Irrespective of whether or not a community is “online” or “offline”, I’m sure most of us belong to more than one. It is one of the reasons I love living where I live. I know my neighbours, am always happy to meet them and to help them when they need it .. right Lars! This sense of community is one of the core characteristics of the collaborative economy.
What does that mean in practice?
To illustrate the point I thought I’d refer to two start-up projects in Belgium which I’ve had the pleasure to interact with.
The first is “Le champignon de Bruxelles” (http://www.kisskissbankbank.com/le-champignon-de-bruxelles–2). When I started working with them last September, they had already been developing their business idea for a few months but didn’t have a community supporting them. Though the initial objective of our collaboration was to help them find some financing through crowdfunding, in reality, it resulted in much more.
I met with them yesterday to catch-up and ask how their business is developing. The feedback was very positive. Beyond the money which they got through crowdfunding, they also developed a customer base and a number of distribution channels for their product. Even better, they have been able to expand their team and the two recent additions are both a direct result of building their community though crowdfunding. The mushrooms are selling well and I suspect we will be seeing and hearing more about them in the future (http://www.eventail.be/component/k2/item/955-les-ambitions-d-un-champignon-asiatique-a-bruxelles).
The second start-up is the “Beer Project Brussels” (http://beerproject.be/our-project?lang=en). These guys understood the power of the community right from the beginning. In order to get the financing they needed, they decided to start selling their beer before they had produced it. The community has already contributed more than 150,000 euros to the project which has enabled them to realise their ambition of starting a micro-brewery in Brussels. It has also been a key factor in helping secure additional financing from Banks. Like “Le champignon de Bruxelles”, they will also tell you that it isn’t simply about the money. As an entrepreneur, it is difficult starting up your own business and at times it can feel isolating. Knowing that there are hundreds of people out there who believe in you, believe in your product and are helping you to promote it, makes a huge difference.
So what about the consumers? I know some of the people who have contributed to the above crowdfunding campaigns as well as to other campaigns. There is a real sense of “doing some good” and being part of something innovative when you join such a community. Being able to see their evolution is also great.
As I said at the beginning, this isn’t simply about “online” communities or crowdfunding. Its about the growing desire around us to re-engage with communities in practical ways and around shared visions and goals. There are lots of other examples I could cite within Belgium and beyond but at this stage, enough said…. You’ll soon start to experience it yourself!