Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Green Party Campaign Through Crowdfunding

The UK general election is six months away but already the political parties are stepping up their campaigns to vie for the public vote. The Green Party have turned to crowdfunding to raise funds for prospective candidates and raise more awareness of their policies. The Greens, deemed the only left leaning political party in the UK, have signed up with London & Cornwall based Crowdfunder raise the sum of £500 for each of their parliamentary candidates who will stand in the May 2015 general election.

The Green Party are no strangers to the unending fight in getting their message across. Currently at odds with the television outlets (mainly the BBC) for not including their leader Natalie Bennett in the televised election debates, the party is determined to increase their drive to get as many parliamentary candidates as possible to run in the upcoming election. This has already proven to be successful in Plymouth where party member Lauren Packham sought the £500 deposit needed to stand as an MP, through Crowdfunder. The campaign was a huge success with nearly £2,500 collected. The funding target, with only 7 days remaining, has since been extended to £3,000 to help meet print and online advertising costs as well as distribution of promotional flyers.

Media coverage of the party has been minimal with much of attention diverted to the rise of the far right party UKIP. With the ongoing battle to be feature regularly on the BBC (who appear to favour coverage of UKIP), using Crowdfunder to raise the deposit also helps to promote more awareness of their policies which not only include addressing environmental concerns but also to provide a real left leaning alternative, once the monocle of the Labour party. To ensure that they make an impact, the Green Party has pledged to stand in at least 75% constituencies in 2015. This will allow 50% more people to vote Green at the coming General Election than were able to in 2010.

The Green surge in membership and polling demonstrates that more and more people are interested in Green values and policies and are prepared to vote Green at the 2015 General Election. Working with Crowdfunder allows the Green Party, which, unlike other parties, does not receive large corporate donations, to raise the money necessary to stand more candidates than ever before and potentially boost our representation in Parliament next year. - Tom Beckett, Fundraising and Operations Director.

The campaign for Lauren Packham continues, offering supporters a variety of rewards from acknowledgements on the Green Party website and social media, to ethically produced Green Party silicone wristbands along with signed prints of the party's prominent figures, leader Natalie Bennett and Brighton & Hove MP Caroline Lucas. An opportunity to meet and greet the candidate has already been fully backed with three donors securing the opportunity to meet Plymouth's potentially first Green MP. For more information about the campaign and to pledge support visit Lauren Packham's Crowdfunder page

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Crowdfunding The Return of Mike Bassett

Filmdom's favourite football manager is looking to make a comeback and lead England to World Cup glory in Mike Bassett; Interim Manager. The writer and director team behind the 2001 hit Mike Bassett; England Manager have reunited along with original cast members and are seeking partial funding for the film's budget through crowdfunding. Director Steve Barron has launched the campaign through Kickstarter looking to raise £250,000 and is offering fans the opportunity to be part of the film in exchange for their support. 

When called upon directorial duties for Mike Bassett; England Manager, Irish filmmaker Steve Barron had already established himself as a successful director in the UK and Hollywood in film, television and music videos. Barron's body of work includes the first cinematic adventure for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and Adventures of Pinocchio, as well as the Merlin television series starring Sam Neil and Miranda Richardson.  In the emerging world of music videos in the 80s Barron directed such giant names that are a veritable line up of 80s musical talent including Human League, Aha with their most famous video Take on Me, and the King of Pop himself the late Michael Jackson in Billie Jean. After working in Hollywood on a number of music video compilations as well as feature films such as Coneheads, Barron teamed up with television writers Rob Sprackling and John R Smith in 2000 for Mike Bassett; England Manager. Taking the form of a mockumentary starring The Royle Family's Ricky Tomlinson in the title role. Bassett became a cinematic favourite for film and football fans alike with his questionable training methods and x-rated no holds barred pep talks. 

The film was a success and Bassett became a household name with a television series created by the film's writers. The series ran for four episodes after which Sprackling and Smith continued working in television then going onto write the script for a very different take on a Shakespeare classic in Gnomeo and Juliette. Barron meanwhile went onto work on pop video compilations for Culture Club and Michael Jackson as well as directing The Road Ahead starring Sean Pertwee and Treasure Island starring Eddie Izzard as Long John Silver. Now the three have reunited along with principle cast members for the continuing saga of everyone's favourite football manager.

