We spoke with Ruth Hedges, the woman behind the Global Crowdfunding Conference, to get her take on all things crowdfunding. Tune in to learn more about the history of crowdfunding, how crowdfunding has changed the world, why you should attend the conference and much more!

Key Takeaways

  • The history of equity crowdfunding and how the recent recession played a role in making it legal
  • Who to expect to hear speak at the Global Crowdfunding Convention
  • What types of Kickstarter secrets you’ll pick up at the Global Crowdfunding Convention
  • How crowdfunding has changed over the years
  • BONUS: Use coupon code RH25 to save 25% off tickets to the 5th annual Global Crowdfunding Convention

Links

Connect with Ruth Hedges

Sponsors

FIN 2000X2000Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 25% off!

View this episode's transcript

Roy:

Welcome to Art Of The Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host Roy Morejon, president of Command Partners, the top full service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over $70 million for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.

Art Of The Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more visit thegagdetflow.com. Let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art Of The Kickstart. Today I am honored to be joined by Ruth Hedges. Ruth thank you so much for joining us today.

Ruth:

Thank you Roy for inviting me.

Roy:

Ruth you are the crowdfunding goddess, can I say that I guess?

Ruth:

Sure.

Roy:

You’ve had quite a back story and a back history with crowd funding. We’re coming up on the 5th Annual Global Crowdfunding Convention in wonderful Las Vegas here on October 15th through the 17th. Give our audience the story, where does Ruth Hedges start with crowdfunding? How has it evolved into this convention now?

Ruth:

Sure. First of all thank you so much for inviting me on your show, very excited to be here. I actually got involved in this in 2009 at the height of the recession, when the bank stopped lending, the VCs and angels stopped investing. My clients, who I have some business plan writing software, realized that they couldn’t use this software because nobody was funding anybody. I’m going to give you a very short version of a very long story but essentially I got together with a group of people who we decided we would have to go to congress and get an 80 year old securities law removed that had prevented [inaudible 00:02:11] credit investors in investing in a startup.

It was originally called The Startup Exemption. We spend 17 months getting signatures and going to Washington and meeting with congressmen and senators, bringing in all kinds of other key people like Steve Case and the US Chamber Of Commerce and all kinds of other people who eventually helped us get title III 4(a)(6) passed into law and signed by the president on April 5th 2012. My two business partners were actually at the White House on the lawn, on the lower lawn, during the signing. As soon as the bill was signed my phone rang, it was them saying, “We did it.”

It’s been a very exciting journey. Unfortunately we did not get the bill we wanted, we got a more complicated bill. When I saw that I realized that I was going to have to start educating the public as well as the service providers, because there wasn’t a lawyer or a CPA in this country at that moment who knew anything about this either. We started this convention and here we are in our 5th year. We’re celebrating finally the legalized … The ability to sell these securities, because on May 16th it became a law. The SEC came out with the rules and now anybody can invest in a company that uses this regulation.

Roy:

Yeah, it’s definitely an exciting time in the equity side of the crowdfunding industry. We’re getting into there with a lot more companies and we’re seeing more and more companies getting into that. Let’s talk about the conference a little bit because I’m really excited about it. I’m honored to be speaking at it on a couple different panels there. This will be my 2nd time at the event. What should people expect? What can you tell people about the conference itself?

Ruth:

It is critical, there’s millions of people that are involved in crowdfunding today but a lot of them fail miserably at doing this. It’s a shame because there is, as you know, a way to do this. Now not everyone is going to be successful but obviously you don’t want to go start something and be guaranteed to fail. We focus all on the education. There’s a lot of places you can go and have high level conversations about the theoretical aspects of this. The pros and cons of this and that. We don’t care about that, we really want to focus on getting as many small businesses or entrepreneurs and causes to use crowdfunding. GoFundMe for example has done over $2 billion in non-profit and cause related crowdfunding. Obviously reward-based crowdfunding with Kickstarter, Indiegogo. We have Slava Rubin coming this year who’s the co-founder of Indiegogo. They’ve done over a billion dollars on their platform.

