Two fantastic years of crowdfunding at Ulule
A few weeks ago, one of the European crowdfunding leaders celebrated their two year anniversary. Alexandre Boucherot, co-founder and CEO of Ulule takes us back to the very beginning of this adventure and gives an outlook on 2013.
Launched in 2010 in France and now available in 6 languages, with 1500 projects financed and more than 4 million Euros collected, Ulule is an undisputed leader of participative financing in Europe using a reward-based model.
Their progress illustrates what an intense year it has been for crowdfunding: several projects collected record sums on Kickstarter, the American JOBS act politicized the subject by promoting equity, the sector was restructured around several professional companies, and, altogether, Ulule collected 3 million dollars in 2012, which is double the sum collected in 2011.
With the crowdfunding market growing and beginning to become a real alternative to traditional financing, its market is becoming more populated and diverse. There has been an explosion in the number of platforms (more than 700 in the world, all models included) as well as an increasing specialisation of platforms: Goteo for open-source, Oocto for music, Neighbor.ly for projects in public spaces or even, very soon, Bulb for the financing of small businesses.
In the face of these developments what opportunities are there for the ‘old’ and ‘general’ crowdfunding platforms? Alexandre Boucherot, co-founder and CEO of Ulule gives some insights on the future of his platform in 2013.
Hi Alexandre, happy anniversary! What were some of the big moments in the first two years of Ulule?
Without doubt the biggest moment for us was when we reached the 1000 project mark last June. Today, we receive on average 15 project proposals per day, half of which become fundraising projects on our platform. What characterises us however, is the geographical diversity of our users: we have projects from 36 different countries and our current user base of 100 000 Ululers (contributors) represents no less than 140 different nationalities!
All our indicators combined point towards continuous growth: the average number of contributions, the amount collected per project (currently €3500, opposed to €1000 when we launched) and total volume of all funds collected on the site. At this point, four million Euros have been collected on Ulule, with 30% growth each trimester in 2012.
2012 has been a great year for crowdfunding and for Ulule. Do you think the crisis played a significant role in promoting the growth of the sector?
For me, the success of crowdfunding has to do with three factors coming together: the development of social networks, restricted access to traditional channels of financing and the emergence of new models for an economy of sharing.
The crisis happened at the same time, yes, but it is by no means the main reason for the success of crowdfunding.
What’s more, had the crisis hit France as hard as it did Spain, it would have surely not been a good year for crowdfunding. It would have been a bad year for everyone. In Spain, the Pendulo studio (video gaming) launched a campaign to collect 300,000 Euros, which was very ambitious, but realistic in regard to their fan-base. In the end they didn’t collect more than 50,000 Euros.
What are your plans for developing your platforms this year?
There are three new things that we want to develop: firstly we will be focusing our efforts on crowdfunding via mobile phones, as we think this has huge potential. Then we would like to offer the possibility to give non-financial contributions, which is complicated to implement but something we had in mind from the start. Finally, we are working on offering new tools that will make it easier for project owners to manage their campaigns….but unfortunately I can’t tell you more than that for the moment!
We will also continue to explore the development of platforms that exclusively for specialist players or campaigns limited to a specific geographic region such as the Auvergne region or GamesPlanet Lab. We are also going to expand our ‘1 for 1’ scheme with advertisers (not just any) who would like to support certain campaigns by giving an extra euro for each euro given by an internet user.
What interest do brands have in crowdfunding? Is it simply a matter of communication, or is it a real strategy?
Sometimes companies are simply curious about crowdfunding in general, and sometimes they have a passion for a particular project. For example, one of our advertisers in the energy sector was convinced by a project for a hybrid car that can tow heavy loads- in particular for waste removal. Certain brands also feel the need to re-appropriate the dimensions of a project.
Communication also is an important aspect of crowdfunding for brands: they want to tell a story, associate themselves with a project owner and his adventure.
The ‘1 for 1’ system is also a model project owners like – not just for the financial gain but because the support of traditional organisations is reassuring and validates their project and approach. This also promoted the acceptance of these schemes among internet users, since the support by a major company is seen as a vote of confidence.
We want to take our efforts even further this year than we did in 2012. Last year, interest in crowdfunding was not large enough to capture the attention of brands. We received quite a few phone calls, but to be honest, I wasn’t too convinced. We need to hold out for now till companies understand the concept better and we can work on building specific partnerships.
What has motivated the development of specialised platforms?
Highly specific or local projects allow us to reach a different public, be more influential, and to support the projects better. For the phase that occurs after a successful campaign and especially in terms of product distribution, people who specialise on one area have an expertise that we do not.
In certain domains, such as video gaming, this knowledge is indispensable and it makes sense to associate with a specialised partner such as GamesPlanet, who then co-contract with project owners. We will expand such activities in 2013 with other partners, specifically in the music sector. These partners allow us to concentrate on what we do best, (crowdfunding) and leave other operations to those who have the necessary expertise.
Currently the emergence of many niche platforms or local sites can be observed, as for examples ones for small businesses. At the other end of the spectrum, Kickstarter is the leader of ‘general’ crowdfunding, announcing 2 million in funds collected in the United Kingdom only one month after its arrival in Europe. What is your view on the emergence of these new players?
You are very observant. The aura of Kickstarter is evidently very powerful, but we continue to receive proposals from both English and American projects. This leaves me confident that our services are sufficiently innovative and different.
As far as niche or local platforms goes, I find such models very interesting, but I don’t think they are capable of raising a sufficient volume of funds to be sustainable. But we’ll see!
Thank you Alexandre and good luck!