Mike Bassett; Interim Manager will see Ricky Tomlinson return as the hapless but loveable football manager. However things have taken a downward turn for Bassett following a series of poor career choices. Bassett ends up managing the Iranian national football team hired due to being mistaken for Harry Redknapp. England soon comes calling when their German manager leaves for another job and so the team turns in desperation to their former leader in the hopes of steering them to World Cup glory. As well as Tomlinson, the film will also see the return of Bradley Walsh as his friend and assistant manager Dave "Doddsy" Dodds and Amanda Redman as Karine, Mike Bassett's long suffering wife. Filming is scheduled to begin in March 2015 with the aim of securing a cinema release for early the following year.
It was an easy decision for me to play Mike again. Who wouldn't want to be England manager without all the stress of actually having the job? Whenever I speak to football fans there's such affection for Bassett that it's hard to ignore the demand. The Kickstarter element is a brilliant way of getting people involved in the film. It's a football film for football fans so it's great to recreate the same collectiveness you see on the terraces in a movie. - Ricky Tomlinson

Since the release of the first film and its subsequent television incarnation, Mike Bassett has taken on a cult status amongst football fans and is perhaps the most popular England manager, despite being a fictional creation. However securing the necessary funding presented a challenge since some sources, such as the UK Film Council, are no longer available.Producer Leo Pearlman and Barron embarked on this Kickstarter campaign looking to raise £250,000 to meet the film's budgetary demands. Bassett fans can now be part of bringing this beloved character back the big screen by donating to the crowdfiunding campaign through Kickstarter. For as little as a £5 donation fans will receive a special audio thank you from Mike Bassett himself. Other rewards featured, a digital download, DVD and Blu-Ray copy of the finished film, exclusive merchandise, set visits, along with preview screenings and a chance to attend the film's red carpet premier. You could even be an extra in the film. For high end donors a small or medium business can have its pitch side logo, or you can have an associate producer credit and even be listed on IMDB.
It's the passion of the fans that convinced us a Bassett return is welcome and that's why we're looking to create a film that is partially fan-funded via Kickstarter. It's innovative fundraising and enables us to create a film for football fans, made by football fans. - Steve Barron, Director
The target of £250,000 must be met before the campaign's deadline of 21st November 2014. To date £75,000 has been collected, and of the backers seven secured the much coveted speaking part in the film having donated £5,000 each for the opportunity. For more details about the campaign and to help be a part of football's favourite manager's comeback in Mike Bassett; Interim Manager visit the the project's Kickstarter page.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Crowdsourcing and 3D Printing Partnership to Develop New Generation of Home Products

Stratysys Limited, a global provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions has announced its partnership with FirstBuild, the GE open innovation micro-factory. This collaboration will utilise a combination Stratasys' patented 3D printing technology and advanced manufacturing solutions with FirstBuild's open innovation community and micro-factory in Louisville Kentucky to develop and manufacture the next evolution of GE appliances and accessories. 

Since it launched on 1st May 2014 FirstBuild, a collaborative partnership between GE, University of Louisville, and crowdsourcing platform Local Motors, has been hard at work with the launch of its first product. The Green Bean Maker Module enables any household GE appliance to be retroactively transformed into into SMART products thereby helping to create a SMART home with the appliances controlled by a smartwatch. The Green Bean Module is on sale through the FirstBuild website. GE is certainly no stranger to collaborations on innovative manufacturing process using 3D printing techniques and CAD software. Stratasys has grown into a global provider of 3D printing solutions employing its patented FDM, Polyjet, and WDM 3D printing technologies to create prototypes and produce goods from 3D CAD files. The company also specialises in the use of additive manufacturing, the process of adding layer upon layer of material from the bottom up in effect the product is grown as opposed to machined. The process makes the material stronger and more flexible allowing for more cost effective and efficient parts production directly from 3D CAD data as well as allow for greater innovation.

Stratasys will set up 3D printers at the FirstBuild micro-factory located on the University of Louisville campus in Kentucky. FirstBuild's community of students, engineers and designers will collaborate to design the next generation of appliances with continued access to GE's plethora of iterations and designs. The 3D printers will be used in conjunction with metal and woodworking manufacturing techniques to test and build products which once finished will be sold, like the Green Bean Module, through the FirstBuild website, as well as traditional retail outlets. 
We believe that the prospects of tapping into the hardware innovation scene are very promising. This is an outstanding opportunity to help revolutionise the way things are made. This is an open-innovation environment where FirstBuild users will be able to use our cutting-edge technology to accelerate product development phases and create real products. - Gilad Gans, President Stratasys North America.
From advances in ultrasound research to manufacturing GE continues its long standing foray into crowdsourcing, mainly open innovation and co-creation. Collaborative partnerships with smaller platforms including Quirky and Local Motors has allowed for access to resources and creation of opportunities for new start-ups as well as up and coming designers and engineers in innovative design and creation of the next generation of partnerships.

