Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Documentary Tackling Shark Finning Seeks Crowdfunding Help

The ocean has fallen foul to the ravages of human appetites including whaling, excessive fishing draining stocks, and the practice of corralling dolphins for captivity or food as depicted in the chilling documentary The Cove. Philip Waller's documentary, Extinction Soup looks to expose yet another slice of oceanic savagery, shark finning. Writer, producer and director Waller is looking for funds through crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo to cover post production costs for a film that looks set to highlight and bring about legal changes to curb shark finning, a practice that could have devastating effects on the environment.

Shark finning is the practice of capturing sharks and sawing off their fins before casting the now mutilated sharks back into the ocean. The fins are usually sold to restaurateurs to be used into he delicacy that is shark fin soup. The sharks carcasses are discarded back into the ocean dead or alive, with many going days even weeks dying painfully from their wound. It is estimated that around 70 million sharks per year are mutilated and killed for this dish despite being illegal in many parts of the world. Californian filmmaker and adventurer Philip Waller has teamed up with activist and shark swimmer Stefanie Brendl to make Extinction Soup. On board to help bring this important project to the masses is producer Sidney Sherman, whose own success with crowdfunding saw the short film Reboot come to life, and Reboot alumnus Travis Aaron Wade serving as co-producer. The team are hoping that the film will expose practice to a worldwide audience and educate as well bring pressure to the world's governments to bring about effective legislative changes to end shark finning.

Filming has completed thanks to self-funding by the filmmakers but requires a lot of post production work. The funds being raised through IndieGoGo will be used to cover this cost. The sum of $30,000 is being sought to produce the film's music, graphics and titles, audio mixing as well as licensing costs, and none of it will be used to compensate the filmmakers. If the campaign is successful then the makers are aiming for Extinction Soup to be released around May 2014.  To date the campaign has raised over $25,000 but with less than ten days left till the deadline the race is on to find the remanding funds.

In return for their pledge donors will be in line for various rewards starting from the usual thanks and acknowledgments from the filmmakers to digital downloads and DVD copies of the finished film, signed and exclusive merchandise. Those with over $1,000 to invest will receive the usual rewards plus producer, creditors as well as invitations to festival screenings. For the top end investors, i.e. $10,000 or more, they will be flown to Hawaii for a free shark tour courtesy Stefanie Brenda. It should be noted however that this will mainly be for US investors. Most importantly however investors can feel satisfied in helping bring an important film to fruition, one that aims to significantly reduce this cruel practice or even bring it to a halt through a global legal intervention. For more information and to make a donation please visit the campaign's IndieGoGo crowdfunding page. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela - Thoughts from an Idealistic Student

Image Credit; Ben Sutherland
As a youngster growing up in the eighties I knew all about Nelson Mandela and the struggle against the brutal Apartheid regime from news reports. I was helped along in my growing knowledge by the music of my era, songs often commenting on events around the world such as Free Nelson Mandela by Special AKA and Gimme Hope Jo'anna by one of my favourite artists Eddie Grant. I soon came to learn about this great man who in attempting to lead his people to freedom (sometimes through questionable means) was arrested and convicted of various crimes and sentenced to four life sentences. Like any aspiring idealist I greatly admired Nelson Mandela, who passed away aged 95, an inspiration to his people and others fighting for their freedom around the world.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Crowdfunding Latest Linux Publication

Former staff of a prominent UK publication all about the Linux operating system have set out to launch a rival publication to be funded through crowdfunding. Linux Voice aims to be bigger more entertaining, and easily accessible, a rival to the UK's fist ever Linux centric magazine. The project owners have turned to crowdfunding IndieGoGo to raise the necessary funds.

Linux Format was founded in 1999 originally known as Linux Answers but the first issue was not published until May 2000. Published by Future plc it was the UK's first magazine dedicate mainly to all topics relating to the Linux operating system. In the tradition of the system's open source availability the magazine would feature a DVD containing Linux distributions and free software. Andrew Gregory was the magazine's Deputy Editor and Operations Editor and along with Mike Saunders a writer for Linux format since the first issue and Ben Everard a writer with the magazine for two years, look set to bring all the ideas that made Linux Format a success into this venture.

The new publication, entitled Linux Voice, promises to be different from its more established rival. The crowdfunding campaign is looking to raise £90,000 by 13th December to cover the cost to produce and distribute the first edition. It will be available on a monthly basis and consist of over 115 pages. Rewards on offer to those who invest include advance digital, UK and world subscriptions from a little as six months to a full lifetime. For those with more than £1000 to donate rewards include dinner with the team, half page and full page advertising opportunities.

If the campaign is successful Linux Voice promises to give back to the to the Free Software and Linux communities by giving away 50% of the profits (with readers choosing where the money goes), make the publication free after nine months, and work to keep the pricing fair ensuring the price charged goes to cost of publication. For more information about the campaign and to donate visit the project's IndieGoGo crowdfunding page.

Image Credit; Adriano Gasparri

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Community First Crowdfunding Challenge to Help UK's Deprived Communities

A new crowdfunding challenge has been launched to help match fund local projects that will help the UK's most deprived communities. The Community First CrowdMatch challenge, in partnership with non-profit organisations including NESTA, Community Development Foundation (CDF) and CrowdfundUK invites communities to participate in this innovative fundraising project that involves crowdfunding as well as match funding by way of a grant award. Using the crowdfunding platform Buzzbnk participants have just 60 days to reach their respective targets snd have their funding matched essentially doubling their funds.