All these types of crowdfunding has really changed the world. Look at Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders crowdfunded his campaign, $220 million. If crowdfunding wasn’t a thing that wouldn’t have been a possibility for him, but because it is a thing he got to [benefit 00:05:17], and he got to be a relevant conversation in this year’s election. We cover reward, donation, equity, we’re the only convention that does that. We go into the guts and the process of how to use this. We’re also trying to inspire and encourage the public to understand they can now be an angel investor, which they were not legally able to do before. What does that really mean? That means that they can start to scour these funding portals and find a deal flow that might interest them and take some of their money and take a risk. It’s risky obviously but it’s still an interesting experience and may eventually benefit them in the long run.

In the short run they’re going to help with job creation, they’re going to help bring certain things to their cities and towns that might never have seen the light of day. It’s a powerful way to get around the gate keepers, the bankers, who have historically decided every single city [main street 00:06:17] in every single city in this country has been decided by a bank, and now we [inaudible 00:06:20]

Roy:

Certainly, certainly. I know you mentioned Slava, he kills it over at Indiegogo. Who are some of the other speakers that you have coming to the event this year?

Ruth:

We have Brian Camelio who is the founder of ArtistShare. Are you familiar with that platform?

Roy:

We are.

Ruth:

Fascinating. He came before Kickstarter, he came before Indiegogo and started giving musicians an opportunity to fund the music they were trying to create by using crowdfunding. 29 of his artists have been nominated for a Grammy and 10 of them have won Grammy awards. Thinking about that, it’s like that [piece of 00:07:07] music would never have existed potentially if it wasn’t for crowdfunding and their brilliant music has now won Grammy awards. We’re excited about that.

We have Derek Fetzer who runs CaringCrowd, it’s a Johnson & Johnson platform for public health causes. It’s for non-profit organizations. Johnson & Johnson doesn’t charge a single dime for those non-profits to use their platform. We’re very excited to hear Derek speak. Then we have Jilliene Helman coming. She came and spoke in 2013, she was completely unknown at the time, she was on a panel. Now she has a platform that’s done over $200 million in real estate crowdfunding. She has over 80,000 investors registered on her platform. We’re very excited about that. Then we have some companies that have used crowdfunding like, were superstars, were rock stars, like exploding kittens and they raised over $8 million for a card game, just amazing.

Roy:

Yeah they’ve done pretty crazy in terms of how they’ve capitalized on the crowd that they built. You certainly got all of the all-stars there, the who’s who of crowdfunding whether it be the reward side or the equity side. It’s certainly going to be a very informative conference. What are some of the other things that attendees should be expecting in terms of takeaways from the event?

Ruth:

We go into the detail. We’re going to go into social media marketing and marketing automation and PR and those kind of things. We’re not just going to say, “You need to get some press,” we’re going to talk about how to actually do that. We’re not going to talk about how import … We’re going go through a lot of the steps of the most important things to do. I was called the other day by a women who, she’s actually coming to attend. We’ve got 45 little mini startup booths where people can if they’re already running a crowdfunding campaign they can crowdfund live from their little mini booth. If they want to showcase an offering that is coming up in the future they can get a larger audience by having a little mini booth. This woman is actually on Indiegogo right now and she said, “Would you do me a huge favor and take a quick look at my campaign?” You’re not going to believe this but she didn’t have a video, which is the biggest [crosstalk 00:09:30]

Roy:

The cardinal sin.

Ruth:

Exactly. Then of course she didn’t do the 20% to 30% up front, which is the other one that most people forget. I try to explain to people that if you’ve got 300 people to give you a dollar you’d be like Kickstarter’s best friend, or Indiegogo. They would start to elevate your campaign and push it up and get it more attention. You’d get the attention of the public who don’t know who you are at all. There’s lots of these little tricks that people don’t know about, and obviously the worst that you could do is to invite the public who don’t know you to a campaign and have it be empty and no money there, because they’re going to wonder, “Doesn’t your mother love you?” Nobody in the whole world thinks enough about your talent or your product to give you a dollar? You know what I’m saying?