Image Credit; Enrique Dans

Monday, 25 August 2014

RIP Lord Richard Attenborough 1923 - 2014

Richard (Lord) Attenborough, who died today aged 90 was one of cinema's most prolific talents both in front and behind the camera. In a career that has spanned six decades Lord Attenborough has entertained, moved, terrified and enthralled movie audiences around the world in many of filmdom's most famous and legendary titles. Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, Flight of the Phoenix, 10 Rillington Place, Ghandi, Cry Freedom, Jurassic Park, and Shadowlands are just the fragment of the tip of the iceberg that is Lord Attenborough's career. He has enjoyed success in the US having worked with many of cinema's greatest living and sadly departed talents. 

Image Credit; Kate Gabrielle
Even though he was a success in Hollywood Lord Attenborough never forgot his roots. He championed the British film industry as chairman of the UK's most prestigious film production companies as well as the BFI, and along with David (Lord) Puttnam lobbied Parliament to aide the industry he worked in so tirelessly. Although he will be sorely missed Lord Attenborough has immortalized himself in some of cinema's finest work in a career that many would be so lucky to have. 

Since Lord Attenborough passed away on the weekend of the 15th Film4 Frightfest in London it seems only fitting to pay tribute with a look at a directorial effort that is as terrifying today as it was over 35 years ago.

Monday, 11 August 2014

RIP Robin Williams 1951-2014

In the film Dead Poets Society written by Tom Schulman teacher John Keating (Robin Williams in what I feel was his best role) attempts to save his class of young aspirants from a life of mediocrity by inspiring them to think for themselves. In it he quotes from Walt Whitman; "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" In answer to Keating's question Williams has contributed extraordinary verses to the powerful play lighting up the screen and our lives with his emotionally charged performances as an actor and his boundless frenetic energy as a comedian. His body of work is immense and although some could rightfully be buried in the landfill of awful forgettable movies (Cadillac Man, Hook) Williams' legacy is a plethora of incredible performances all of which deserved a nod from his peers. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Crowdfunding The World's First Underwater Hotel

The subtropical coral cay archipelago that are the Florida Keys, home to some of the world's wondrous marine life, could the site for the first ever underwater hotel. Tony Webb, managing director of Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a prototype for the first ever luxury underwater hotel that would herald a new era in ecotourism and support marine restoration and conservation. Through the crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo Planet Ocean is looking to raise $325,000 within 60 days offering in return a variety of rewards which include a free/discounted stay in the hotel itself.

Planet Ocean, based in Key West Florida, could be at the forefront of revolutionary tourism (second only to Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space travels) with the creation of the world's first underwater hotel. It has been billed as an affordable luxury hotel with the purpose of providing guests with a unique underwater experience. The hotel, once built, will initially consist of 12 guest rooms, a luxury lounge and dining area that will provide breathtaking panoramic views of marine life. The room rates will vary from $1,500 per night for weekdays, to $3,000 for weekend stays. Planet Ocean however dreams to be more than just a profit making luxury hotelier, and will be supporting global marine conservation and restoration efforts.

After carefully reviewing all the efforts of various marine conservation groups, Tony Webb and the management team of Planet Ocean selected and entered into partnership with the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA). This US based non-profit group provides funds for the efforts of marine ecologists and environmental groups to protect and sustain the management of coral reefs. GCRA has recorded mass devastation of coral reefs due to numerous natural and man made activities, and their deterioration is thought to be the first casualty of global warming. Their work has helped bring the plight of endangered coral reef to the global public attention and even brought about legislative changes to combat the problem. Planet Ocean will work with GCRA to continue supporting these efforts through funding to develop and implement viable solutions and resources to continue the fight for the protection of coral reef vital to the sustenance of marine life.

The funds raised by Planet Ocean through the crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo will pay for the construction of a prototype cylindrical capsule made from steel and thick layered acrylic. Housed in a testing facility in Orlando, Florida the capsule will undergo every type of rigorous structural and durability tests. The capsule will also be used to test an assortment of supporting equipment. The results could then lead to a second round funding initiative. Planet Ocean will offer donors who support the crowdfunding campaign a variety of rewards including limited merchandise, acknowledgements, free tours of the new hotel once it is built as well as discounted or even a free overnight stay in one of the luxury rooms. For more information and make a donation visit the project's IndieGoGo page.

