Do the research, take the time to get it right, and keep your ego in check.
Location: Christiansburg, VA
Product / Service Offering: Rewards-based Crowdfunding Platform
Co-founder Interviewed: Dakota Gallimore (Founder)
Other Key Management Team Members: Bruce Ertmann (CMO)
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you?
I’m Dakota Gallimore, the founder of dreams.build, the world’s first two-stage crowdfunding platform. I graduated from University of Virginia at Wise with a dual major in software engineering and computer science. I get antsy if I go for a period of time, even an hour, without being productive towards my goals. My work high is to listen to motivational videos on YouTube while working. I enjoy solving problems. If I am stuck on a problem, I’ll continue to work on it in my mind even if I’m not at work. The best problems to solve are those that help others, which is what I aspire to do. It is the main reason that I started dreams.build.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The idea formulated four and a half years ago during my college career. I wanted to start a business that would give back to the community. I discovered my vision in crowdfunding, which is an industry all about helping others through giving. The platform was originally founded as Application Hope, on October 11th, 2012, but was recently filed as dreams.build on September 9th, 2015. This name change happened as we were about six months into active development and we found Application Hope did not resonate the feeling of the platform.
The original idea sprung to me one day as I was driving down Main Street thinking about what we could accomplish if every app on the app store donated one dollar to charity. I quickly pulled over, whipped out my notepad, and jotted down the initial idea of the platform. I spent the next three years conducting active research into the crowdfunding industry, refining my idea into what it is today. The team and I are excited to be pioneering new frontier in today’s world.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
We fulfill the need of funding for startup projects. To provide a platform that allows anybody to sponsor dreams and innovations of tomorrow. We also seek to fulfill the needs of tackling each process in the startup’s development to produce an ecosystem for funding and idea creation.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Our funding model. Ours is an entirely new paradigm for projects to fund that is built on years of research. When reviewing the industry, the current models, while they do work, are not necessarily friendly to the industry. Providing only one funding attempt did not help successful projects that may have hit a snag later on. So, we combined two different funding methods into one funding event.
The first stage is all or nothing and is geared for short term minimum funding. The second stage is all supportive and is meant for long term stretch funding. If a project is in stage 2, it has been successfully funded and the project creator will be able to keep any funds they raise. The innovators can start working with the funds during stage 2 since funds will be transferred at the end of stage 1 and stage 2. We do provide a goal for them to hit in stage 2 to help with stretch planning. Of course, innovators will still have complete control over the time of each funding stage and funding amount they need to raise.
This model provides a lot of essential benefits. The added fraud protection and funding freedom are the biggest.
As the industry grows, so does fraud, and we believe platforms should combat this. Two-stage funding adds this security by allowing project innovators the ability to regain lost funds due to fraud. We’ve also structured the funding in a way to protect sponsors. For a creator to receive funds, they must hit their stage 1 goal, this ensures that sponsors receive incentives.
Two-stage funding opens up funding freedom. Innovators can structure their project page to reflect their current stage. Are you seeking initial funding? Cool, focus on hitting your funding goal. Are you funded and in stage 2? Great, display what you’re doing with stage 1 funds, focus on hitting small stretch funding milestones. This keeps projects in the spotlight and innovators in touch with their fans. Innovators can even use stage 1 to offer highly exclusive incentives or early access to their product and fulfill them during stage 2! Pair this with all of our other unique features and you have a killer offering unmatched by our competitors.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we faced was to create a platform within the means of our budget. If you looked at our whiteboard during the idea process, we had over twenty unique features we wanted to implement at launch. When it came to budget and time constraints we realized fitting everything into one package half-baked did not meet our quality standards. To fix this, we went back, parsed through all of our unique features and conducted more research. We decided to focus on four highly polished features and build the foundation to allow for additional features. This makes it possible to start mapping out a roadmap for the future and work on features that our community cares about.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Yes, part of what we do is research tools that potential clients are using and evaluate them.