Roy:

Right.

Ruth:

It’s a terrible thing to start a campaign on the first day and then obviously to be there weeks later and still have nothing there or $20 or $50.

Roy:

Nobody wants to be the first one on the dance floor, right?

Ruth:

Exactly, exactly. They have to understand, those are just one of hundreds of tips and secrets and all kinds of things that we’re going to share and our speakers are going to share who have been immersed. We have a group of people just on the marketing side that have helped companies raise of $100 million. Not to mention the people who actually crowdfunded themselves millions of dollars.

Roy:

Absolutely. Yeah, our agency alone is about to cross the $100 million on its own.

Ruth:

Then I take that back, we have over $200 million [crosstalk 00:11:10]

Roy:

Absolutely. Ruth, in the conference, this being its 5th year, what has changed in the conference in terms of not only just the attendees and the education level, but in terms of the conference itself? How has it evolved over the last 5 years?

Ruth:

Obviously the industry was $1.7 billion when we did our first convention and it’s going to exceed $60 billion this year. Which is more than venture capital funding. That’s a game changer that people really have to understand. The real estate industry [hasn’t 00:11:48] blown up since we did our first convention in crowdfunding. Like I said GoFundMe was really not much of anything 5 years ago and look at it today, they’ve done over $2 billion. I think there is something for everyone here, no matter what kind of industry they’re involved in, whether they’re in the regulatory side, whether they’re in for non-profit organizations to come and really understand how powerful crowdfunding could be for their fund raising. Students, we have a ton of students coming. We have a big partnership with UNLV with a program called Doing What Matters. They have 113 community colleges in the state of California, obviously full of entrepreneurs. Now those entrepreneurs can instead of leaving their ideas in a tech transfer office and never seeing get funded, they can bring title III crowdfunding to the school and the alumni can own a piece of the kid’s company. The school and everybody wins.

Roy:

Yeah, it’s very interesting. What’s one of the most interesting trends that you’ve seen because you’ve been at crowdfunding at the forefront over the last 5 to 8 years? What’s been the most interesting trend?

Ruth:

I’m fascinated that music is actually the number one crowdfunded thing, I thought it was technology for a long time but I’ve been reading, obviously I keep up with all this stuff. Fashion and people self publishing their books and food products, the list goes on, the kinds of things that people crowdfund is fascinating to me. I really we got more involved in crowdfunding on a public level. Meaning, there was an article years ago about a town that crowdfunded the potholes in their city. I think we have a lot of issues, like we need more assisted living facilities, more nursing homes. There are lots of things we could be crowdfunding, and we have the money, there’s trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines by 350 million Americans. It’s not a money issue it’s just awareness, education and getting everyone together, and understanding, coming together and having a meeting of the mind, what is necessary in your city and town.

Roy:

Absolutely. This gets us into our launch round, where I rapid fire a few questions at you Ruth. Are you ready to go?

Ruth:

Oh my God. No.

Roy:

We’ll be easy on you. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur or get involved with crowdfunding

Ruth:

I’ve been self employed since I was 14. I’m considerably older than that now. I understand the struggles that entrepreneurs have in raising capital. It’s terrible. We’ve lost so much innovation, probably a cure for cancer and God knows what else, because of a very dysfunctional funding system where people are encouraged to go after venture capital when nobody gets venture capital. Nobody gets it, it’s like a half a percent of anybody ever gets venture capital, but somehow that’s the big thing we’re all supposed to strive for. It’s caused a lot of harm to a lot of great entrepreneurs. Now we can change that with crowdfunding.

Roy:

Absolutely. If you could have any entrepreneur come to the event in a couple of weeks, who would it be?

Ruth:

I would love Mark Cuban to come.

Roy:

What would be your first question for Cuban?

Ruth:

My first question for him is, what did it feel like in 1999 to sell an internet company for however many billion dollars he did? I think it was broadband.com.

Roy:

Yeah.

Ruth:

He sold several billion dollars, yeah.

Roy:

Pretty crazy story there, absolutely. Who did you look up to when you were growing up?