The current economic climate continues to put a strain on third sector non-profit organisations and community groups in need of vital funding to remain viable. Crowdfunding is fast becoming an alternative form of fundraising for charity and community based projects. The CrowdMatch Challenge offers projects access to materials, advice and support on crowdfunding to launch their own campaign. The challenge is made up of various non-profit organisations involved in helping the third sector and local communities with funding, help and resource tools. These include;

  • NESTA; a charity designed to help bring innovative ideas to life by way of investments and grants as well as assist in the provision of necessary resources, research, and skills.
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION (CDF); national organisation with expertise in community development and engagement helping communities to develop and strengthen local voices. They help improve local people's voice and create a better place to live.
  • BUZZBNK;  a crowdfunding platform that has featured previously on the Gazette, and which helps social ventures, community projects, and local business start-ups find the necessary funds.
  • COMMUNITY FIRST;  a four year £80million initiative funded by they government to help communities identify their strengths and local priorities to better plan for the future and remain resilient in the face of increasing economic uncertainties.
  • CROWDFUNDUK; a resource dedicated to promoting crowdfunding as a viable tool for social enterprises, third sector projects and local communities by providing resources and information to make crowdfunding more accessible.
  • CCLA is one of the UK's largest charity fund managers that works alongside the CDF and Community First programme. The organisation has donated a cash prize for the CrowdMatch Prize Challenge.
Community groups and organisations wishing to participate must apply to the Community First panel for grant funding. Once this is approved the panel set a match funding target on a 1 to 1 basis. Under the set criteria the project owners use Buzzbnk to raise their portion of the necessary funds through crowdfunding. In return they will receive free support and advice on how to design and plan a crowdfunding campaign. The target set to use the funds is 60 days and if successful the panel will match the funding target.
Crowdfunding is a great way for community projects to increase their profile, and gather support from local people. We are excited to be working with Nesta and Buzzbnk on the Crowdmatch Challenge to introduce crowdfunding as new tool to Community First Projects - Jason Nuttall, Head of Programme, Community Development Foundation
The challenge aims to not only increase accessibility of available funds but also to create an atmosphere of co-existence and solidarity. Local groups can encourage their communities to be involved making everyone feel they are contributing in bringing about positive change in their area. The challenge is now open to all Community First panels and projects from Community First wards and more information can be found on The CrowdMatch Challenge website.

Image Credit; Mastermaq

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

UK Comedian Crowdfunds Comabck Stand-Up Shows

UPDATE!!! Deadline for reaching the funding target has been extended until 14th November 2013

Actress, writer and comedian Helen Lederer, well known for her work in renowned British television shows including Naked Video and Absolutely Fabulous, is planning a comedic stage and screen comeback with help from the crowd. Through the crowdfunding platform BloomVC, Helen is looking to raise sufficient funds for two "pop up" comedy shows and even a pilot show for television. In order to bring her well known brand of comedy to the stage Helen is looking to raise £10,000 in ten days.

Welsh born Helen Lederer emerged at the dawn of the UK alternative comedy scene of the 80s establishing a stand up act at London's famous Comedy Store. Helen worked with various big names in the scene including Rik Mayall and Ben Elton in the popular television shows The Young Ones and Happy Families (with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders). Helen then joined the Scottish based comedy sketch show Naked Video giving her a broader audience for her own brand of humour, in particular her role as the inebriated Sloane performing a monologue from the comfort of a wine bar. Helen continued to work with her comedic collaborators from the alternative scene in a variety of television programmes as well as appearing in a number of film productions and the West End.

The latest project from Helen entitled "Why The Fuss?" (WTF) will  consist of two pop-up comedy shows to be held at the St James Theatre in London. Playing before a live audience she will take on the ultimate topic, the meaning of life with her trademark insight and observational humour that has been prevalent throughout her work . Joining Helen for some intelligent philosophical debate as guests will be writers Mark Lawson, Suzanne Moore, and Jay Rayner (better known as a broadcaster and food critic) with the live shows scheduled to take place on 7th and 28th November respectively. To fund her comeback Helen has turned to crowdfunding and the platform BloomVC to raise £10,000 in a record time frame of just ten days.
I am so very excited to join the 21st century at last and to launch my latest project using crowdfunding. It was popular support that led to my decision to bring "Why The Fuss?" back to the stage - this was incredibly flattering, and now I hope that the support of the crowd will also financially enable it. I am giving the crowd the chance to decide whether I can produce my own show. If we can pull this off, it will be the first for a middle aged woman and all thanks to you. - Helen  Lederer

Whilst the funding target  will cover the costs of the shows, Helen has promised that should that target be surpassed the excess funds will contribute to the production of a "Why The Fuss?" television pilot episode. So in addition, donors will not only be rewarded with WTF tickets, wine hampers, pre-show dinners, or an evening  with the funny lady herself but also the opportunity to become television producers. The campaign started from 16th October 2013 with only ten days to raise the necessary funds and is already 12% funded. There is still time to get involved and pledge your support. To do so, click here to visit Helen's funding page.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Horror Channel Presenter Crowdfunds Latest Film Project

Actress and television presenter Emily Booth will make her short film début behind and in front of the the camera after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Based on an ancient Celtic myth Selkie will see Booth star as a sea creature who escapes enslavement looking for revenge, and serve as the film's producer. The ongoing crowdfunding campaign through the international renowned Kickstarter platform has already exceeded its funding target to cover the cost of the film's traditional special effects. 

Emily Booth is known in the UK to horror fans as an actress in cult films such as Pirvirella, Cradle of Fear, Evil Aliens and the BAFTA nominated short film Inferno. Booth is also recogniseable as a presenter for UK television including Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, Banzai for E4 before moving onto shows covering her true love, horror. Booth's body of presenting work focusing on cult and horror films include Shock Movie Massacre for the defunct cable channel Bravo, Eat Cinema, and in 2007 she joined The Horror Channel as a regular presenter and continuity announcer. Booth enjoys a genuine love of the horror genre, lending her support to the classic horror campaign, and is considered an authority on the subject.

