How Asia Is Adopting Crowdfunding From The West

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Forbes | Bay McLaughlin | Dec 1, 2016

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Crowdfunding emerged at a critical moment in time when businesses and individuals started to seek out alternative funding sources and traditional options, such as banking or equity investment had dried up. It’s been less than a decade since crowdfunding was born, and yet, it’s difficult to imagine a world without it - center stage - in favor of business expansion and democratized access to funding.

You’ve likely heard of companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo and maybe you’ve even backed a campaign or two. Beyond that, few people know how big a phenomenon crowdfunding has become, especially in Southeast Asia. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have now set up shop here, offering diversification and competitive strategies for crowdfunding that can support both Asian and Western founders and backers alike. Having lived in both the eastern and western hemispheres, I’ve gained a unique perspective on how crowdfunding differs across the globe.

China and Other Asian Countries Deliver Their Take on Crowdfunding

On the heels of the Western brands establishing early-mover advantage, dozens of other crowdfunding platforms have launched worldwide -- from niche players that focus on jumpstarting budding musicians to medical fundraisers and app development campaigns. JD.com is one of the more notable crowdfunding platforms to emerge in China. This company may not sound familiar to my friends in Silicon Valley, because a Chinese corporation known as the Jingdong Group has launched and nurtured this wellspring ONLY for the Chinese market (for now). In China, corporations are king, and it’s common practice to have big companies partner with smaller ones to gain mass appeal and market penetration. This is also a prime example of how China copies Western ideas – and then improves upon them!

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Larger platforms are now coming to Asia to take their share of an increasingly lucrative market. The opportunity for Asia and crowdfunding emerged when Western companies were unable to fulfill orders promised to their backers. Asian business people, especially in the hardware or Internet of Things (IoT) verticals made the easy decision to launch their own crowdfunding platforms and make the products they wanted locally. Funny enough, a lot of the products you now see on the Western crowdfunding platforms are actually Asian companies, often manufacturers, disguised as Western startups.

But delivering the hardware that Western founders cannot is not the only story here in Southeast Asia. An article for Crowdfund Insider noted the significant growth of equity crowdfunding in Southeast Asia stimulated by government regulatory changes. These changes have opened the doors to help the growing areas of small-medium enterprises (SMEs), among these 11 countries, overcome the current funding gap. The Southeast Asian countries with the most growth in crowdfunding include Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. CrowdCrux also noted many Chinese crowdfunding sites that are starting to appear in addition to JD.com. Among them are DemoHour, AngelCrunch, Dreamore, Fundator and CTQuan. Korea has also passed crowdfunding regulation and entered the scene in 2015 with Tumblbug.

The Power and Influence of Asian Crowdfunding

To illustrate how powerful Asian crowdfunding platforms have become, let’s look at a few statistics on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. When Indiegogo started in 2008 it had $56.5 million in venture capital dollars and Kickstarter mentioned $10 million. JD.com has raised $491 million. It’s important to mention that the way Chinese companies fund, back, and launch businesses are completely different than the West. JD.com is public, invests into other businesses and also raised a $1 billion USD financing fund to help, among other things, startups! In short, the crowdfunding playing field is going from the little leagues to the big leagues… FAST!

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with both social and investment crowdfunding stakeholders across the country. NCFA Canada provides education, research, leadership, support and networking opportunities to over 1500+ members and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding industry in Canada. Learn more at www.ncfacanada.org.

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