Long time a go before the internet there used to be a word in Kenya called Harambee. Harambee is a Kiswahili word which means pulling together to make greater good. Harambee concept has been used in Kenya for many years to pull resources and fund many projects including Churches, Schools, School fees, Hospitals. The projects are always what one would call social projects or community based projects. Despite the success of Harambee in Kenya, I can’t remember an instant where it has been used for business funding. The closest one I can think of ,is the merry go round Chamas, popular with the Kenyan rural women.
Anyway this is Kenya, as many would say, a country which pioneers many things but never realize when some smart people from other places take the local concepts and rename or re-brand them. Look at the idea of crowdfunding. It is basically an online Harambee. On his speech, at the crowdfunding event Organized by The Nailab, Gijsbert KOREN described crowdfunding as a new way of raising capital for projects and companies. Yes “new” way!
That a side, there are many people who believe that crowdfunding is the future of raising startup capital. Personally I have my doubts and i think it depends on the type of start-up one is running. Crowdfunding just like a Harambee work mostly for the Social Enterprises. The key here is to appeal to the human emotions and the greater societal good. But if you basically say you want to make money from your start-up and follow more of capitalistic approach, then I think the number of people who would come in and fund such projects are limited.
Talking to Start-ups who participated at the Nailab crowdfunding event, it is clear that most of them find it hard to crowd source the funds. This left me thinking and probably would confuse anybody who read the first part of this article especially the people who are not Kenyans. The question is, if the crowdfunding as been done like forever in Kenya in the form of Harambees then why are Kenyans finding it hard to do it? It is not a mistake to think that they should be having the skills and ability to do it. Well, the problem here is that people are looking at crowdfunding as a new concept. A new concept that requires most of them to either go to class and learn or keenly listen to an expert on how to go about it. Listening to experts is not bad thing at all but it would be better if we go back to understand how Harambee is done and what motivates people to participate.
I might be wrong but I think one would be successful if your start-up has the following elements:
1. Emotionally appealing… Like is it going to save lives, is it going to move vulnerable group of individuals from one point in life to another…Like siting the fact that it is slum based…
2. Touches on something that people are passionate about….Look at what people are so passionate about and tell them that you are going to make it better and probably easier
3. Based on the bigger issues affecting the human race….like Religion, Education, Health
4. Make the donors feel good about themselves……yeah the egos need to be massaged