Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Running an equity crowdfunding campaign is pretty daunting. You’ll want every chance of success so the pre-launch preparation will take up pretty much all of your team’s time. Once the campaign is launched the pressure is on. You’ll find yourself constantly agonizing about how to bring more relevant traffic to your funding page.
If you don’t hit your minimum funding target you won’t receive any of the funds. Once the campaign is launched you can't extend it, so you'll be doing everything possible to reach your funding goal.
There isn’t much information available on the Internet from those who have run equity funding campaigns. I’d like to share the strategies we used, at FoldiMate, that led us to a successful campaign. I hope that you will find this information useful and that it will help towards your successful equity crowdfunding.
What is Equity Crowdfunding?
An equity crowdfunding campaign is similar to a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, the main difference being that you’re selling securities in your company instead of offering a presale of your product. Anyone can invest in an equity crowdfunding campaign. They do not need to be an accredited investor. The advantage for the investor is that they stand to make a profit from your company as it grows, and the advantage for your company is that you stand to create hundreds of brand ambassadors who really want your company to succeed.
Learn From Others
Chat with employees from other companies who were involved in their successful equity crowdfunding campaign; preferably those who ran the campaign on the same platform that you are planning to use. Each individual you speak to will supply you with his unique insight that will help with your campaign plan and with ideas to help you succeed.
Decide on Your Minimum Funding Target
Prepare different business scenarios for the use of your funds. Decide on your minimum funding target for the campaign. You’ll need an amount that will get you to your next step plus a little extra. Remember to take into consideration the cut the platform takes.
Find Some Initial Investors
Before you launch your campaign you should make huge efforts to ensure you have some initial investors. These investors can only be from your very close circles as you are forbidden to announce publicly that you are planning an equity crowdfunding round. They must be willing to place an investment via the platform as soon as your funding page is live. I’d strongly advise against launching your campaign before you have a few guaranteed investors. When you start driving traffic to your funding page it is important that it shows that there is interest in your campaign. New investors are unlikely to invest in a campaign that doesn’t show much interest from other investors.
Plan for Success
Assign a Task Force
Get as many of your team on-board as early as possible. It’s essential that they realize that the campaign is time critical, and that reaching your minimum target is crucial or you won’t receive any of the invested funds. Everyone should be prepared for the huge amount of work involved in preparing and running the campaign, and understand that they may be required to get involved in, or even responsible for, projects for which they have no prior experience.
Our team comprised of our COO, Head of R&D, CFO, our bookkeeper, the CEO and naturally myself as the CMO.
Insist that everyone on the team experience the platform as if they are an investor. Each team member should sign up and go through the whole process (without actually making an investment). The reason for this is that investors are required to submit various personal documents and they might, if they are new to equity crowdfunding, feel uncomfortable about supplying some of these facts and documents. If a potential investor shares his uneasiness your team members will be capable of understanding the issues and attempt to remove any concerns.
Here are a few of the documents the investor will be required to submit. You can understand why sometimes they might be reluctant to proceed:
Photo of passport
Selfie of passport with themselves
Proof of address (Recent bill)
Social security number if US resident
Plan, Plan and Plan
Launching an equity crowdfunding campaign is overwhelming, there is so much to arrange in such a limited time. Keep in control of plans, ideas and tasks in a shared document. We kept it simple and used Google spreadsheets.
We added every single task, no matter how small, and then split them by topic. We had additional columns for Comments, Person Responsible, Due Date, unique UTM tracking tags for each type of landing page or campaign etc. Your UTM tracking is critical in order to attribute your visitors in the investment funnel to a source. I’d advise you to develop a simple, easy to understand, naming convention.
The below is how we grouped the topics. In order to keep this post focused, I won't go into the details for each topic, however, I’m happy to share more information with anyone interested.
Messaging (High-level so that all the below will be consistent)
Content / Videos
Blog / Landing pages
Divide and Conquer
Once each task had been assigned an owner, we methodically worked our way through the sheet. The team met for a daily coordination meeting which gave us an opportunity to raise any issues or delays.