For Selkie, Booth has assembled her own team to work on the visual aspects of the production including concept artist Danny McMahon and special effects artist Robbie Drake whose credits include Nightbreed and The Seasoning House. The film will be directed by her brother Simon Booth and will feature extensive use of traditional special effects make up that is in increasing decline with the rise of CGI. To meet the overall costs of the film's effects Booth launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter with a funding target of £5,000.
My aim is to create something truly unique and memorable, a dark and haunting adult fairytale, with a spectacular creature transformation sequence, all shot in Medieval locations. Yes it’s a challenge and will not be cheap which is why I’m using the innovative crowdfunding site Kickstarter. - Emily Booth
The campaign's rewards for donors feature the usual of any crowdfunding venture such as acknowledgements and credits, but also copies of the finished film, limited edition merchandise, screening invitations and for the top end donors, an exclusive set visit. The campaign has less than fifteen days till the deadline and has already exceeded its funding target by close to £1,100. Fans of the genre and Emily Booth can still pledge their support by visiting the film's Kickstarter page by clicking here.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Pubslush Offers Authors Crowdfunding Lifeline

Self publishing and crowdfunding have opened doors for authors all too familiar with the hard hitting and painful rejections from the publishing houses. Whether it was through well known platforms such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, or specialist platforms including Unbound and Emphas.is authors have secured funds, established and collaborated with potential readers and even gained access to a publishing arm. Pubslush is the latest crowdfunding platform for books of any type to raise funds and get published but also with an analytics feature to gauge and build a strong readership.

Pubslush was founded by Jesse Potash after learning about how 12 publishers had rejected J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel. After much research Jesse uncovered many instances of multiple rejections of manuscripts considered to be top sellers. The principle problem identified was the lack of significant financial backing to help writers publish their work. With the possibilities of so many potential best sellers looking to grace the top spots of book stores, it was decided that a global crowdfunding platform was needed to bring a democratic quality into a cut throat industry. The platform, Pubslush is exclusively for books, whether they be printed versions or e-books, and can take any form covering all genres. 
Pubslush is 100% committed to our authors. Since Pubslush is a niche crowdfunding site meaning we are ONLY for books, we don't have as many campaigns running at once and can more easily provide our authors and users with one-on-one assistance - Justine Schofield, Pubslush
Whilst funding is a key goal to publishing successes, Pubslush offers its authors many more features to increase prospects for a successful crowdfunding campaign. Unlike most other platforms that still use the all or nothing principle, Pubslush offers a flexible funding scheme which enables project owners to keep the any funds raised at the end of the campaign, provided they reach their minimum fundraising target. The figure is usually set at $500 however project owners can set their own minimum figure. Pubslush only deducts 4% of the total funds raised, making it a competitive service provider offering project owners comprehensive support through resources and educational tools. These cover everything in bringing a book to life from writing and publishing to managing a successful crowdfunding campaign. 

At the end of any campaign project owners benefit from a key feature of Pubslush, the Marketing Analytics tool. A full report is produced with a comprehensive demographic summary providing important information on investors. Such vital data includes location, age brackets, and traffic sources, all of which should enable authors to plan an effective marketing and advertising campaign. Pubslush's support of successful campaigns extends further by helping to promote sales of the authors' books with the addition of a "Buy Book" button on the crowdfunding page. This button links directly to the book's page and any net profits from those sales go straight to the author. Publsush also monitor successful campaigns in search of suitable titles for their publishing arm Pubslush Press, the first of which entitled "A Beautiful Mess" debuted in May this year.  

Pubslush prides itself with a major focus on giving; giving opportunities and resources to authors, potentially exciting titles to readers and most importantly free books to children as part of their "One for One Movement". For every book sold Pubslush will donate one book to a child in need to help combat illiteracy around the world. The platform's first partner is Flying Kites, an orphanage in Kenya, which thanks to Pubslush's efforts received over $10,000 in September 2011. As the platform grows Pubslush hopes to expand its philanthropic literacy operations around  the world. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Unilever Embraces Co-Creation

Crowdsourcing and open innovation initially started out as a lifeline for those small and medium enterprises, as well as aspiring individuals, looking to make their mark in their chosen field. From design to film making and even collaborative entrepreneurial ventures, crowdsourcing was the new kid on the block for the new kids on the block. Soon however, the big  names sat up and took notice. Aside from the cost advantage, crowdsourcing offered big brand names the opportunity to connect directly with their market demographics. One of the first of these multi-nationals to enter the foray of crowdsourcing was Unilever, behind such well known names as Ben and Jerry's ice cream, CiF cleaning liquid and the popular meaty snack Pepperami. Now Unilever are looking to enter another field of crowdsourcing, co-creation and from the 1st June 2013, began a partnership with eYeka, one of its leading service providers

In 2010 Unilever caused an uproar in the advertising industry by severing its long term relationship with agency Lowe and Partners. Instead of the traditional form of devising an advertising campaign, Unilever opted to run a crowdsourcing competition in search for a new campaign. The competition attracted over 1200 entries and netted its winners a $10,000 cash prize. The result was a successful and innovative campaign that reduced Unilever's costs by nearly 60% of its regular marketing budget. Crowdsourcing became the staple means by which Unilever would go on to market their products by connecting directly with potential customers, since those in the crowd who contribute ideas are also consumers. 

