Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Interview with Alon Goren, Invested.in
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
This morning's interview is with Alon Goren, co-founder and President of Los Angeles-based Invested.in, an online site which allows users to run fundraisers for their projects. Invested.in launched earlier this year at DEMO. We had a chance to sit down recently with Alon to better understand the firm and where it is nowadays.
What is the idea behind Invested.in?
Alon Goren: Basically, what we've done, is we've built a platform where anyone can raise money for anything. You go on to our site, create a project telling the world what you need, and what increments you're willing to accept it in, and what you're willing to give back for those increments, and you customize your project with your own branding and everything. You publish it, and the whole thing is managed on our site where you've created a fundraising campaign.
What sort of projects are people using your site for?
Alon Goren: What we did, actually, was when we launched at DEMO we got up on stage, and you're not allowed to show a PowerPoint--you have to demo your product. So what we did, is we said launching at a conference like this is expensive, what we're going to do is create a project on Invested.in to pay for it, and had a $10,000 goal, and we did that on stage. That was actually the first successful project on our site. Today, I approved a project from a guy named Sho Nakamuri, who used to be on the USA national team for gymnastics, and who had injured himself, and is getting back into it, and is looking to raise money to get to the qualifiers. That's the broad spectrum of how it can be used. A company could use it for anything, and individual, we have filmmakers using the site for production of their film. Anybody, for anything. We're an all-inclusive site, for anybody and anyone, as long as you're not breaking the law, as long as you're returning products and services we'll let you do it. If you want to return equity in a company, that's actually illegal, which requires you to register with the SEC, so we're not doing that right now.
Where did the idea come from originally?
Alon Goren: Originally, I was in a band, and there were a couple of sites you could use to fundraise. But, every single option was very stale and inflexible. I could raise $50,000 dollars and have someone produce my album, but I was a punk band in a garage and weren't going to raise $50,000--we just wanted to raise $1000 so we could record at our friend's house for free, and press a thousand CDs for that $1000. We didn't have that option. We basically built the site we would have wanted for ourselves. From the beginning it was completely flexible on how you could work with it.
What were you doing before you started the site?
Alon Goren; I worked for a couple of years at MySpace, doing customer support and QA, and stuff like that, doing my time and working my way up. I then went to IMDB, where I actually am still--it's my day job.
What's in it for people to get involved with Invested.in. Why would they go to the site to help fund a project?
Alon Goren: I would say 90 percent of people are going there because of a friend or family member invited them to the site, to check out the project. If your best friend or cousin or sister said "I'm raising money to do XYZ" you'll probably go support them. At a certain point, people who come to a project think "I really want them to succeed" and start promoting them, as well. They promote it to their friends, who promote it to their other friends, which helps you spread support for your cause. I think that most people that invest in projects have some connection to that person, or have read their story. It can be anything from just helping someone out financially, to maybe someone raising funds to be in the Miss Maryland pageant, where you might just really be into Miss Maryland, or you know here personally, or you think she's really cool and she's giving back cupcakes for investment, and why not. There's a broad range of reasons.
What's the business model here?
Alon Goren: Right now, we're not taking enough money to make a significant amount of money. You'll see fees when you invest in a project, but right now that just covers the cost of credit card transactions. When someone reaches a goal, we're taking 1 percent. That's a placeholder, and we may take a little more, but the real value to us will be in the volume, and hopefully the site will catch on. We also have the ability to license out our platform, for example if socalTECH wanted a tech company version, we could provide a tech company version of the site.
What's next for the company?
Alon Goren: Right now, we're all about promoting the site and getting as many people as possible to create their own projects on the site. Pretty soon we'll be looking to raise a few bucks for ourselves outside the initial $10,000 we raised on our own on the site, but our main effort is getting people to put their projects on the site and help them raise money.
Finally, what are the projects that are most successful using the site?
Alon Goren: The ones that are most successful are the ones that make it personal. The most successful project on the site has been our own, but the ones that are doing well are the ones that put a face on their project, explaining why they are doing it, and creating a personal bond to the people that check it out.
Thanks, and good luck!