Monday, 23 June 2014

One Direction Member Helps Launch Crowdfunding Project for Local Football Club

Louis Tomlinson, member of boy band One Direction helped launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for Doncaster Rovers football club. The campaign was launched by Tomlinson on 19th June 2014, along with the club's former chairman and businessman John Ryan through the UK platform Crowdfunder looking to raise £2 million believed to be the largest UK crowdfunding campaign to date. Fans of the club and football supporters in general are being asked to pledge their financial support to help reach this ambitious target, which if successful will help with the club's growth and development.

In addition to being a member of one of the most successful UK music acts, Doncaster born Louis Tomlinson of One Direction is also an avid footballer, and plays for the Doncaster Rovers Reserves as a defender. In an effort to better support the club of his hometown Tomlinson has partnered with John Ryan the former club chairman to form the Tomlinson/Ryan trust. The goal of this to trust is to support and develop the club in helping realise its ambitions on the field to achieve Premiership League status,  develop its schools as well as youth and charity programmes, and grow the club's brand and supporter base. The campaign through Crowdfunder will use the money raised to help make all these dreams, plus many more, a reality. 
By setting up the Trust, launching the crowdfunding campaign with crowdfunder.co.uk, and putting our own money in, we are making it clear to Doncaster Rovers supporters, and the general public, that we are planning to give the club the support and resources it needs. As its previous Chairman I am still totally committed to developing an exciting future for the club. The objectives of the trust provide a roadmap to make the club an even greater success. I am very pleased to join forces with Louis to make this happen. It’s an exciting moment for Doncaster RoversJohn Ryan
The Crowdfunder campaign, #FANSUNITED will use the funds raised to help the club achieve all its aims, to grow not only as a nationally recognised Premiership League club but also expand onto the global market. The trust has already pledged a six figure sum to show its commitment to the project and to encourage fans and supporters to pledge. In exchange, donors will receive rewards that include club merchandise and limited edition items as well as varied levels of club membership giving those who pledged a say in the running of the club. The crowdfunding campaign has 30 days to reach its funding targets so to learn more and make a donation click here to visit the Crowdfunder page.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Crowdsourced Service Provider Secures Second Round Funding For Expansion

Textmaster, a leading provider of professional crowdsourced services has announced securing €1 million in a second round of funding for expansion plans. The latest investors which include Alven Capital, eFounders, and Cédric Siré co founder of one the largest digital media groups, Webedia. These latest round of funds will be used to expand Textmaster further into the European and Asian markets.

Founded in 2011, Textmaster has grown into a platform providing professional services which include translation and content writing to proof reading, for a variety of business ranging from SMEs to multinational corporations, including Google, in a variety of industries. These include e-commerce and manufacturing to communication and mobile app developers making up 5000 customers from over 50 countries. Textmaster helps its customer develop their online presence and grow internationally with services that are available through a wife range of formats including an API as well as integration with Microsoft office and Wordpress. 
This new round of funding will enable us to invest in our technology and pursue our international expansion in Germany and Asia. Our shareholders' support and the arrival of Cédric Siré allows us to continue our growth and prepare for a third round of funding before the end of the year. - Thibault Lougnon, CEO TextMaster
The three new investors include big names in Textmaster's key fields of investment, startup support and digital media. 
  • Alven Capital is an independent venture capital firm with an extensive portfolio of retail outlets, hoteliers and broadband providers. 
  • efounders is a startup studio that helps SMEs and SaaS startups develop their business ideas by acting as co-founders providing advice and resources. 
  • Cédric Siré is the co-founder of Webedia, one of Europe's largest digital media groups. Since launching in 2007 Webedia through its variety of news outlets has created a monetized digital business which in 2012 saw it's revenue increase by 80% to €20 million. 
The inclusion of Cédric Siré as an investor should particular be advantageous to Textmaster given that as co-founder of Webedia, Siré helped build a business to such a large scale in the highly competitive and unpredictable digital content market. The success of Webedia through these efforts caught the attention of Fimalac, an international investment group who recently purchased Webedia which will become part of a leading internation group in the fashion and entertainment media.

Image Credit; Simon Cunningham

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Crowdfunding Sustainable Energy Through The Power of Music.

Can the vast amount of energy generated from musical performances on some of the biggest stages be harnessed and used to create a sustainable form of electricity? This was the question asked by Sudha Kheterpal, percussionist with the world famous South London band Faithless The question led to the development of SPARK  a percussion instrument that converts energy into electricity. Leading the call the to "Shake Your Power" Sudha is looking to develop a full prototype to be distributed to countries with little or no sustainable power and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help make this happen. The campaign, which went live on 10th June 2014, is looking to raise £50,000 in 30 days.

