Then Kickstarter and Indiegogo entered the fray, gained momentum and have now helped numerous entrepreneurs raise millions of dollars in financing and attracts attention from prominent firms and individuals (Union Square Ventures and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for Kickstarter and Metamorphic Ventures, ff Venture Capital, MHS Capital, Insight Ventures and Khosla Ventures for Indiegogo).
Now, a multitude of crowdfunding portals have popped up, hoping to cash in on a space formerly derided. Some are equity-based, while others like FundAnything.com, launched last May by serial entrepreneur Bill Zanker, offer populist investors rewards in exchange for donations.
Yet what separates this nascent platform from others is its reliance on celebrities to draw in donors among average everyday folks who wouldn’t know a Hollywood high-roller from a cashier at Home Depot.
For instance, comedian Adam Carolla recently raised $1 million in 32 days on the site for a film project. The donations were collected in piecemeal fashion from 13,721 backers.
“And now the little Joe Shmo can [invest in a project advertised on the site] and be a producer for a movie where before he never could,” said Zanker, founder of the Learning Annex, the adult education company. Zanker said that he first became interested in crowdfunding while working on several fundraising campaigns for PBS with Learning Annex.
In addition to Carolla, Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame is in the process of launching a million dollar campaign for a horror film project. And, a rock star, whose name Zanker declined to divulge, preferring to wait until the celebrity reveals the details publicly, will also be participating on the site shortly.
(Update: After this story was published, FundAnything contacted VCJ to report that Jillette was close to raising $1 million via the crowdfunding campaign and that actor John Ratzenberger,who played Cliff Clavin on “Cheers,” has launched a similar effort on the site to raise financing for a TV series called “John Ratzenberger’s American Made.” In addition, comedian Jon Lovitz is set to launch his own funding campaign on Nov. 1.)
“Every vertical will have a celebrity,” Zanker said. (It doesn’t hurt that billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump is one of his partners/backers on the venture.)
Zanker and various partners have provided $1.5 million in Series A funds for the FundAnything platform. He told VCJ that he is also currently in talks with “several VCs” to form a syndicate that will contribute to that round.
“We’re really excited because we’re all about marketing to and celebritizing to bring a message to the people,” he said, as he assessed his FundAnything’s chances of pulling in the VCs.
Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Richard Brian