October 11th, 2015 13:03

'Capital C' Documentary on crowdfunding: The Crowd vs the Shark Tank

Danyl Strype
Danyl Strype Public Seen by 301

I just watched and recommend the documentary 'Capital C', which explores a handful of crowdfunded projects of various sizes, producing a variety of products. I'm a fan of balancing 'problem' documentaries like 'The Internet's Own Boy' (about Aaron Shwartz) with 'solutions' documentaries, and this is certainly one of those. Although I don't know if any of the projects followed in the doco released their work under a libre license (I don't think they did), the film does demostrate that fan-funding can work. Not just for already-famous people like Amanda Palmer - only one of the creators featured had any public profile when they launched their first crowfunder - and not just for small hobby projects - one project featured was a video game company that raised about US$3 million for their first independent project, and over US$4 million for their second. To what degree has crowdfunding changed the landscape of concentrating capital to bootstrap projects, and to what degree have the new 'equity crowdfunding' laws built on or recuperated this?

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype October 11th, 2015 13:04

My favourite bit was when one of the companies was invited onto the 'Shark Tank' (a Dragon's Den style 'pitch to rich investors' show), and turned down an offer for a 50% stake, preferring to keep control of their company. If only like the likes of Google had done the same...

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen October 11th, 2015 13:39

@strypey - thanks for starting this discussion. I'll watch the doco next movie night. This comment is not about the doco, but the topic of crowdfunding and maybe shark tanks.

My problem with both crowdfunding and grant-seeking is that they become arenas for competition between projects, when I think we need to be collaborating and connecting and creating something bigger together. For example, we saw several different projects competing for EU grants where they were all overlapping parts of the same puzzle, but did not actually collaborate with each other. It's like everybody has capitalist ethics deeply embedded in themselves: all for my project!

I'd expect an actual Commons Transition to do better.

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype October 11th, 2015 13:58

I'd like to recommend another documentary that I think addresses @bobhaugen's concerns; Us Now. I'm thinking particularly of the participatory budgeting experiment they featured. A community in the UK had a fund to give grants to community groups. Instead of following the usual process of a committee making the decision behind closed doors, they held a meeting where all the groups that had applied for funding could attend, pitch their projects, and the meeting voted on how the funding should be allocated.

Bob Haugen

Bob Haugen October 11th, 2015 14:04

I'll watch that one, too. But I am really proposing that (for example) at least some of the various projects that are trying to produce software infrastructure for "the commons" get together and try to do it together.

Here's an example where some projects are trying to do that: https://github.com/valueflows

I'm sure that is not the only way to do it, and software is not the only sphere that requires collaboration.

Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso October 11th, 2015 14:06

Interesting, I'll check. The crowdfunding platform we're familiar with is, of course, Goteo, where some of our friends work. It is explicitly commons-oriented and anything funded through it has to carry an open license and produce some returns that is open source and commons oriented. It's pretty much the opposite of the popular crowdfunded platforms that finance "pre-sells". They've also released an open API with the data collected so other projects can build on it and learn from the stats about who funds what, why and how.

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) October 11th, 2015 14:14

I imagine others have seen Vinay Gupta's great talk focusing on equity crowdfunding. Reported at http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/vinay-gupta-about-the-blockchain-technologies-as-alternatives-for-the-incompetence-of-the-state-form/2015/09/29 ( http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/vinay-gupta-about-the-blockchain-technologies-as-alternatives-for-the-incompetence-of-the-state-form/2015/09/29 )

As Michel Bauwens says, strongly recommended :).

I understand Vinay as saying that who gets funded depends simply on what appeals to people. Ultimate democracy, for better or for worse, and I guess we would agree that thus approach has some advantages over central allocation of funds.

But if we want to be more rational and coordinated, that leaves us with the challenge, how can we best evaluate projects, enterprises, ventures, etc. to determine where the resources are allocated?

At this stage I think I'd just like to ask that... :)


Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso October 11th, 2015 14:15

cc @perulera, @carmenlozanobright

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP)

Simon Grant (Cetis LLP) October 11th, 2015 17:47

The full film "Us Now" seems to be at https://vimeo.com/4489849

Danyl Strype

Danyl Strype January 18th, 2016 05:05

After further thought about Bob's comment, one of the main differences between grants and crowdfunding is that grants are a zero-sum game, where grant-seekers compete over a finite pool. Crowdfunding is a win-win game where any project that can inspire enough people to support it can get funding, not to mention offers of collaboration from group's with similar or related projects. I've blogged about this in more detail.

I think it's also worth pointing out that what I find exciting about crowdfunding is not that it offers an alternative to grant-seeking or traditional ways of doing charitable fundraising like bucket collections (although it does), but that it offers an alternative to traditional ways of doing investment. This is a point a lot of people seem to miss, as you can see in the responses when I republished ‘Crowdsourcing vs. Outsourcing: Who Benefits?’ on theDailyBlog.