Crowd funding comes to Germany

A new “crowd-funding” website in Germany is hoping to help finance creative projects by harnessing the power of the masses. Mark Ehrman reports.

Crowd funding comes to Germany
Photo: A screenshot of Inkubato

Tilo Schmidt, co-founder Germany’s first crowd-funding website, says he got tired of seeing so many amazing and innovative ideas languishing because of a lack of funding.

“So we decided to provide a platform whereby anyone who wants to can help turn these ideas into reality,” he explains. “Now, the community can decide what gets funded, not just venture capitalists and grant institutions.”

He and his partner Konrad Lauten launched last month to enable creative types to solicit small pledges from a large group of people via their website combined with social media like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.

The crowd-funding phenomenon began with a successful fan-initiated web campaign in 1997 to finance a US tour of the British band Marillion. Since then the idea of raising money to fund alternative events and projects has been adopted by indie filmmakers, activists, charities and other entities seeking non-traditional financial support.

Last year, the US website created a popular platform that allows their users to upload creative projects and solicit donations which would only be transferred if the project reached its stated monetary goal. In return, supporters could receive some non-financial reward – for example, a copy of a book that will be published – if and when the idea comes to fruition. The site supports itself by keeping a small percentage when projects are successfully funded.

Schmidt and Lauten decided Germany’s creative scene could use a similar helping hand.

They have already attracted such diverse projects as a documentary on Berlin’s club scene, a recording project by the gothic duo Sister Chain and Brother John, and raw material financing for “a curated boutique and gallery where … designers and collectors can show and sell their hand-crafted, upcycled/vintage furniture, clothing and accessories.”

The filmmakers are asking for €25,000 to edit and produce a documentary on Berlin’s now defunct club venue Bar 25, but it’s not all about expensive undertakings.

Martin Keune is seeking a modest €550 for a pet project – a series of short booklets about the odd history of the town of Semlin in Brandenburg.

“In Germany, you have complicated bureaucratic conditions to get any kind of backing,” Keune said. “For a publishing house, such small regional themes would be financial suicide. I am sure there is readership but they are spread over the country. Crowd funding seems an interesting way to find them.”

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