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Canadian Crowdfunding Just Got Crowded

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The Tyee by Sarah Berman | August 13, 2013

The next Science World exhibition or hydraulic robot gets a boost as Kickstarter arrives, joining BC-tied Indiegogo.

heyocean amped crowdsourcing 300x200 - Canadian Crowdfunding Just Got Crowded

B.C. band Hey Ocean! promotes AMPED, an upcoming Science World exhibition funded through crowdsourcing. Photo credit: Science World.

In 2013, crowdfunding is no longer the realm of little guys and start-ups. Not only is Spike Lee funding his latest million-dollar film on Kickstarter, but Vancouver's own educational institution Science World recently turned to online community donations to build an upcoming exhibition called AMPED.

"We didn't have a budget," explains Jennifer Ingham, vice president of development at Science World. "It was the first time since the '80s that we were building an exhibit from scratch."

The aim of the 5,000-square-foot yet-to-debut exhibition, according to Ingham, is to connect young people in Vancouver with the tools and resources to create music. "We want to help young people with equipment and other industry connections," she says, "and build a creative storyline around pop, technology, music and science that is really contributing to the community."

For many involved in the seven-week Indiegogo campaign -- which just cleared its goal of $15,000 -- the move to crowd-sourced museum funding was uncharted territory. It took local musicians like Hey Ocean! entering the fray to figure out what "perks" suited a young and music-savvy audience.

"Hey Ocean! had done some crowdfunding," Ingham says. The band recommended shrinking down the donation increments, while giving away more interactive media in return. With 10 days left in the campaign, the indie pop trio offered new digital recordings and an acoustic set to donors between $10 and $150, raking in a total of $16,371 by the June deadline.

It was the first time a Canadian non-profit museum used a crowdfunding platform, though not the first in North America. That distinction goes to webcomic artist Matt Inman of The Oatmeal, who helped raise over $1 million to preserve inventor Nikola Tesla's laboratory as a "Goddamn Tesla Museum".

Enter another Goliath

For the last five years, Indiegogo has been the only major crowdfunding option available to Canadians. With such big fish dipping into the crowdfunding pond, it's no wonder Indiegogo will soon have competition in Canada. Last week Kickstarter announced plans to enter the Canadian market publicly on Sept. 9, positioning itself as a major contender for creative film, television and gaming projects seeking investment.

"It's exciting to see an industry being born," Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of Indiegogo, says of Kickstarter's expansion north. "In '08 it was just us, trying to tell the world what's possible."

From its inception Indiegogo has been available in 200 countries, and has pursued a somewhat alternative segment of crowdfunders. Though it began in traditional film and television markets, campaigns have since branched in hundreds of non-traditional directions, including smartphone start-upsBurning Man festival art installations, and environmental reporting projects.

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