As most of you probably know by now, even though I don’t talk about them that much, I work for a company called Trampoline Systems. We’re a startup doing some interesting tech things. That’s not what this post is about.
We’re seeking series B funding at the moment, but it’s a difficult time to be doing it through the normal VC route, so now we’re trying something new: Crowdfunding. Rather than getting a few people to give us lots of money, let’s get lots of people to give us a little money. Alistair knows more about it than me, so I’ll refer you to him if you want to know the details.
There are a bunch of legal difficulties with this in terms of who the FSA will allow us to solicit funding from. In particular I’d be surprised if even 10% of people reading this were on the list. So, this isn’t a “Give us money” request. To be honest, even if it weren’t for the resgulations it probably wouldn’t have been – other people in the company know more about the financial side of things and can say it better than I can.
What’s most interesting to me about the crowd funding isn’t actually the financial aspects. I mean, obviously ensuring the survival of the company is a good thing, but the crowd funding is interesting in a way that merely receiving a big chunk o’ VC funding wouldn’t have been (not that it would have been unwelcome!).
What’s interesting is the additional flexibility it buys. I’m big on the subject of open source and open information (I’m not a GNU style fanatic – I’m absolutely fine with closed source too. I believe in closing as much source as you need to and opening as much source as you can). There’s been a movement amongst the dev team (particularly me and Craig, our CTO) to see what we can extract from SONAR in the way of useful open source tools. Our term extraction code for example (which takes a blob of text and gives you useful fragments of text from it which make sense in isolation) is ripe for open sourcing. Unfortunately we’ve held off on it because it sounds like a much bigger chunk of our IP than it actually is, and we need to be super careful about how things look to our funders. This is understandable from their point of view, but somewhat disheartening from mine.
With crowd funding our hope (or at least my hope. This is all still under discussion) is that the larger group will be much more amenable to a policy of openness than the smaller. In many ways it’s much more in keeping with the style of the thing, and with less invested per person there’s less of a strong financial incentive to be risk averse and more of a reason to trust us with these decisions.
So, from my point of view, I’m quite looking forward to seeing what the future brings and, with any luck, it will include a few shiny new toys for you to play with.