Sudha Kheterpal has spent over 20 years as a percussionist, 15 of those years with the band Faithless, playing to packed out arenas all over the world. During that time, she has often wondered if the immense power and energy generated during those performances could be harnessed and put to good use. Sudha carried out extensive research into kinetic energy, which in physics refers to the energy built up through acceleration, or the energy of motion. Kinetic energy is maintained until there is a change in speed. Using this as a starting point Sudha then researched the various harnessing techniques to determine which was the best way to build and maintain kinetic energy and how that would transform into sustainable power. Working with designers and engineers, Sudha developed the first prototype for a musical instrument for harnessing that kinetic energy. 

SPARK is a percussion instrument, a prototype shaker that converts the energy from shaking into electricity. The device contains a magnet which moves through the centre of a copper coil, or solenoid. This induces a current of electricity and as the magnet slides through the coil repeatedly back and forth, it charges up a rechargeable battery. The energy produced by SPARK is then stored allowing it to be used at any point of the day or night.  It also has a USB port that will enable the user to plug in a light or charge up a mobile phone instantly or at a later time. If shaken for 12 minutes SPARK can produce and store enough energy to provide light for one hour. The initial prototypes were tested in parts of Kenya with little or no form of sustainable electricity and have proven successful in providing safe lighting through some of the more dangerous areas, particular for women and girls where rape is prevalent. They have also provided vital means for charging mobile phones to maintain important communications in rural areas for contact with family as well as obtaining essential medical, retail, and banking services.

The funds raised through Kickstarter will be used to develop the prototype into a finished product, manufacture and distribution, and development of assembly kits to enable users to build their own SPARK. In return, donors will receive a variety of rewards including personal acknowledgements, limited edition merchandise, invitation to an intimate performance by Faithless, percussion masterclass with Sudha and of course their very own SPARK prototype. The need for alternative renewable energy sources remains a vital one in the light of alarming increasing in the effects of climate change and SPARK provides yet another means to provide essential energy that is good for the people and the planet. Beyond that it can provide a greater sense of interdependence and uniting of people and communities, and connect people through the universal and uplifting power of music. Click here for more information and to make a donation.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Crowdfunder Nets Biggest Funding Total for Local Football Club

Crowdfunder has helped a local Manchester football club exceed an ambitious crowdfunding target and netting the UK based platform its biggest project to date. The club, FC United of Manchester sought just £26,000 from supporters for the cost of a community centre but after a two month campaign secured over £50,000 to meet further expansion costs which include a fully fitted commercial kitchen.

FC United of Manchester was founded in 2005 and is currently playing in the Evostik 7th level Premier Division. Located in Morton, north of the city of Manchester, the club receives funding and support from fans and members who also run the club. The Broadhurst Park grounds in Morton sought expansion for a commercial kitchen and function room. The club decided to raise the funds through crowdfunding in the hopes of garnering fan support and chose Exeter-based Crowdfunder to facilitate the campaign. Since it was founded in November 2010 Crowdfunder has helped raise £1.7 million for over 2000 community projects, social causes, businesses and start-ups.

The club's crowdfunding campaign, called "Kit-it-Out" initially aimed to raise £26,000 to help pay for the building of a function room that would act as a community centre. The facility would be available to local people and club members alike to host functions, volunteering committees and social gatherings with access to be provided seven days a week. Within one month of launching, the campaign exceed its funding target which was subsequently extended to £20,000. The extra funds were proposed to pay for the the fitting of a commercial kitchen. After two months the revised target was exceeded with 872 pledges raising £51,395 and for Crowdfunder, the biggest funding total for a single project to date.
“It has been an exciting time watching the FC United campaign launch and become so successful. This project is one of our most brilliant examples of how communities can come together to change the future for something they believe in. Crowdfunder and it's supporters, Plymouth Uni and NESTA have enabled this fantastic group of people to achieve something incredible. It's not just about the startling amount they fundraised - it's about the legacy for the community and the proof for grass-roots communities across the UK that together - they can change the world."Phil Geraghty, Managing Director of Crowdfunder
The crowdfunding campaign was far more successful than anticipated enabling FC United to build its new facilities. It is hoped that the community centre will serve as a central hub for the clubs community and volunteering activities that will help an economically deprived area of Manchester. The club will be open to local people as well as members to promote sport participation and education courses in the area. 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Crowdfunding Paves the Way For Solar Paneled Roads

The need for alternative cleaner renewable energy in the wake of the continued escalation of climate change has seen many ideas through crowdsourcing come to fruition.  Solar Roadways is a new start-up established to develop and implement solar powered panels to pave the roads of America. This innovative road surface technology, which aims to provide safer roads and also harness power from the sun to provide homes and businesses with clean sustainable energy, has proven successful with small scale test. Now the Solar Roadways looks to raise $1,000,000 through the crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo to develop large scale prototypes.