Clearly seeing the wisdom in using the crowd to source campaign ideas, Unilever would do the same with open innovation to source product ideas. Unilever launched an open innovation hub through which they sought the help of the crowd to innovate their existing products as well as search for new ones but focusing more on the environment, health and hygiene. Unilever are no strangers to co-creation having employed eYeka, the leading provider of co-creation services, working for an assortment of Unilever brands including Lux, Lipton, and Cornetto. 
The Unilever and eYeka partnership is a world-first because of its strategic nature and ambition. This is a strong signal that confirms that crowdsourcing is being recognised as a business accelerator. We have long advocated turning to consumers for ideas and content with consumers as a source of competitive advantage so we are thrilled to partner with Unilever to bring this approach to a new scale. - François Pétavy, Chief Executive Officer, eYeka
This new partnership will see Unilever implement co-creation on a much bigger scale, equal to that of previous crowdsourcing ventures. Since the partnership has gone live, eYeka's community of 250,000 members will not just be working on one or two products but generating innovative ideas across the company's entire brand spectrum covering international markets in Asia Pacific, South Africa and the Middle East. By tapping into eYeka's vast community resource, Unilever is looking for relevant and creative campaigns accelerated for a global market.

Image Credit; The HUB Network 

Monday, 17 June 2013

GE Launch 3D Printing Open Innovation Challenges

The rise of Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing as it is more commonly known, has become a subject of great interest for innovation, fun, and even controversy. Corporate innovation leaders GE have launched two open innovation challenges, in partnership with leading platforms GrabCAD and NineSigma. The challenges call on engineers to design components that are lighter and more flexible but are still able to meet maximum performance goals. Both challenges consist of two phases, design and prototype manufacture, with the winning entrants being awarded significant cash prizes.

3D Printing Design Quest

The first of GE's partnership challenges features GrabCAD, a platform founded in 2010 to enable engineers to collaborate with each other on innovative designs and breakthroughs. This partnership and the challenge is looking for innovative designs for lighter yet durable components for the development of air engine brackets. These brackets have posed a challenge for engineers in the trade off between strength & stiffness and size and weight, making current methods of production to be constrictive. The first phase of this challenge which started from 12th June and due to end on 26th July 2013, calls for design submissions that use additive manufacturing to produce engine brackets lighter in weight yet meet maximum performance goals.

Image Credit; Dave-F
The bracket's are integral part of the aircraft and so must provide support to the weighty engine without breaking or losing their shape, which will be assessed by simulation tests. The top ten designs will be awarded a cash prize of $1,000 and progress to the second phase, the additive manufacture of the brackets. This phase will run from 15th August to 15th November 2013 and see the prototypes rigorously tested in a variety of load designs. The top eight selected will received awards from a prize pool with a total $20,000 value. Click here for more information including how to enter and terms & conditions.

3D Printing Production Quest
High Precision and Advanced Materials

GE has invested considerably in open innovation projects particularly in the medical field in search of innovative procedures and development of equipment. In partnership with NineSights, part of the NineSigma open innovation platform,  GE have called for the design of customisable parts using additive manufacturing, parts to be used in medical imaging and equipment. These components are usually made using high density, high atomic number metals which can inflexible and difficult to shape. The challenge looks to make use of additive manufacturing in the production of components with more flexibility but the same durability and strength.

Image Credit; B L Murch
As with the previous challenge the 3D Printing Production Quest consists of two phases. The first phases, which started from 11th June till 26th July 2013, calls for capabilities submissions. The top ten winning entrants will receive $5,000 and an invitation  to progress to the next phase to commence in October. Participants will be allocated a $5,000 budget to fabricate a working prototype from materials as well as CAD specifications. The participants have until January 2014 to bring their winning designs to life which will be tested in accordance to required specs. The three winners will each receive a cash prize of $50,000 and the opportunity to collaborate further with GE in other projects. Click here for more information including how to enter and terms & conditions.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

How UK Crowdfunding is Helping Towards a Clearner and Greener Environment

It is hard to ignore the increasing news reports of the effects of climate change.Whether it is global warming, food shortages, or increased rates of carbon dioxide, the change which is reported to irrevocably harm our planet has over decades been met with a call to for radical change in human living. Renewable and clean energy, sustainable crops, and cutting emissions have become a part of human vocabulary and daily life. Through crowdfunding various projects and platforms have helped raise awareness and bring means to life of switching to alternative energies, greener transport, and growing our own food. Here are a few examples.
Image Credit; Free Grunge Textures
The Bristol Cycling Manifesto

Bristol is increasingly cementing its reputation as a cycling city. Sales are on the rise, along with the provision of painted cycle lanes as well as off road routes in and out of the city. Last year crowdfunding played a big part in securing the establishment of Roll For The Soul, a one stop cafe and resource centre for all things cycling related. The project exceeded its funding target and Roll For The Soul is due to open later in the summer. Recently crowdfunding once again has helped secure funding for an initiative to usher Bristol into a new cycling age. 

The idea behind the Bristol Cycling Manifesto calls on the city's Mayor-led council to implement a comprehensive road framework for cyclists. These include a segregated and interconnected cycling freeway into and out of the city, lower speed limits (20 mph), and creation of map detailing all off road and/or cycle-centric routes. Project owner Eric Booth needed £800 and turned to crowdfunding via Crowdfunder for to raise the necessary funds. The campaign was a success raising £917 and plans are under to put the manifesto together along with a petition campaign to get sufficient support for a council debate.

Whirliglo Verticle Food Planter

Food shortages and increased costs are increasing the levels of people in starvation in both more affluent nations as well those in the developing world. Whirliglo is a vertical food planter that stands at 1 metre tall and can grow between 30 - 60 individual plants. It is designed to facilitate food growth in homes with little or no growing space, making it ideal for urban neigbourhoods. The man with the plan, Ian Findlay, needed £4,000 to develop working prototypes to be field tested. For this Ian sought funds through the crowdfunding platform  Bloom VC, and offered as part of the reward scheme a number of successfully tested prototypes. The campaign was a success and the Whirliglo Verticle Food Planter exceeded the £4,000 target. 

