Be a Startup Customer, Not Just a Donor

by Matt Fischer

Crowdfunding is booming. It’s a great way for people to get their idea going when they simply don’t have the resources themselves to get started. However, crowdfunding is distorting the startup landscape and not creating the customers startups need.

I’ve talked to several people who peruse IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and other crowdfunding sites on a regular basis looking for a local startup and throw them $20 or $50. This is a supportive gesture but is short-sided. Giving an aspiring entrepreneur the money to get started is helpful but there are no guarantees with it. No assurance this person is serious about their startup. No promise they’re out to scale their business and create local jobs. No pledge they’ll take it past prototype phase. That’s where the problem with crowd funding lies.

Money funnels in for startups on those sites, yet people just bypass those of us who are living the startup life. We’re all in on our business, trying to generate revenue by selling our product/service to customers and create local jobs. Entrepreneurs I work with in the REDI Downtown Incubator grind it out everyday trying to find new clients, innovate their industry and find a sustainable business model.

While I became an entrepreneur to do something I love everyday, I also want to be an employer. I’d like to be like other companies that started here in Columbia and have grown from 1 employee to 5 to 50 to 500 or more. I want to help diversify employment opportunities in the area. For me to be able to hire, I need more than a donation on a crowdfunding site…I need customers. Customers are something I can turn around and market to investors that will give me access to funding to be able to grow my business and create jobs here in Columbia.

I’ve pitched my business around the world. I’ve had interest from some of the startup hotspots and what opens those doors are people visiting my site and buying a membership.   In talking to successful global entrepreneurs, investors and mentors, people want to know the traction my business is getting and where is it headed. They like how I’ve been able to do some much as a one-man show.

If you want to support local startups become a customer. Buy a product. Hire them for a service. All entrepreneurs can use assistance. Starting a business is a grind. My mind doesn’t shut off. I’m always thinking of a way to improve some aspect of the business. Someone purchasing a membership to is always a confidence booster. It makes the sacrifices I make, like all entrepreneurs do, worth it. It shows I’m growing. It shows I have something of value and that it is one step closer to getting to my goal. It shows there are people supporting what I’m trying to do as an entrepreneur.

Not all startups turn to the crowdfunding market to get their business going or expand. Some of us are out there to do it the “old fashioned” way of getting customers. We’re not looking for charity. We’re looking for idea validation. Reward me for having taken the risk of starting my own business with my own money, not simply someone who has an idea.

So if you want to support local startups, flip through your local business magazine, newspaper or website, not just crowdfunding sites, and buy our products and services.

Read more of my series on entrepreneurship here.