Solar Roadways is the brain child of engineer Scott Brusaw and his wife Julia, a trained counsellor. An electrical engineer of for over 25 years Brusaw developed an idea of creating safer roads SMART roads that would perform a number of invaluable functions. Each panel would contain 120 LED lights that would act as visible road markers and signs. These would be safer and clearer especially for night time driving, and even warn of impending dangers and prevent accidents. The heat generated by the panels would keep the roads clear of ice and snow making the roads safer. The panels would also have alongside secure cable corridors which would provide safe storage for power and data cables illiminating the need for overhead cables. The ultimate purpose of Solar Roadways however is to remove the dependency on fossil fuels by providing clean energy to homes and businesses as well as infrastructure that would power electric (possibly driver-less) cars.

The first small scale prototype was completed in 2010, a 12 by 12 foot road panel made of poly-carbonate plates instead of glass with no solar cells. The panel was tested indoors to illustrate how it worked. Once the details had been configured a larger scale model complete with solar cells, was built. This second phase panel was big enough to cover a car park and endured all manner of stress testing such as load traction and impact resistance of the glass. The successful tests attracted the attention of the US Federal Highway Administration who subsequently provided two phases of funding to Brusaw for larger prototype development. The remainder of the funds needed is being sought through crowdfunding.

Solar Roadways has less than 10 days to secure $1,000,000 target and has already garnered nearly $650,000. In exchange for donations, supporters will receive a variety of rewards including named acknowledgements as well as a variety of merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs and solar panel pendants. Ultimately the Solar Roadways project is more about a genuine desire to further the advancement of clean and sustainable energy through solar power. For more information about the project and to make a donation click here to visit the project's campaign page.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

New Start-up To Use Co-Creation for Ethical Product Development

A new UK start-up is looking to the collaborative process of co-creation to develop high quality beverages that would be in keeping with the ethical values of society. Agora developed by two young entrepreneurs, has announced the launch of its first co-created product called 99% Guiltless a raspberry and mint flavoured water beverage devised by the company's collaborative community. 

Agora was founded by two young entrepreneurs, Allan Szymczyk and Jan Verwijs. Initially it started off as a student project to explore the potential of crowdsourcing in creating a business in which people could participate in every major area from conception to creation. Whilst studying at the Hult International Business School, Allan and Jan initiated a trial run from the school's San Francisco campus. Consulting with other students the project resulted in two smoothie variants which were sold on campus and the profits donated to charity. Following the project's success Allan and Jan decided to transform it into a business venture in the UK and crowdsourced the product's name, Agora, the Greek word for market place. 

The official website for Agora was launched in January 2014 and collaboration on the company's first product began almost immediately. After sourcing ideas from Agora's members as well as consultation with industry leaders, the efforts led to the creation of the company's first product, raspberry and mint flavoured water that promises to be healthy and packed with flavour. To reflect the ethical nature of the company and its product the name 99% Guiltless was chosen. It promises to be free of sugar, additives and calories.

A market study for 99% Guiltless is currently under-way with the initial flavour of raspberry and mint having already been selected by the community. On this basis various flavour houses have been consulted for samples in order to create around 70 different flavour variation from which 11 were selected. These are currently being trialled with a view to reducing the number to five of the most popular samples. Taste testing sessions are to follow combined with a concept check or study that will survey 100 people and include initial designs for the product's bottle and label. Agora aims to begin production upon completion of the market study. 

When to comes to multinational soft drink manufacturers, controversy that calls the ethics of that company in question never seems to be far away. Whereas major companies are all focussed on making huge profits for their shareholders, Agora promises something that its consumers can trust; a brand that is ethically and democratically produced with potential customers as its creators, having a say in what makes up the finished product. The democratic quality of co-creation which Agora has built itself on looks to show how co-creation and crowdsourcing, can not only build a profitable business but also, like the Hisbe supermarket, embody the ethical values society demands from its businesses. For more information and to become a part of the community click here to visit the Agora platform.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

App to Tackle Autism Seeks Expansion Through Crowdfunding.