The plan however proposed going beyond just marketing the units for urban households looking to save on produce shopping. More ambitious plans using the model of the Whirliglo include creating viable plots for planting from derelict brown lands, composting projects, and taking the Whirliglo idea to be used in developing countries. Food shortage and poverty are leaving millions starving around the world. Thanks to crowdfunding, the Whirliglo planter could  pave the way to feeding the hungry and making food shortages a thing of the past. 

Image Credit; Ell Brown 
Abundance Generation

Many projects find their funds through various crowdfunding service providers, yet one UK platform was established solely for projects aimed at providing clean, renewable energy. Abundance Generation, at first reads like an equity - based crowdfunding platform as it talks about investments and returns, which might frighten some people away. However the opportunity to invest is open to anyone who wishes to help bolster support for clean energy, by donating as little as £5 for the project of their choice with the potential to double their investment

Interested investors register with Abundance Generation and browse the available projects in search of funding. Investments are then made by purchasing debentures, essentially legal IOUs produced by the energy project owner. Throughout the life term of the debenture, which can be as long as 25 years, the investor receives a fixed percentage of revenue generated from the energy produced. To date three projects, supplying energy through wind and solar power, have secured total funds of £2,285,000.

Planning permission for new developments are risky and unsettling with communities fearing for the loss of green belt land, or domination of their communities by big businesses, to name a few. Spacehive is the UK's first crowdfunding platform for civic projects and developments. Visitors can browse for projects benefiting communities such as play parks or leisure centres and pledging a monetary donation, and if successfully funded, see the project come to fruition. 
Spacehive is also accessible for anyone with ideas for developing facilities for their community including  local people with ideas for green spaces, as well as professional designers and businesses pitching ideas to communities directly. 

Image Credit; Tim Parkinson 
The projects featured on Spacehive include the creation of an urban oasis in the city of Manchester, building of a new play area in Hanover to encourage children to be more fit and active as well as a herb garden and transformation of a disused building into a gallery. With the coalition government's controversial decision to relax the UK's planning laws, Spacehive offers the possibility for more environmentally focused, and most needed projects suitably in keeping with the community.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

OUYA Crowdfunded Gaming Console Makes its Début

The Gazette would like to welcome a new contributor, Janelle Pierce. As well as enjoying learning and writing about crowdfunding Janelle is passionate about seeing people succeed and absolutely loves backing projects in the areas of art, cinema, and game making. In her spare time Janelle enjoys the great outdoors and spends time with her friends and family while camping. Welcome Janelle.

On August 9th, 2012 OUYA, the world’s first crowdfunded gaming console, was successfully funded via crowdfunding on Kickstarter. With an original funding target of $950,000 the OUYA raised nearly $8.6 million dollars from over 63,000 backers. The OUYAis the world’s first open source game console, and runs on the JAVA programming language. It will be launched onto the market from 25 June 2013. 

Unlike most other computer or console manufacturers, the brains behind OUYA encourage people to “hack” their hardware. As such they do not void the warranty for rooting the unit and publicly encourage you to “open” the box and mess around.

The Specs for the OUYA are as follow;
  • NVIDIA Tegra3 Quad-Core Processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 8 GB of Internal Flash Storage
  • HDMI Connection with 1080p Support
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • 1x USB 2.0
  • 1x Ethernet
Despite OUYA’s initial mixed reviews I am very excited about the pending release of this console, not so much for what it is but rather, what it represents. The console market has long been dominated by the three major players Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. The release of the OUYA looks set to change face of the market as one aspect of the OUYA is its open source operating system, which means individuals can do almost anything with it. An additional benefit is that OUYA’s makers do not require games to be licensed and are not charging for the Software Development Kits. This allows more developers to create games and apps for the OUYA.

The OUYA is a great example of the possibilities of how crowdfunding can benefit a startups, entrepreneurs, and  inventors. It is an exciting idea that resonates with people in a real way. With the release of the OUYA later this month the console market will undergo a radical change possibly losing its reputation of being as a closed market.

Image Credit; Karvan

Friday, 31 May 2013

Crowdsourcing Name and Design for Latest Chocolate Snack

German confectioners, Ritter Sport have turned to crowdsourcing to design and promote their latest snack product. The campaign, Ritter Sport Design award has been featured on the crowdsourcing platform crowdINNO calls for the crowd to submit ideas for a name as well as an innovative package design. A cash prize as well an assortment of products will be awarded to the winner and runner up selections.

Combining the terms "crowd" with "open innovation" crowdINNO is a launched in March 2012 platform that started as a project of Germany's EBS Business School . The idea was formed by member's of the school's Competency Centre for Technology Management made of professors and PhD students with interest in business development and innovation. Like many similar platforms, crowdINNO inivtes project owners to post their challenges and invite the "crowd" to submit ideas and presentations. Some challenges have covered mobile app technology, automobile design and mapping projects. 

The latest challenged marks Ritter Sport's first venture into crowdsourcing for its latest snack product. With a trail mix of ingredients including roasted hazelnuts and almonds, sun ripened raising, marzipan cubes and chocolate squares Ritter Sport are looking for a design with appeal to a dynamic, trendy and youthful demographic. 

Anyone can take part in the campaign from professional designers to consumers who are fans of the product. Simply upload the design, which can take the form of digitally scanned and captured images or a simple written presentation, to the crowdINNO platform. The campaign will run until 06th August 2013. The winner will be awarded a cash prize of 1,000 euros with an assortment Sport Ritter goods and i-pad tablets for runners up. For more information visit the Ritter Sport campaign page.

Image Credit; The Marmot

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Tipalti and CAKE Partnership Offer One Stop Analytics and Payment Solution

Tipalti, the leading provider of online mass payments solutions has announced a partnership with CAKE, a platform that enables real time campaign tracking for advertisers. Rolled out during the ad:tech Conference in San Francisco, the new platform offers CAKE customers a fully integrated platform that will not only allow them to better manage their campaign but also manage payments with Tipalti's renowned payment management system ensuring efficient and secure transactions.

