Intrigued, we caught up with Derek himself to find out more about his funding platform, crowdfunding more generally and what, in his opinion, makes someone a Self Starter in the first place!
Derek, first up, congrats on being our first Self Starter of the Week awardee for 2015. In your opinion, what characteristics do you need to have to be a Self Starter?
Thanks! Judging from the other "self starters" I've met, the main thing is to believe in your project - because if you don't, how can you convince anyone else to?
Self starters don't ask for permission, they go ahead and try something. I like Howard Stevenson's definition: "Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled." We might not have the time or money to do something properly, but we'll have a go anyway!
Being good at networking and self-promotion helps. I used to hate that kind of thing, but I'm getting better.
Tell us all about your venture, Fundsurfer?
Fundsurfer is a funding platform for creative, social and green projects. Our most popular product is reward and donation crowdfunding, but we also have other funding options like startup loans and P2P loans. Oh and the url is https://www.fundsurfer.com :)
We've funded books, films and music projects. We've helped cool and quirky businesses like 20th Century Flicks (the last video shop in the UK?) and Bearritos (a double decker bus turned into a Mexican street food cafe) raise money. And in the run up to the general elections this year the Green party ran a lot of crowdfunding campaigns on Fundsurfer.
We started off in 2014 as a reward and donation crowdfunding site. We both saw a lot of potential for crowdfunding in the UK, especially as the biggest platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are American. I'd been interested in crowdfunding for a while, and my co-founder Olly had just successfully raised money for a short film, so the time was right!
We only offered "all or nothing" crowdfunding to start with, but this didn't feel right for some of our customers (e.g. social and community projects), who could make use of whatever money was pledged. So we widened our scope by offering "take what you raise" funding too, and this has proved very popular.
Crowdfunding as a finance option seems to continuing to grow momentum - why do you think this is?
It's fantastic because it is democratising access to money. Before, you had to go to a bank or to investors. Now you can raise money with just a good idea and some online marketing skills. And it can be a lot cheaper than 'traditional' money.
I think the current crowdfunding revolution is as important as when sites like Ebay let people buy and sell things online for the first time. It certainly helps that people are pretty relaxed about spending money online now, and social platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it really easy to share and find interesting projects.
The other great thing about crowdfunding - apart from getting all that money! - is that you are running a really focused marketing campaign. So as long as you put the effort in to promote your project, you can get massive benefits.
You seem to cover loads of different funding options on Fundsurfer however, why is that?
We realised early on that people need different kinds of funding, and rather than having to go to different sites and platforms, why not have one place you could access it all? Wherever you are in your business' journey, we want to be able to help you get funding, and if you need it, support to get ready for funding.
For example, are you just starting out? Then team up reward and donation crowdfunding and a startup loan. Getting bigger? Do an equity crowdfund. Need money for growth? Get a crowdfunded loan. And you don't need to go near a bank for any of these!
You are based in Bristol, give us a flavour of the Entrepreneurial scene where you live.
It's brilliant. I'm from a tech background, so that's all I really keep tabs on, but there are so many hubs, meetups, networking groups and events for creatives and entrepreneurs that there are always interesting people to meet and new things to learn.
I think Bristol's background in engineering must have a lot to do with it. There's a lot of fuss made about Brunel and history - but what excites me now are games, robots, 3d printed bikes and crazy space tech!
Since Startacus is all about the Self Start Society and supporting each other - what one piece of advice would you pass on to an entrepreneur (of self starter in our case) who seems to be at the stage of giving up on their business venture?
That's a tricky one. What's causing them to feel like they should give up? Have they run out of money, time, or energy?
I'd recommend going to a local business support organisation for advice. And if they don't already have one, then think about getting a co-founder: someone you can bounce ideas off, talk to when things are tough, and celebrate the wins.
I've done quite a few projects solo, and it can be a bit stressful and lonely at times. My co-founder at Fundsurfer Olly is fantastic, I couldn't have stuck it out without him!