UPDATE!!!!! Deadline for this campaign has been extended for 10 days from today (20th June 2014). There is still time to help this worthy project reach its funding target.

The developers behind Brain in Hand, an app devised to help those with autistic spectrum condition, are seeking expansion with some of the funds being sought through equity-based crowdfunding. Through the leading UK platform Crowdcube, Brain in Hand hopes to raise £100,000 of the total £750,000 needed the rest of which is being sought from other investors. If successful Brain in Hand will increase its users from 125 to over 4,000 enabling it to be available to individuals as well as organisation.

Brain in Hand was devised by Andrew Stamp whose younger sun was diagnosed with autism. Frustrated with quality of local services available, Stamp consulted with clinical psychologist Dr Tony Brown, and along with other professionals and academics (some of whom have also been diagnosed with autism) came up with the idea for the app. Brain in Hand provides assistive technological support through a secure website and a smartphone app to develop and encourage confidence and foster greater independence. Initially using the website, users create a sort of diary thinking ahead about the daily challenges they might face and solutions that help them cope. Through the app the user has instant access to those solutions when needed and they can monitor their mood using a traffic light system, with red being the most severe indication. If the user records a red light warning they will be in touch immediately with a mentor. Using solution - focussed conversational techniques the mentor provides a calming influencing helping the user regain better control.

The app is mainly used by four NHS trusts, including a mental health specialist trust with over 125 users currently registered. In the last week it has expanded its license which limited its access to organisations, to include individuals. Brain in Hand wants to expand the current user base to over 4,0000 but will need funds to provide technical support as well as increased mentoring services. To date £375,000 has been pledged from a variety of investors directly. The company is seeking £100,000  in 55 days through equity based crowdfunding and has launched a campaign through Crowdcube. The funds being sought represent a total 7.9% equity in the project and qualifies for tax relief under the UK governments EIS scheme.

It is reported that around 700,000 (1 person in 100) have been diagnosed with autistic spectrum condition, 15 percent of which are in full time employment. Successful expansion of Brain in Hand will provide sufferers with a means of gaining more control and independence as well as mentoring supporting with the touch of an icon on their smartphone. For more information and to register interest click here to visit the project's campaign page on Crowdcube.

Image Credit; Beverly & Pack

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

GE Partnership Launch Co-Creation Microfactory

Leading multinational giant GE is no stranger to the successful use of crowdsourcing in its search for innovative products. The latest venture sees the company in partnership with the University of Louisville Kentucky, and crowdsourcing platform Local Motors to launch a co-creation platform to harness innovative ideas for the manufacturing industry. Operating from the University campus, FirstBuild aims to bring together students, designers, and innovation enthusiasts to collaborate on the development and construction of a new smart appliances.

The idea for FirstBuild was inspired by GE's recent successes through open innovation partnerships with GrabCAD for a lighter and sturdier jet engine bracket using 3D printing technology, and the platform Quirky through which users could access GE patents to devise new consumer products. This naturally led to a partnership with Local Motors, a co-creation platform with a global community of designers, amateur enthusiasts, innovators and inventors to devise hardware innovations through its network of micro-factories. This partnership also includes the University of Louisville's Speed School of Engineering whose knowledge and experience with 3D printing helped build the first 3D printed model of the human heart.

GE has a longstanding partnership with the University, employing over 6,000 Louisville residents to work at the company's 900 acre Appliance Park complex. The University's engineering students gain work experience at GE facilities whilst GE employees regularly work with the university's faculty and students on a variety of projects. The creation of the FirstBuild micro-factory is the next step built on GE's open innovation and university partnerships.

Firstbuild will be open to the public and from the 1st May will operate from an existing building within University campus. The goal initially is to devise smart appliances to revolutionise the future of cooking inviting designers, engineers and professionals to collaborate on new ideas. FirstBuild is also geared at creating an advanced manufacturing hub for the University's engineering students conduct research and develop practical training and skills. All will have access to GE iterations and designs from which to develop product ideas, or can come up with their own designs. 

