Alex Daly is known as the Crowdsourceress. Vann Alexandra, the creative services agency she founded, has helped everybody from Neil Young to Joan Didion pull off successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns.
In the process, she’s learned a thing or two about raising money from strangers on the internet. Now the Miami native – daughter of Meg Daly, the force behind The Underline – is on a national book tour promoting “The Crowdsourceress,” a guidebook for those looking to use crowdfunding to bootstrap their business or product idea. We interviewed her to get the TLDR on crowdfunding and how to make it work for Miami.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Why does the world needs a crowdsourceress?
Indiegogo started in 2008, Kickstarter in 2009, and we started becoming a big need for people because crowdfunding campaigns are a full-time job. People were too focused on making their product, or they had another full-time job and needed somebody to come in and manage a campaign for them.
At first, there wasn’t really a name for what I was doing. I was hearing “Kickstarter producer,” I was hearing “crowdfunding campaign manager,” but the more I did it, the more I created this niche career that didn’t exist before it.
If someone is looking to crowdfund today, they have a plethora of platforms to choose from. Tell us which ones you like to work with and why?
Let’s be clear. Crowdfunding is a way of getting money from people through the internet, and rewards-based crowdfunding platforms give people something in return for that donation. We work primarily with Indiegogo and Kickstarter, which are rewards-based platforms.
We’ve mostly used Kickstarter though, because it really really lends itself to creatives. We leave it up to our clients which platform they want to work with, but the majority have chosen Kickstarter.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about crowdfunding?
I think the misconception is that you are begging for money because you don’t have enough, and you’re a starving artist, but that’s not what crowdfunding is anymore.
Back in the early days crowdfunding was for indie mom and pop creatives raising $1,000 dollars for their art project, but now Fortune 500 companies are crowdfunding, celebrities are doing it, well-funded VC startups are doing it too, and that goes to show how much platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have grown.
I think a lot of people still think of it as a place for starving artists, but it’s a very interesting, unconventional, smart way to launch your product. Sometimes you might not even need the funding, but want to do it for marketing reasons, to generate great buzz, or interest early adopters.
What are the characteristics of a successful crowdfunding campaign?
First, you need a built-in audience. That’s your mailing list, your social media followers, your fanbase. If you launch without a crowd, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’re sort of launching to nobody.
And then there’s the marketing side of it – getting press lined up for launch, getting influencers lined up for it. Doing the video right – keeping it short, succinct, straightforward, and having it done by a professional so it looks like you actually are gonna be delivering and making a great product – is absolutely key.
Rewards are also incredibly important. You want to incentivize people with things they actually want to get. Don’t charge $100 for a postcard. Actually think that through.
Miami’s tech scene is small but growing. What’s your advice to companies in this environment when it comes to crowdfunding, especially if they don’t necessarily have the audience size or the resources that a company in San Francisco or New York might?
So I think that people in Miami should totally be embracing crowdfunding. It’s a way to efficiently and quickly raise money in a short period of time. And then, because it’s donation based, you don’t have any investors breathing down your neck. You get to make your product the way you want it. Miami should be embracing something this forward thinking.
In terms of resources, there doesn’t have to be 50,000 people on your mailing list. If you have 1,000 engaged people, that’s a lot stronger than 10,000 people who don’t really care about what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be about size, it can be about interest, and community, which really helps a place like Miami.
One other cool thing about this kind of crowdfunding is that women have statistically much more success in it. There are so few women in the venture capital world, but women here have creative control, and communities that believe in them, so it really broadens the horizons.
How did growing up in Miami prepare you for success as an entrepreneur?
So I grew up in Miami in the 80s and 90s, and my dad owned a company that created anti-money laundering software, and my mother ran a marketing firm, and ever since I was a little kid me and my brother would go to her office after school and just sit at the conference table and do homework. I was surrounded by people working super hard, and I know that growing up with two super entrepreneurial parents definitely had an impact on me. Editor’s note: This paragraph was updated after publication to correct information about Alex’s mother’s firm.
There’s also a very special sense of diversity in Miami, and the diversity I grew up in really lends itself to the diversity of our creative projects, so I take the vibrancy of Miami with me, and I have to thank Miami for that.
If you want to buy “The Crowdsourceress,” it’s on sale locally at Books & Books, or you can buy it online.