• Jyoti Pande

How Wishberry, a crowdfunding platform, has positioned itself at the intersection of creativity & co

9 Nov, 2014, 0300 hrs IST By: Jyoti Pande Lavakare They sell you dreams. Your own dreams, actually. And then they help you fund those dreams, to make them a reality. Wishberry, a crowdfunding platform cofounded by two high- energy, articulate and intelligent entrepreneurs, is an unashamed knock off of an existing, successful idea that international platforms such as Indiegogo (founded in 2008), Kickstarter (2009), Pozible (2010) and others captured early. Many similar Indian funding platforms have spawned from the originals — including Wishberry in its current avatar (2012).

But what makes Wishberry stand out from others is not just its focus on the creative spaces (Australian crowdfunder Pozible has a similar model) but how its co founders — Anshulika Dubey and Priyanka Agarwal — have tweaked the international Do It Yourself (DIY) model to fit into the Indian ethos of handholding and tutoring. "Wishberry is a risk- free way to bring creative, innovative ideas to life," says Agarwal, freshly energized from having raised funds from around 40 investors in the past three weeks. It was only after many iterations from a crowdgifting site around weddings to a charitable crowdfunder of marathons that Wishberry finally found its identity. The fact that it was agile enough to reinvent itself again and again until it found its niche is the reason why it hasn't ended up disappearing into the abyss of Internet history, the fate of many similar sites. "Wishberry will democratize funding for every Indian youth yearning to follow his or her dreams," Agarwal said. Rescuing Creativity Wishberry's own dream — to attract more money from investors to scale up the venture — came true last week when it closed on its desired amount of Rs 4 crore in exchange for 27% of its equity. Of this, around Rs 3 crore came from well -known investors such as Rajan Anandan, Sharad Sharma, TV Mohandas Pai and Deep Kalra on LetsVenture, a curated, online deal-making platform, and Rs 1 crore from seven investors in a dramatic, reality-television -type event called "TiE the Knot" on October 17 at TiEcon 2014, a conference organized by The Indus Entrepreneurs. Of course, it wasn't as easy to 'TiE the Knot' as it sounds. Before committing to any funds, grizzled, greying heads grilled the ex-McKinsey duo about their revenue model, existing projects, regulatory risks, valuation, market size, competition, entry barriers, exit plan, risks and rewards and other financial indicators. Agarwal and Dubey answered effortlessly and confidently, throwing out comparative data, financial numbers, startling statistics, attention-grabbing ploys (screw it, lets do it) and saucy taglines (go fund yourself!) with equal ease. Their idealistic claim? "Rescuing Indian creativity since 2012," on their website pitch video. "Our coaches help project creators pitch their ideas to online communities in exchange for exclusive rewards and recognition — there is no charity or financial returns involved," Dubey said at TiEcon. Wishberry charges a fee (less than 10% of amount raised) for providing its platform, coaching and other help. "Funders turn into early adopters, mentors and partners, thereby validating the idea and facilitating growth," she added. This focus on training creators on communication, social marketing and stringent project curation has resulted in a 75% funding success rate, which is three times the industry average. Locally, Wishberry has mobilized Rs 3.75 crore, more than 10 times its largest competitor, from a community of 8,500 funders, 8% of whom have funded more than once on Wishberry, the founders say. Even Indiegogo has mobilized less than Rs 1 crore in creative projects coming out of India with success rates of less than 10%, said Agarwal, a bachelor in business & engineering from UPenn (University of Pennsylvania). The idea of a startup functioning at the intersection of idealism and commerce is especially attractive to the millennial generation, which is known to do -good -while- doing- well. And what Wishberry does is access the inner dreamer and idealist resident in all of us and sell that dream back to us. Platforms like Wishberry not just greenlight innovative projects that would likely have withered without the oxygen of monetary validation, they also give ordinary people the permission to participate in an extraordinary journey, whether their own or someone else's, making creative dreams possible. India's crowdfunding platform space is itself crowded — from IgniteIntent to Start51, Catapooolt, Fundapeer, Fundlined, Pik A Venture, Pitchhike, Make it Now, the list of idealist mercenaries who believe in the ability of people to turn ideas into reality and want to empower them to do so is unending. Making Dreams a Reality But of all similar online crowdfunding platforms, I found the Wishberry model closest to Pozible. The Australian platform is developed for artists, musicians, filmmakers, journalists, designers, entrepreneurs, inventors, event organisers, software developers and all creative- minded people "to help you make great things possible". Agarwal admits that Pozible also offers some help to its creative community, like Wishberry does. "But we are able to help our creators much more than them (Pozible). Everything from labour to services is cheaper in India, so we can afford to give more help for the same price," she said. For example, Wishberry has aggregated a prenegotiated, economical student videomakers community which can help make "pitch videos" for those looking to fund their projects on their platform and is currently looking for content writers. "This also helps build a marketplace of affiliated services," she added. With project sizes in the creative spaces much smaller, risks are more palatable and success rates tend to be higher, she says. "We can cultivate funding behaviour in the creative space by curating projects for our funders," Agarwal said, adding that Wishberry's traction and success rates are their biggest assets today. And once they are able to dominate the urban, English- speaking market, they're looking to go regional "in a big way," she said. Wishberry is betting on unlocking creativity in a population of over a billion, not necessarily helping people make money. As Dubey's visiting card says, "It's not about the money, honey!" (The writer is an independent columnist and writer)

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