First and foremost, there is a huge amount of legal and financial work to prepare before you can launch the campaign. Our finance team worked with an external CPA firm recommended by SeedInvest, which was the portal we used to run our campaign. This firm had to conduct a review of FoldiMate’s financial reports from the past two years. After a very thorough and detailed process they finally submit a Form C to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is required before the equity crowdfunding platform can release the company’s funding page to the world. This process takes time, and while the finance team were providing all the necessary figures and paperwork, the remaining team members prepared for the campaign.
We were advised that due to the strict SEC regulations, every piece of content we planned to post publicly must be approved by SeedInvest. This included short social ads and messages. We prepared as much as we could in advance. During the campaign, when we needed new messages, they were approved on an adhoc basis by Seedinvest.
We prepared new messaging for our investor presentation, ads, customer emails, press emails, press release, landing pages, FAQs, canned responses, videos etc.
Minimum Individual Investment
We consulted with SeedInvest regarding the minimum individual investment. We had been debating internally whether a low minimum investment would lead to more investments. We were advised that the minimum should be no less than $1,000. SeedInvest claims that they have tested this. We heard that the majority of investors will select the minimum amount, and this proved to be true. We have no way of knowing what would have been the outcome if we would have decided on a higher or lower minimum.
Just like in a Kickstarter campaign you need to consider which perks will be attractive to your investors. The larger the investment, the bigger the perk. We decided to avoid giveaways and instead offered discounts off the machine when it becomes available. Obviously every company and product is unique, and you should decide what is best for your offer, and what might convince your investors to invest larger amounts.
Note that although our minimum individual investment was $1,000, we did not offer them a perk.
Check With Your Lawyers Regarding Security Regulations in Your Country
If we're connected on LinkedIn you’re probably wondering why I didn’t share any posts about the funding on my personal feed. This wasn’t an oversight. Unfortunately, just a few days prior to the campaign launch, our Israeli lawyers advised us to inform all employees that they cannot promote the campaign. The reason being that although our company is registered in the US, we have an Israeli subsidiary. The Israeli security regulator limits equity crowdfunding to 35 non-accredited investors. The equity crowdfunding platform we used was not able to comply with this regulation, so we were advised to avoid promoting the campaign to our Israeli contacts, colleagues and friends.
This was a MASSIVE disappointment and a huge chunk of our strategy went up in flames.
Ready, Set and We’re Off!
Finally the Form C was submitted and our funding page was live! The campaign was to run for 45 days.
We worked methodically through the list of launch tasks, and checked everything we published or released at our end. I advise you to take care here and check everything thoroughly, no matter how many times it was checked before it was published. We discovered that it was necessary to make last minute changes to all our URLs on our landing pages and ads, as the URL we had been supplied was redirecting, and removing all our UTM tracking tags.
Once our updated website and landing pages were launched we started sending our emails in batches and running ad campaigns. We ran mainly Facebook ads.
Before I continue, I'd like to add a note about Facebook ads - take time to respond to as many comments as possible as quickly as possible. Facebook loves this social proof. The more reactions and comments it sees under your ads the more it will show your ad to the relevant audience. A few of our ads had hundreds of comments, shares and reactions. Not all the comments were positive, but generally we only delete a comment if it is abusive or uses bad language. Often our supporters will do our dirty work and respond to the negative comments for us :-)
Watching the Investment Funnel
At the end of every day we received a report which included the funding funnel. We could see the quantity of people who had clicked the Invest button and various other stages. An example is below. For the first week or so we saw multiple daily investments, and hundreds of new people at the top of the funnel.
Rethinking the Strategies:
About 10 days into our campaign we started to become concerned. We'd had a few days with zero investments. We were driving people to the page, but they weren’t investing.
We were also aware of an issue with our emails - many were entering spam folders. We were relying on the support of our 350,000 fans (contacts) to close our round. Quite a few had shown interest in investing in our company in the past, however, they weren’t seeing our emails. It was essential to find additional ways to reach potential investors.