We signed up for 1000Four, and it’s been a great experience. They offer detailed videos on anything a founder needs. I also especially like using Hootsuite, which helps us manage our social media fronts and gives us insight into where we need to focus.
If a founder is willing to take the time to learn the software, the Adobe creative suite is an invaluable subscription that will help startups save tons of money on outsourcing fees.
If you do not have the time to learn the Adobe suite there is Fiverr. Nowhere on the internet can you get services for five dollars like you can on Fiverr. It’s been a lifesaver when we needed a quick draft drawn up but did not have the time to handle it.
You can always reach out to a crowdfunding platform like dreams.build. We talk to startups as part of our business and as such keep a list of helpful resources on hand.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
Early on I sought out private funding and personal funding. We recently received our second installment of private funding. If I had to start over, private funding would still be a source because it has worked well for us, but I also would have reached out to equity funds. I believe in always having options and building those relationships early would have to produce the best funding options.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
Simplifying my idea to a concrete one-sentence focus is probably the most difficult question I’ve had pitched to me. It’s difficult for me because I’m a details oriented person. I also like to be very transparent, I feel it builds trust with consumers. When we have so many great offerings for project innovators and sponsors alike, it’s difficult to condense it into a single sentence. You want to mention all of your unique features but that’s impossible. What I have started to do is create a one-sentence pitch about the platform as a whole and then a one-sentence pitch for each unique feature. If the questioner wants more information, I can always divulge additional details. You can see this translated onto our platforms landing. We have our elevator pitch, but you can always get more information by clicking on the feature that interests you the most.
A question I receive from project innovators that can be difficult to answer is “Why did my project not receive funding?” This is tough to answer due to the amount of variables involved. Every project is different, and that is why we personally review all projects on the site. Did they conduct pre-crowdfunding marketing? Did they offer layered incentives? How is their project video? Are they releasing in the right season? How viable was the project to their sponsors? Were they a trending project? All of these can play a role in whether a project becomes funded or not. I look and analyze each variable to find where improvements could be made and where they nailed it. Not looking at every variable is doing a disservice to that creator.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
One challenge we are facing at the moment is finding more innovators ready and willing to put their dream in the spotlight. It is an interesting challenge to find projects that may or may not have already gone public. This is in part because most projects wait until going live on a crowdfunding platform to announce their idea or create social media accounts. We have begun to tackle this by offering initial launch projects a chance to receive commission-free funding and other exclusive products. We also research popular sites that are geared towards promoting innovators before they hit a crowdfunding platform. We also want to help projects we love that maybe did not receive funding, offering them a chance to return as well. We are working on a few projects, providing helpful advice to get them funded when they do go live, which has been a fantastic experience.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
“Do the research, take the time to get it right, and keep your ego in check.” This has stuck with me due to the various constitutions in a single elegant sentence. In one sentence you say so much yet it all boils down to self-awareness. You have to be aware of a situation before you can fix it; you also have to know when you may be doing something wrong. Be confident but not to a fault. Always be willing to acknowledge and learn from your mistakes.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
Yeah, I touched on a few standout features about our platform but would like to briefly highlight some other areas where we are changing the game. We donate to charity each month, and this will be coming from our monthly revenue. The more projects that are funded on our platform, the higher our charity donations. Our other forms of revenue play into this, for example, ad revenue from YouTube will be funneled into this amount as well.
At launch, we will ship with an integrated community hub. It is a place where innovators and sponsors can congregate, network, and just generally talk. We believe this is a no brainer for a crowdfunding platform. Innovators need to be able to build a crowd behind their idea, to have this ability in the platform is pivotal. After all, that’s what “crowd” funding is all about!
It also helps us quickly receive feedback from our community so we can institute changes that will directly benefit our following.
We are about to head into closed beta and welcome everyone to join us. To get in simply email me Dakota Gallimore stating your interest.
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