Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and their ilk are all the rage if you’ve got a product startup and are looking to raise funds and presale your wares. These crowdfunding platforms were purpose built for entrepreneurs to try out new ideas and gauge interest. What they weren’t designed for is helping large, established businesses decide which products to produce. Crowdfunding has a large anti-authoritarian streak in it and corporations have yet been able to turn this around on a repeated basis.
Instead, multinational firms have begun flipping the crowdfunding idea and bringing its principles internally. Welcome to the word of enterprise crowdfunding. Basically, firms take the assortment of new products/services that are currently under consideration and let employees of the firm “fund” whichever idea they like best. Also, the new products do not necessarily only come from the top. Employees can put forward their own ideas and bring them to the attention of their peers. The “all-or-nothing” nature of Kickstarter remains, meaning new ideas must reach a critical mass of “funding” before getting the greenlight.
Successfully implemented, this goes beyond simple employee voting on ideas and extends to idea generation, employee involvement, and even demand sensing. This piece on IBM’s enterprise crowdfunding from VentureBeat showcases how one company has utilized this concept, and there are more companies joining these ranks every year. From the article, it would appear that IBM has not captured the full benefit of this approach, as most employees “funded” ideas they had some connection with, but the firm saw benefit from the experiment regardless.
Crowdfunding is simply a tool for discovering demand and rallying an audience. Both startups and large firms benefit (obviously) from this, but in very different ways. Enterprise crowdfunding could be a good fit for your company. Rolling out a program like this can have many opportunities for misstep, but when the core principles shine through and an adept team trained in crowdfunding takes the lead, the opportunities for breakthroughs are enormous.
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