CAKE is a platform that provides advertisers with real time analytics solutions, and like Tipalti, it is an SaaS platform enabling smoother integration with the customer's existing system. In an increasingly competitive and fast moving digital marketplace advertisers need to know where their money is being spent and how the expenditure translates into viable investments. CAKE monitors changing patters in the customers' web traffic and provides detailed instant analysis through its analytics platform. Customers are then able to use the data provided to target the markets more effectively. 

The partnership with Tipalti offers existing CAKE customers accustomed to the platform's array of online marketing analytics tools, a similar design with comprehensive capabilities in mass online payment management. The integrated features include additional payment reporting and analytic capabilities linked to existing features to create performance based payment instructions. 
We're proud to work with CAKE to offer networks a truly comprehensive solution to managing global affiliates. With CAKE's industry-leading campaign management tools and Tipalti's integrated global payment functions, brands, affiliate network managers  and advertisers finally have a way to manage all facets of a global operation. - Chen Amit, Tipalti co-founder and CEO.
Payment instructions automatically captured by the Tipalti system scans those payments to ensure they are not made out to blacklisted payees, ensuring transactions are made securely and in compliance with appropriate regulations. Publishers and affiliates are thus better served with an optimal payment method suited to their country of residence and currency. The seamlessly integrated system frees up accounting resources for payers who can then focus on other activities, and thus eliminating labour-intensive tasks such as invoice reconciliation and processing tax forms. 

Tipalti has grown from strength to strength since it was launched in Spring of 2011, responsible for the managing of millions of dollars worth of payments each month in over 190 different countries. It has also secured an array of leading names as its customers including Article One Partners, the crowdsourced global patent research platform. The partnership with CAKE seals it reputation as a unique system of mass online payment management.

Image Credit; Anise Smith

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

UK Peer Proposes Support for Micro Businesses as Boost to Economy

The UK Government has actioned various schemes to help support the rise and/or expansion of small business in a continuously fragile and uncertain economy from tax incentives to the Government's Start up Loan Scheme. Recently the Prime Minister's enterprise adviser Lord Young published a report in which he proposes an expansion of the Government Start Up Loan scheme to help thousand's of small businesses get off the ground as well as open up public sector contracts to micro businesses across the country. 

Last year Lord Young published a report entitled Make Business Your Business focussing on start-ups and small business development which led to the launch of the Start up Loan Scheme. The scheme was co founded by the peer along with serial entrepreneur and former Dragon's Den regular James Caan aimed at helping business ideas launch. A typical loan can be up to £4,500 along with mentor support for applicants. The scheme exceeded expectations by 50% in its first year with 3,768 loans offered worth approximately £16 million. All profits from repaid loans are recycled back into the scheme. 

In his second report Grow your business; A report on growing micro businesses Lord Young proposes a serious of measures for the scheme's expansion. Micro businesses, those with 10 employees or less, make up 95% of all UK businesses and Lord Young highlights their increasing importance to the success of the British economy. Businesses that grew with help from the Start Up Loan Scheme have since gone on to become employers and it is this employment potential that Lord Young feels is the key to economic recovery. One of the many proposals in the report include a removal of the scheme's age cap, currently at 30, so that more entrepreneurs can have access to support. Other proposals include;
  • implementation of a £30 million Growth Voucher scheme to better help micro businesses with workforce expansion, advice on marketing, financial management, and online growth
  • an increased role of business schools in local economy including the establishment of the  "Supporting Small Business Charter" with an award scheme to incentivise business schools to help with SME growth
  • greater private sector advice to be made available through the Government's website
  • marketing of government schemes aimed at providing resources and support targeted at the micro businesses most in need.
It is very much true that Lord Young brings solutions to the table – his excellent report highlights the steps we can take to fire up business growth, helping to boost our competitiveness and ensuring the UK can get ahead in the fierce global race we are in. I thank him very much for his report. - David Cameron, Prime Minister
The steps identified by Lord Young in his report are not only aimed at economic recovery at a national level but to encourage business growth that would also help the UK stay ahead on a global scale. The Government is currently reviewing Lord Young's report with a view to implementing his proposals later in the year. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Crowdfunding for The Suspended Coffee App

Who would have thought that you could perform a good deed for the day by simply ordering a cup of coffee? What started off in Naples, Italy has become a global goodwill initiative thanks to the advent of social media, with thousands of people ordering their coffee with one to be "suspended" for someone in greater need. Now organisers behind the movement have turned to the crowdfunding platform AppsFunder to raise the necessary funds that would enable the development of a Suspended Coffees mobile app.

Originating from Naples where it has been age old tradition, the principle of the suspended coffee is simple. When ordering a hot beverage a customer can also ask for a coffee to be suspended. Essentially it is an equivalent beverage, usually a coffee, that is "banked" and offered to those in need. Should someone who is homeless or has simply fallen on hard times ask for a suspended coffee, is any are available, they will be given to the recipient for no charge. From Naples the idea moved to Bulgaria where it was thought to have support from over 150 cafes. Through social media the idea grew exponentially mainly due to a Facebook page set up by 28 year old plumber from Cork, John Sweeney. The Suspended Coffee page has over 80,000 likes and businesses from all over the world have subscribed to the initiative proudly displaying their support using the leaflet available to download. It has also become the driving force behind raising awareness all over the world for both customers and businesses alike.

