Great ideas are plentiful, but the money to make them work isn’t always as easy to come by. One way to get your business idea or project off the ground is to forget about bank loans and instead ask investors--people who actually want to see your idea succeed--for a little pocket money.
If you have a creative project idea, you can solicit funding from strangers for it with this popular site. Kickstarter's clean layout allows people from all over the globe to peruse projects and contribute as little as a dollar or as much as the donor can afford.
Kickstarter requires that you set up a page describing your project (audio and video pitches are encouraged) and set a time period for people to pledge money. For different donation amounts, project creators usually offer gifts, such as a signed album or free downloads of the project when it's finished. If your Kickstarter reaches its funding goal, you keep the money; if not, it goes back to the patrons. The great thing about the site is that 100 percent of the money you raise is yours--and Kickstarter will never keep any intellectual or property rights on your project. A little under half of all Kickstarter projects are fully funded.
Although ChubbyBrain was still in alpha at the time of this writing, you can currently request an invitation code to gain free access to its first publicly released algorithm, the Funding Recommendation Engine. The algorithm statistically breaks down the aspects of your company in order to match you with the appropriate sources of funding--from grant providers to venture-capitalist firms to well-known angel investors--based on the investors' history of funding. This way, you don't waste time pitching people and grant institutions who aren't interested in the kind of work you do. Also, if you don't have time to wait for an invitation to the newest features of ChubbyBrain, you can still use its free database of investors to narrow down which ones might be interested in your idea. Or, just sign up for the site’s newsletter, which will send you funding tips.
A sort of selective Craigslist for funding, RaiseCapital allows people with business ideas to post text, photos, and videos about their projects to attract some money. That kind of funding is helpful at a time when bank loans are hard to get. Entrepreneurs can log in after paying a one-time $99 fee, and they receive a unique URL on the site as well as a visit counter to track how many people have viewed their posts. The network of investors who are interested in a particular category receive a daily update showing all the new businesses registered the day before. RaiseCapitalTV.com features new businesses in a video presentation. Charities and nonprofits are allowed to post for funding, as well.
RaiseCapital also lets investors register with the site so that they can be in on the newest ideas that have the potential to make a lot of money. Investors large and small register for free and anonymously.
OnGreen--which focuses on business ideas and patents that are a part of the green economy--tries to bring inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors together by creating a “social marketplace” to connect startup businesses with the funding they need and the new technology that might help them move forward.
Investors can browse “Deals” in which entrepreneurs--pitching everything from energy-efficient window-pane-installation companies to urban-farming startups--list how much funding they need and describe the business’s model. Entrepreneurs can also browse patents to incorporate into their operations, so inventors have a way to market their products more efficiently. Matching investors and entrepreneurs who are passionate about the environment and great inventions, OnGreen is a great place to mine increasing popular support for green projects.
Run by two former entrepreneurs and investors who put money in Twitter in its early days, Venture Hacks is primarily a how-to site for the serious entrepreneur. The advice that you can subscribe to on the site will help you learn how to pitch your idea, find investors, and turn your small startup into a bigger business. The site sells ebooks that give you the rundown on practical concerns such as how to choose a cofounder, or how to break down who owns what in your company.
You can also join the site's AngelList, a social network of large and small budding projects and businesses. From the AngelList, you can search for investors, as well, narrowing down who you pitch by your company's location and the market that you intend to serve.