Ruth:

My entire family was entrepreneurs. My great-grandfather came over from Ellis Island and started a little wallpaper hanging company. He hung wallpaper and he taught his son that. My grandfather, who only has an 8th grade education when they all came over from Russia, he turned that into a wallpaper … He realized that hanging wallpaper he was never going to get rich, the money was made as being a distributor. Somehow he was able to put together a little distribution company and grew it 45 years later to the second largest wallpaper distribution company in the country at the time. My parents worked there, they grew the company and everybody in my family at that time worked. I was always around people self employed and entrepreneurs.

Roy:

That’s great. What book’s on your nightstand right now?

Ruth:

Nothing, because I’m so busy putting this convention together.

Roy:

Fair enough [crosstalk 00:16:51] My final question in the launch round, you’ve been doing fine, what does the future of crowdfunding look like to Ruth Hedges?

Ruth:

My objective is to get crowdfunding into the DNA or everybody, the same way that nobody prompts you to open your phone and check your email every day, nobody prompts you to check your Facebook page. It’s in your DNA already, it’s just there. Somehow you do it, right? Nobody’s telling you to do this. I want people to have the same sense of inspiration to check on their favorite funding portal or funding platform, crowdfunding website or a combination of several of these platforms, every day to see what kind of deals are out there, see what kind of products are being crowdfunded, see what kind of causes need their funding, and do it automatically. When we get to that day, which is not that far off because look what happened with social media.

If you look at Myspace or you look at Friendster 10 years, 8, 9 years ago, and you said to somebody, “Are you using that for social media marketing?” They would say, “What’s social media marketing?” But today when you talk about social media marketing everybody knows it’s Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and Twitter and yaddi yaddi yadda. When you mention crowdfunding people still don’t have the ability to connect it to the platforms, because they’re not living on those platforms the way they live on social media. It’s our job to get them there. Eventually that will become part of their DNA and then we will a changed world because we’ll be able to fund so many things that we desperately need.

Roy:

Absolutely. I know you’re doing a lot of education obviously with the conference and everything else you’re doing there on the education forefront. Obviously we’re trying to help with Art Of The Kickstart in educating people on what crowdfunding is and how to do it right. Ruth I really appreciate [crosstalk 00:18:48] absolutely.

Ruth:

I’m sorry, let me just say one other thing.

Roy:

Sure.

Ruth:

We also launched a product called crowdfundingcrm.com, which is a planning tool and marketing automation, social media platform to help people prepare and get ready for a crowdfunding campaign and then also to build a crowd along the way.

Roy:

Ruth I appreciate it. Please give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go to sign up and why they should go check out the conference.

Ruth:

Yes. Please go to thegccworld.com, it’s the 5th annual Global Crowdfunding Convention. If you put in RH25 you’ll get 25% off coupon code and save on the tickets. There’s only a little less than 2 and a half weeks left so please go do it now because this is an amazing conference and you’ll meet Roy and me and a whole bunch of other people. We have over 60 speakers. Just have a blast. We have some fun cocktail parties. We’re doing a crowdfunding award show and giving out awards. We have an after red carpet and an after party in the London Club. It’s a really fun convention. Kendall is doing, Who Wants To Raise A Million Dollars, the game show. It’s kind of like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and we’re going to have cash and prizes for that as well.

Roy:

Absolutely. It’s definitely going to be a fun time and heck, it’s in Vegas so how can you not have fun, right Ruth?

Ruth:

Exactly.

Roy:

Awesome. Ruth you’ve been great. Thank you everyone for tuning in. Make sure to visit Art Of The Kickstart for all the show notes, a full transcript, links to the conference and everything we talked about today. Ruth thank you again so much for being on our show.

Ruth:

Thank you Roy for inviting me. See you in a few weeks.

Roy:

Absolutely, looking forward to it.

Thanks for tuning into another episode of Art Of The Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode be sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episode and our Kickstarter guide to crushing it. If you loved this episode leave us a review at artkick.wpengine.com/itunes, it helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding strategy please feel free to request a quote on commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, we’ll see you soon.