Image Credit; Les Chattfield

Friday, 28 March 2014

Oxford Literary Festival - Some Thoughts

If you are a writer and/or love books then the ideal getaway has to be the Oxford Literary Festival. Like all good things, such as Christmas, it comes but once a year and when it does the event is a literary onslaught of all things bookish. The just over week long event features many big names in the field of literature, broadcasting and written journalism all eager to talk for an hour about their latest published work, answer questions from the audience and stay as long as required for the obligatory pasting of their John Hancock on your treasured copy of their publication. This year marked my first of what will hopefully be many more attendances at the festival and must say that it has certainly awakened the sleeping passion in me for all that is printed and bound.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

First Feature Film In Equity Based Crowdfund Success

Supernatural thriller, The Sleeping Room, has become the first feature film to raise funds through equity based crowdfunding. Using the UK based platform Seedrs, Sleeping Room has succeed within 10 days in raising £10,000 from 37 investors in over six countries. The funds will go towards the film's completion. The success of Sleeping Room's crowdfunding efforts once again is an indicator of how the UK is leading the way in the continued growth of equity based crowdfunding as an alternative source of finance.

The Sleeping Room is production company Movie Mogul's second film following the success of their debut production Panic Button. The use of crowdfunding as a means to finance their ventures is in keeping with their mission to maximise the emergence of the ever changing digital landscape through Web 2.0 in the development of  innovative cinematic projects.  The history making funding success of The Sleeping Room also mirrors the continued trend setting efforts of the crowdfunding platform Seedrs. Since it was launched in 2012, Seedrs has grown exponentially as an enterprise breaking ground along the way as a founding member of the UK Crowdfunding Association as well as playing host to the first  local authority to invest in a business, and even succeeding in self funding efforts securing £2.58 million for expansion into Europe.

Set in present day Brighton, The Sleeping Room has been billed as a creepy tale of Victorian revenge. The crowdfunding campaign through Seedrs sought to raise £10,000 representing a total stake in the project of 4.19%. Within ten days Sleeping Room not only reached the funding target but has exceeded with more investments being recorded. 
The success of the campaign clearly demonstrates the emergence of an alternative funding route for indie producers to break down existing barriers in seeking out private investors, by connecting us directly to individuals who clearly have a desire to invest money into producing original films. - Gareth Davies, Producer Movie Moguls

The success of The Sleeping Room is another example of how the UK has embraced equity-based crowdfunding as a viable investment route, creating greater and even safer investment opportunities for businesses and ventures.  Click here for more information about the project and its crowdfunding success.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Making The World Safer for Women and Girls Through Open Innovation.

There are many challenges facing the global community including poverty. A recent UN report indicates that women make up a majority of the world's population living in poverty. As part of a five year plan to refine international aid, open innovation platform OpenIDEO has partnered with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and established a programme to tackle such challenges with the first focusing on improving the safety of women and girls in low income urban settlements. OpenIDEO will call on its 58,000 strong community of creative thinkers and designers to come up with innovative solutions to worldwide concerns for the safety of poverty stricken women and girls.

Founded in 2011 IDEO is a non-profit organisation dedicated to tackling extreme poverty through human-centred social innovation, i.e. bringing ideas to fruition that focus solely on the needs of the people. Through their open innovation platform OpenIDEO, an online collaborative environment has been fostered bringing together its community of designers and researches to find innovative solutions to some of the world's challenging social problems. Since then IDEO, through their platform have tackled a wide range of issues including clean drinking water, sanitization and immunization programs.

The aim of the Amplify Program set up by IDEO, in partnership with the Department for International Development, is to help fight the effects of extreme poverty around the world. Over the next five years Amplify will seek out ten innovation and design solutions through  the OpenIDEO platform. The first challenge focuses on the safety of women and girls in low in come urban neighbourhoods. According to a recent UN habitat report, women make up 70% of the world's population living in poverty. They face grave safety concerns which include, gender-based violence, unsafe housing as well as inadequate facilities such as poor sanitation. With more migration from rural areas to cities women and girls face even more safety concerns. The open innovation challenge will task designers and researchers to determine how to utilise the existing infrastructure of low income urban neighbourhoods and make them safer for women and girls. Factors to be considered feature the inclusion of men and boys to tackle the problem, co-ordination of safety points such as schools and bus stops, essentially finding ways to leverage the high population density to improve safety.

Currently the campaign is in the early stages of research with nearly 500 contributions made to date. At this stage, the community is bringing together as much information as possible including case studies, tools and examples that will help build a collective understanding of the problem. The community will then move onto formulating ideas for the campaign before moving onto selecting the best ones and refining them before the final shortlist scheduled for May. From the ideas collected the ten best will be selected for support by the challenge sponsor.

OpenIDEO is drawing knowledge and resource from its community of 58,000 innovative designers and creative thinkers from around 130 countries a mix amateurs starting out or veteran designers from all walks of life. Registering is essential for participation and OpenIDEO welcomes interest from any creative individuals. Click here for more information about the campaign and to register.

Image Credit; Wikimedia Commons