As the major chains such as Starbucks and Costa are currently looking into the possibility of implementing the scheme in their stores, the initiative is looking to encapsulate the suspended coffee experience for mobile devices. The aim is to create an app that will enable users to easily locate nearby coffee shops that subscribe to the scheme. Users will also be able to purchase and request suspended coffees online and leave comments. The sum of $8,000 is needed to design the user interface as well as develop and test the finished app, which is being sought through AppFunders. In exchange for their donation funders will principally be rewarded with a series of mentions and thank you's on the Suspended Coffees website and Facebook page. However, the greater the donation the warmer the gratitude.

Suspended Coffees has just under 80 days to raise the necessary funds and to date it has raised $1,025 of the target with support from 37 backers. Whilst overall there is still some way to reaching $8,000 the project is already half way to reaching the target of $2,000 needed for design of the interface alone. For more information about the project and to pledge your support visit the AppsFunder project page.

Image Credit; anthony pc

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

[Writer's Blog] Creating Characters; A few Do's and a Definite Don't

In order to better understand and enhance my creative process ever since I decided to get back into story writing I turned to a variety of sources such as writing sites and a subscription to Writer's Magazine.  Much of what is being passed on to aspiring writers is on par with what I already know which is a relief. The only thing that has changed is the technology. I was disturbed to find however that under the guise of having stemmed from "published authors" there were some pointers that bordered on insane and if followed could cause more problems and possibly land one in prison. This has compelled me to put a few thoughts down here to assist fellow writers but also as an aide memoir for me because let's face it I would have a hard time raising the necessary bail money.

Image Credit; Riley Roxx

Characters Are All Around (DO)

Finding inspiration for believable characters is not as a hard as one might think. Unless you are living the life of a hermit you are surrounded by a rich limitless treasure of believable characters; other people. Theyare in our lives everyday from family and friends, passing strangers, colleagues all potential characters that could be worked into a story. 

People In Our Lives

Provided they have no objections people who feature in our daily lives from friends and family  to colleagues and acquaintances, can be crafted into fictional characters for the story.  Through years of cultivated relations we have been ushered through the door of someone's heart and mind where we learn about their greatest joys and their darkest fears. We also learn about their  strength of character and how they make their way through life's good times and the bad. Friends and family are the richest source as we know them well. Other people with whom we have relations (or dealings) such as acquaintances whilst not as intimately familiar we know well enough to draw inspiration. They say write what you know and the same goes for characterisation. You are surrounded by a wealth of human inspiration on a daily basis, so learn to utilise it. 

News and Literature

In order to be better writers we are called on to read, a lot and to observe extensively. This acts as an even richer source as thanks to the Internet we have access to people's stories that horrify and inspire (sometimes both!!!). This is another source that should be taken advantage of especially human interest stories although the idea can come from anywhere or anyone. For one story that involved competing athletes and the extreme measures used to win I based the two main characters on Olympic athletes. I prefer not to say which athletes but I inspiration from scandals involving athletes who went to great (and illicit) lengths to win. Magazines, news items, forums, social media can expose an author to a variety of stories and character traits to be used. 

People Watching

If like me you work best in a coffee shop or cafe with free WI-FI, stimulating & tasty beverages and a panoramic view of the surroundings then this is perhaps the best way to seek out and develop characters. Sit comfortably flip open your laptop and/or have a note book handy  and start discreetly looking around. See who is in the cafe with you and make notes about what you see or hear. Be sure to include dress, style, gestures, facial expressions, what people are eating and drinking etc. You can also use this to help the creative process flow by singling one or two people and then crafting a story around them. I once observed a couple entering a coffee shop, one of them was carrying a baby but there was no sign of the baby's pram/buggy, or even a bag of essential baby related items. I thought this was bizarre at first until a third person entered with said items. From observing them however I still created a number of scenarios from child kidnapping to meeting with prospective adoptive parents. One story even featured them as undercover spies and the baby was on loan. 

Caution is Key (Don't)

Remember when basing characters on real people (mainly living ones), whether they are people you know or have read about, be mindful that your sources are likely to be your readers. It can be flattering to recognise yourself in a piece of written work, and a little massaging of the ego never does any harm. However it is not hard for someone to take umbrage on what they read, especially if the portrayal is negative. This can cause breakdown in personal relationships and in some cases result in court action if you are seen to be defaming someone's character. 

Use these sources to add meat to the bones of your character and avoid the danger  of recreating them. Remember this is all about "creative" writing so be creative.

A Final Warning 

I mentioned earlier that I subscribed to Writers' Magazine, a very helpful publication full of interviews, insights, tips and of course prize winning competitions. As a free gift I received three books designed to teach yourself how to be a better writer, with one of them focusing on creative writing. In a chapter looking at Finding Believable Characters an exercise was prescribed as a principle means of character creation. Here is the exercise in full; 
Take yourself off into your nearest town or village. Spend some time really looking at your fellow citizens. Find someone who is as different from yourself as you can. Someone much older, say. Or much younger. And follow them. Keep a discreet distance but stay close enough to be able to watch how they move. If they are with companions, try and overhear what they say. You could even begin this exercise in a cafe, overhearing what your fellow customers are talking about and then following a selected target as he or she leaves the premises. Try and gather as much information about your target's life as you can and then, safely back at home, make some detailed notes. This should give you enough material on which to base a central character.

Image Credit; Sudhamshu

I can't even begin to detail what is wrong with this little exercise in building believable characters. Observing people sitting in a cafe, park, or on the bus stop is one thing but following them around? I am fairly certain that there are certain laws that prohibit such behaviour unless of course you are a policeman, member of the intelligence service, or Miss Marple. What is more alarming is the author's reference to "targets". Imagine if you will a stranger caught hanging around a school playground when questioned replies "it's OK officer, I am observing children at play for a story I am writing." 

What is suggested in the exercise is tantamount to stalking which is illegal. So anyone who has read the same book or have read this exercise in other publications then please, in the words of rapper Melle Mel , I implore you "don't don't don't do it, don't do it."