We started to use https://glockapps.com/spam-testing/ to help us identify risky content, to understand under which Gmail tab our emails are arriving (promotions, primary etc.), spam score and more.
An Unusual Video Went Viral
Part of our campaign strategy was to create multiple videos of our friends folding their laundry with FoldiMate. Our COO was our cameraman, and the Head of R&D was our video editor :-) We posted multiple videos on our social platforms, but they weren’t getting as much traction as we would have liked.
We had one very basic and unpolished video that was created when a couple of young girls came to try out the FoldiMate, and had decided to create their own video ad. Our social team were pretty shocked when we suggested to post it, because it really didn’t look professional, and certainly wasn’t like anything else we would normally post. It turns out that this was a lucky decision, as within 3 days it went viral. There were comments being posted literally every minute. We couldn’t keep track of them and certainly couldn’t respond to them all.
You'll notice that we placed a link from this post to our funding campaign, and we could see it was driving traffic by the thousands, but they didn't appear to be investing.
Before I move ahead with examples of how we adapted our strategy, I’m sure you’re curious as to why this video went viral. Here’s my attempt to analyze it.
Something cute: These little girls are VERY cute.
Starts with something unusual/unexpected: At the beginning of the video one of the girls does a handstand.
There’s a hint of a dog: Yes, we hear this so often, people love content with animals. Some people commented that they had watched the video expecting the dog to do something unusual. It actually only appears for a second in a corner of the frame, so only those with sharp eyes would notice it.
An element of shock/surprise: Half way through the video one of the girls sat on a glass coffee table. Many viewers were shocked and commented that it was dangerous as she could have fallen through. We even received emails requesting we remove the video as it could teach other kids to do something similar. Just in case you are also concerned, this was totally spontaneous, however, the glass on this particular coffee table is VERY thick and there was absolutely no risk of her falling through.
As I mentioned above, this viral video was creating a huge amount of traffic to our funding page and landing pages, but with very few investments.
Introductions to Additional Companies That Had Run Successful Campaigns
Prior to the campaign we had spoken to a few companies who had run successful campaigns, so now we requested that SeedInvest introduce us to some more. We spoke at length with two CEO’s, and both of these fabulous people assured us that there was still a good chance of us succeeding and reaching our minimum funding goal. They too had days during the middle of the campaign when they had received no investments.
We listened to their different strategies. Both confirmed that a lot can change over the last week of the campaign, and especially during the last two days. Naturally that information made us much more optimistic.
We received lots of new ideas and then brainstormed to come up with the following:
New Strategy No. 1
1. As mentioned earlier, our emails weren’t arriving in the majority of inboxes, nonetheless, we had quite a few hundred contacts who had opened, clicked and even responded to one or more of our emails. We took an additional email service, https://www.saleshandy.com, and only used it to send emails to contacts who had already reacted to a previous investment email. This meant we were continually building a very targeted email list of potential investors, and they were likely to receive our future emails in their inbox.
2. We wrote new content, with the aim of explaining to this smaller email group, the potential of investing in FoldiMate. Most of the content was re-purposed from our portal, but we also added third party facts and figures for emphasis and persuasion. Here’s a sample blog post: https://blog.foldimate.com/robotic-laundry-folders-market-potential/
3. We continued sending emails to this group, especially “sense of urgency” emails during the last few days of the campaign. The goal being to drive them down the funnel.
New Strategy No. 2
1. Our initial campaign plan hadn’t included a huge ad budget. We had hoped to close the round with our own contacts and social followers. We now learned that we needed to invest $10k for every $100k of funding.
2. We decided to work with an agency with equity crowdfunding experience who had collected Facebook audiences who have already invested in Crowdfunding. We increased our ad spend both on new audiences and retargeting. We created new ads and redesigned our landing pages using https://webflow.com. There was a slight learning curve using Webflow, but we found it to be well-worth it. We managed to prepare a professional looking landing pages within a day or two based on a template.
