The internet has destroyed many of the business models that once supported artists. But it has also given rise to new support mechanisms – and crowdfunding, where people pledge money to projects, has become one of the most popular.
The Melbourne-based Pozible platform has raised more than $17.8 million in just three-and-a-half years, but despite helping to drive funds to artists, money hasn’t been the driving force behind the life of company co-founder Rick Chen.
“I came to Australia to study, so I was one of your typical Chinese overseas students – that sort of style – so I don’t really have a lot of money to spend,” he says.
“I’m actually quite against luxury goods and that kind of stuff. I don’t believe in over-consuming – I think that’s actually a very bad thing to do. So even if tomorrow I have a lot of money, I’m probably not going to buy luxury goods.”
Pozible is now the third largest crowdfunding platform in the world, behind the New York-based Kickstarter and San Francisco-based Indiegogo.
The projects that it has attracted are diverse, ranging from the well-known, such as Perth band Eskimo Joe, which raised more than $60,000 to make its sixth studio album, to the more experimental and obscure, such as interactive children’s book Loopy Lost His Lettuce, which attracted $1,500 in funding.
Chen says it all started as a weekend and late night hobby driven by passion – something at odds with general start-up culture in Australia and China.
“I personally think you should be coming from your passion direction. I think if a company is purely aimed at making money, it will lose direction at some point but if a company has a value proposition that you focus on, money is a side project.”
The fully self-funded Australian company now has offices in China, the US and Singapore.
“We can achieve things in Australia, we just need to be more confident. If we never try to grow in this sector, it will never grow, and then our kids will never have the confidence to start up a company. They will just say, ‘Those are things you do in New York City’.”
But while the company is continuing to grow, Chen, who is just 31 years of age, says he is not much of an investor and would probably just start other companies if he made a lot of money.
“It’s just the nature of me … I think I will just start other companies and do this all over again. I really believe in it.”
The 15 most popular crowdfunding sectors on Pozible
1. Film: $4.95 million
2. Music: $3.5 million
3. Performance/theatre: $1.8 million
4. Community: $1.5 million
5. Writing: $646,000
6. Events: $633,886
7. Design: $494,780
8. Journalism: $434,245
9. Food and Drink: $388,907
10. Photography: $346,263
11. Social Enterprise: $342,446
12. Video: $315,261
13. Technology: $309,352
14. Research: $232,562
Brendan Swift is a business journalist based in Sydney