Monday, 29 April 2013

Open Innovation Competition to Design Better Cities for the Future

In an effort to find the ideal design for a sustainable city of the future IT giants Intel Labs Europe have launched the 2013 Better Cities competition in partnership with with Dublin City Council,Trinity College Dublin, and the European Commission on Open Innovation Strategy Policy Group (OISPG). The competition calls for designers and innovators to submit a video presentation outlining their designs for a city that is economically and socially sustainable using IT and open data. Participants will also be in with the chance of winning an assortment of prizes should their design be shortlisted and chosen as the winners by an independent judging panel of stakeholders and experts.

The partnership and competition all form part of the European Union's Digital Agenda known as Open Innovation 2.0 Sustainable Economy & Society collaboration effort. In addition to the competition a conference will be held at Dublin Castle from 20th to 21st May 2013 bringing together business leaders, academics and social innovators to develop a manifesto for a more sustainable economy and society development. 

Participants in the Better Cities competition will be asked to produce a 30 second video presentation outlining their idea for a city of the future, with a focus on how to engage citizens  and contribute to the innovative process. The video can take the form of spoken presentation, storyboard of the ideas, or even a demonstration. The competition will consist of two categories; university competition which will be open to students of third level institutions and the general competition for all entries. Prizes include a Dell Inspiron Laptop, tickets to a Gala Dinner, latest Motorola Smartphones, tablets and e-readers. 

The closing date for entries is 8th May 2013 and you click here for more details about the competition as well as those all important terms and conditions. A shortlist of suitable entries will be presented to the judging panel to chose the winners who will be contacted 15th May. 

Image Credit; Sam Howzit 

Friday, 26 April 2013

Outlandish Australian Election Candidate Crowdsources Campaign Video

General elections, no matter where they are held in the world attract their mix of heated debates as well as colourful and controversial running candidates. In the upcoming Australian Federal Elections, of the many candidates looking to unseat the incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard, none come more colourful and controversial than Bob Katter. No stranger to headline grabbing antics which have had Australians laughing and expressing outrage in equal measure, the self-proclaimed independent has turned to crowdsourcing in search of the winning campaign video.

As outlandish as he might seem, Bob Katter clearly has qualities that voters admire given that he has been a serving political representative for his home State of Queensland for nearly forty years. After having served as second lieutenant in the Combined Maritime Forces, Katter earned a living in various fields including insurance, mining as well as cattle interestes before turning his eye to politics. In 1974 he was elected to the State Queensland Legislative Assembly serving as it's member until 1992. Katter was then elected to the Federal House of Representatives for Kennedy in Queensland.

Recently during his campaign, Katter has entertained and infuriated Australian voters from claiming the Bieber cut as his own to calling for missile-equipped boats to patrol his country's borders protecting them from asylum seekers. Competition for the most coveted political seat in Australia is hotting up and Katter is rising to the challenge by using crowdsourcing to find a campaign video that best reflect his policies and personality. Submissions should be no more than 60 seconds in length and cover topical issues ("important stuff") such as nation building, what it means to be an Australian, and protecting local jobs. The deadline for submissions is 7th June 2013.

The tagline for Katter's YouTube call states that "this election, Bob Katter is doing something different. This election, Bob Katter is shaking things up." The decision to use crowdsourcing and social media reflects this statement, an innovative move to get the voting public involved in his campaign, something many politicians still avoid. Whilst it could be seen as refreshing to see crowdsourcing used in political campaigns, those who view Katter as an embarrassment might wish more serious candidates followed his ideal. Nevertheless the prospect of crowdsourcing as a democratizing tool is slowly being recognized in politics as evidence by Bob Katter's latest call.

Image Credit; mrsdkrebbs

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

GE and Quirky in Partnership to Inspire Greater Open Innovation

Leading multinational giant GE is no stranger to open innovation having backed campaigns seeking innovation in the medical field. The company's latest move brings them into partnership with Quirky.com, a venture that might be small in comparison but within a relatively short period has grown into a multi - million dollar enterprise. This David and Goliath team have announced the creation of an inspiration platform for inventors to browse through a selection of previously inaccessible patents and devise new consumer products.

To some, a behemoth company like GE partnering with a platform like Quirky might seem like an odd choice. Yet the sudden rise of Quirky, whose young founder Ben Kaufman is himself an inventor, makes the partnership an ideal one. At only 18 years of age Ben Kaufman convinced his parents to remortgage their home and loan him the sum of $185,000 to help fund the design for a  prototype of a new form of headphones. This product a retractable lanyard headphone known as the Song Sling went onto to help Kaufman's company Morphie win Macworld's Best of Show award for 2006. The young inventor/entrepreneur returned to Macworld the following year and set up a basic version of what would become the working model for Quirky. 

The ideas was simple; inventors pay a small fee (usually around $10) and submit their idea or design onto the platform. There they will be reviewed by Quirky's community of registered users, which number over 220,000, who will rate the design and offer any suggestions. Those that rank the highest are then reviewed by quirky's team of experts to assess it's uniqueness and market potential. On average the team select one to two ideas to per week for development into a product that will grace the shelves of some of the top name retail outlets. Quirky reviews as many as 120 products across a development cycle with more than 75 products on sale, and 35% of revenue sales going to the inventors. One of Kaufman's favourite products, the PowerCurl earned its inventor over $80,000.

Quirky's partnership with GE will help fuel their latest concept, the Inspiration platform through which inventors will have access to a portfolio of GE's selected patents. There is a potential barrier to some inventors not well versed with GE's technically rich and rigidly structured patents. This could make it difficult for some to extract key pieces of information to make any potential design viable. However the aim of making these patents available is to inspire and invigorate the inventor/entrepreneur, enriching Quirky's already established community and for GE access to some truly creative and innovative products.

Image Credits; KrossBow