We also created a new video with the CEO in our lab. We drove huge quantities of traffic to the funding portal page through these campaigns. Initially we didn’t see much increase in investments, but we made a decision to continue the spend till the end of the campaign. We realized that making sudden changes at this stage could be detrimental and we hoped our retargeting during the last couple of days would be beneficial. We’d rather risk losing the money being spent on the ads than miss reaching our minimum investment, and not being able to release the funds. The last few days of the campaign were really focused on retargeting.
One of these new ads went viral, seemingly because the message was connected to poker. I’m not even sure the pun was intentional, but it worked. You can see hundreds of comments and shares.
Never Lose Faith
Three days before the campaign was to close we were having doubts if we would make it. Throughout the campaign we had seen that people really wanted to own a FoldiMate, but that didn’t mean they wanted to invest in the company. We'd received a few larger investments, but we were still missing around $200k. It seemed illogical that we would receive such a large percentage of the total round over the next couple of days, however, that didn’t mean we’d stop taking steps to make it happen.
We were really fortunate that one of our fans (he had paid a deposit in the past) invested $51k two days before the close date. We were all really hoping that this would be the trigger to get any potential investors, who were still on the fence, to invest. If you are this investor and reading this, we want to send you a huge THANK YOU, as it seemed to work.
Another investor posted a comment on our Facebook page and said that even though we were probably thinking that we won’t make it, he was sure we would. He told us that the last few days would bring surprises as he had seen it happen in the past. BTW, if you are this investor and happen to read this, thank you so much. We really needed that vote of confidence at that time :-)
We boosted all activities. We sent multiple emails to the various email groups. We were posting on our social platforms, we continued running Facebook ads, and we answered all the comments we possibly could under our organic posts and ads.
Seven Hours Before the Campaign End
Yes, seven hours before the end of the campaign the CEO and I chatted on the phone. If I recall correctly we were still missing around $70k to reach our target. We couldn’t see a way we would receive so many investments in such a short time. Remember, most investments were $1,000.
Suddenly things went crazy and the investments started rolling in. It was difficult to believe what was happening. I can’t try to express the feeling of excitement in words. I think I spent most of these hours holding my breath. Those hours will definitely go down as the most tense, and exciting, in my marketing career.
Around four hours before the campaign closed we had hit our $600k! It was crazy. We’d done it!
Eventually the round closed at $638,300.
Equity crowdfunding is not for the faint hearted :-). It’s a bit like being on a crazy roller coaster.
If you're planning such a campaign, buckle up, and get ready for an exciting, adrenaline filled, ride.
Wishing you the best of luck,
There is really so much more I would have liked to add to this post, but it’s really getting rather long. I would, however, like to mention some very special people. We couldn't have done it without your support!
Mike Quindazzi - We are always so grateful for your support. You often share our content with your followers and were quick to help us share this campaign. Thank you!
Greg Nichols - After receiving our press update you wrote a great article on our crowdfunding. Thank you! - https://www.zdnet.com/article/laundry-folding-robot-turns-to-crowd-equity-to-iron-out-kinks/
Eugene Demaitre - Thank you for your ongoing support. You took the time to interview Gal Rozov, our CEO and published this article - https://www.therobotreport.com/foldimate-equity-crowdfunding-laundry-folding-robot/
Scott Ertz - Thank you Scott! When we sent an email to our press friends, you were the first to respond and share our post about our round. Your support is always highly appreciated. We love meeting you at CES :-)
Zoe Bermant - There is absolutely no way we would have managed this campaign without the help of your team. Special thanks to Katia. You were available 24/7 responding to comments and questions both on our social platforms and in our helpdesk system. There was so much work, and you were there for us all the way. Thank you!
Irene Hyder - Thanks for the great, professional ads and Facebook campaign management. You joined us with very little time remaining in our campaign. You set up the campaign quickly and found time every day to chat with me and to answer all my crazy questions. Thank you!
Director of Marketing @ Otonomo | Marketing Strategy, Growth, Lead Gen, Online Marketing, Marketing Automation