and breweries that opted for crowdfunding in 2016 did not see the success of 2015. There were two bright spots – Blank Slate rounded up the funds to help with a major equipment purchase before launch, and BBQ joint Smoked On High pledged $14,000 for a new restaurant. In good news for Columbus palates, a failed crowdfunding campaign didn’t keep some eats behind. Barroluco brought its Argentine flavors, Café Phenix is keeping Gay Street caffeinated and Tupelo Doughnuts will soon have a permanent home. Olde Towne East’s J Hot Fish did have to close its doors after failing to raise adequate funds, but on their GoFundMe page, pledges to open in a new location in 2017. 

There were a number of apps and product-based campaigns that didn’t make the cut. But looking at many of those that were successful, one thing was common: a well-thought out campaign that provided adequate information. As experienced crowdfunders stressed last year, crowdfunding can be a full-time job. Build it and they will come is all but a myth, but when done right, crowdfunding can provide the boost a business needs from supporters.

Watch a CMC forum discussing the ins and outs of crowdfunding.