Behind the Crowd: An Interview with CrowdCrux’s Sal Briggman

If you’ve been around the crowdfunding scene for a while or are just starting to dip your toes in the water, you’ve most likely at some point visited one of the industry’s most well-known sources of information, CrowdCrux.com. A comprehensive site filled with crowdfunding news, podcasts, interview, tips and more, it has become one of the go-to places on the web for creators of all levels looking for help.

Behind the scenes (well, not really behind) is the site’s creator and curator, Sal Briggman. We sat down with Sal for a chat about his passion for helping others, how CrowdCrux came to be and what his thoughts are on the future of the world of crowdfunding.

Hi Sal! Thank you for taking the time to talk.

How many websites are you up to now? Crowdcrux, CrowdfundingPR, SalvadorBriggman,com, Kickstarterforum, MusicMind.co, 2&2Labs, PitchFuse…

(Laughs) Like many entrepreneurs and bloggers, I’ve started several websites over the years at different points in time. Some have been more successful than others.

The main one I am focused on is CrowdCrux.com. CrowdCrux has ~10k email subscribers and we have thousands of users on KickstarterForum and CrowdfundingForum. I’m proud of helping so many people raise money on different crowdfunding platforms, even if it’s in a small way.

What is your goal with CrowdCrux?

My goal with CrowdCrux is to bring the best tips, tricks and advice to creative types and entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their passion project. I want to show crowdfunders exactly what they need to do to run a successful crowdfunding campaign and demystify this whole fundraising process.

Crowdfunding is changing the fabric of our economy. It’s giving everyday Americans the power to innovate in ways that our grandparents only dreamed of.

There’s nothing that gets me more riled up than when I hear about an entrepreneur or a creator who has the potential to succeed, but for whatever reason, doesn’t.

We all make the same excuses as to why we’re not successful.

“I don’t have the time.”

“I don’t have the money.”

“I don’t know where to begin.”

The excuses as to why you’re not succeeding are becoming fewer and fewer. Nowadays, you just need the desire, commitment and persistence to get through the early days of starting a new venture.

How do you find the time to be so prolific?

When I first started the blog, it was very easy to “be prolific” because I had so many questions!

I wanted to figure out why some crowdfunding projects raise millions of dollars and others sputter out. I wanted to know what really makes the difference between success and failure.

Really, I almost felt like it was my duty to discover and report on what works on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms. So many people are counting on me to help make their dream a reality. I’m just privileged to be able to make such an impact!

Communicating it is another matter. I’ve done my best to write helpful articles, eBooks and conduct podcasts to get the best tips out there to the people that matter: the entrepreneurs and artists.

I wouldn’t be where I am without Krystine Therriault, a terrific writer and community manager for CrowdCrux. In the past year, she’s become a stronger voice on the blog and is as enthusiastic as I am about the crowdfunding industry.

But if you’re looking for an inside tip as to how to bang out 2,500 words in a single writing session, I’ll give you my secret…coffee! (Just kidding.)

You tweeted that you are also writing an eBook as well, what’s that about?

I am! The eBook, Crowdfunding Fast Track, is designed as the go-to tool for launching a successful crowdfunding campaign.

I want creators to come away feeling like they have a complete understanding of precisely what they need to do to exceed their fundraising goal and launch that project of their dreams.

Believe it or not, as a student in college at George Washington University, I hated attending classes – most of the class content was fluff and useless in the real world.

I’ve made this eBook actionable. I don’t dish out theories or vague suggestions. I don’t waste your time. I get straight down to business.

Tell me about how you first discovered crowdfunding. That moment you heard the term for the first time and said, “What is that?” How did you get into it?

Oh! Good question.

I think the first time I actually heard the term crowdfunding was in 2012, when I heard about the Jobs Act, which allows every day Americans to invest in startup companies.

I was fascinated! A new industry was emerging that would redefine innovation and really let people get on the fast track to achieving the American dream.

I had to do a mini-thesis to complete my economics degree and I decided to do it on crowdfunding. I quickly became enraptured in Kickstarter’s crowdfunding platform and all of the company’s transparent data. I compared the different categories on Kickstarter and how, if you launch in a category like Publishing, the size of your social network might matter more than if you had launched in the Gaming category.

I started sharing some of my findings on CrowdCrux and quickly learned that there was a real thirst out there for quality information on the crowdfunding process. It’s a huge mystery to most people.

At the time, I had been a part of several different tech startups, all of which had failed. It takes a lot of energy to commit to a new startup. It’s a lot of worrying, uncertainty, and trial and error. No one is really there to show you the right path or to tell you “this is the right course of action.”

I remember sitting at the kitchen table in my dorm room, debating whether or not to start this website. Was it going to be worth the work?

The thing that pushed me over the edge was that, like many of the crowdfunders out there, crowdfunding was a passion for me. So, I viewed CrowdCrux as a side project. I never expected it to go anywhere or help the hundreds of thousands of creators that it has. I just wanted to explore a topic that I was interested in and be helpful in the process.

Since you’ve been along for most of the ride, how has the crowdfunding industry changed? What platforms and funding types have you seen rise and fall?

Oh boy. It’s changed a lot.

For one, just recently, the regulations surrounding Title III of the Jobs Act have been formalized and equity crowdfunding is going to be a reality in 2016. In addition, more entrepreneurs are taking advantage of Regulation A+ equity crowdfunding raises.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have seen massive growth in the past several years and crowdfunding has become much more mainstream as we’ve seen successes covered by the media.

Peer-to-peer lending, or debt-based crowdfunding, has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way that it is challenging traditional forms of credit and financing.

Real estate crowdfunding has also grown aggressively and up until now, has been seen as the unexpected breakout child of equity crowdfunding.

I myself am very surprised at the tremendous success of personal crowdfunding campaigns. GoFundMe alone has helped individuals raise over 1 billion in funds for personal, medical, education, funeral expenses, etc. We’re also seeing lots of nonprofits use crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising to raise money from their donors and attract new donors.

Overall, I think that both crowdfunders and the media are taking crowdfunding campaigns far more seriously than before. This isn’t a phenomena or some fad. Crowdfunding is here to stay.

Along with the rise of crowdfunding has come a flood of consulting agencies and campaign analytics platforms. Do you feel they are worth the investment or is research enough? Have you seen creators get a boost?

Very true! First of all, I think there are three types of firms out there.

  1. Firms that help with tangible assets

This might include a company that will help you put together your video, reward tiers, or campaign copywriting. I think these firms are very valuable and their deliverables are tangible. They should be measured in whether or not they’re crafting assets that will convert browsers into backers.

  1. Firms that help with promotion

Firms that help with PR, marketing or promotion are also valuable components of a successful crowdfunding campaign. I’ve interviewed many entrepreneurs who have hired a PR agency or firm just to do their Facebook marketing.

Obviously, this isn’t always realistic if you’re on a tight budget. As with all areas of business, you don’t need someone else to do it for you. You can take the time to learn marketing, sales, copywriting or PPC on your own. The skills that you learn will be transferable to running your e-commerce business.

The important thing is to determine when you should spend time learning something and when you should just outsource it.

  1. Firms that promise the sky

These are the scammy marketing firms that promise your campaign will be funded for a ridiculously low price. There have been many unhappy reviews of such marketing firms on our forums. Some firms will actually scam you and just take your money. Do your research.

There are many more firms emerging that claim “backer communities.” Some of these are legit. Some aren’t. Always have a slight degree of skepticism, particularly if the offer seems too good.

What mistakes do you see most often?

Probably the biggest one is lack of thorough preparation for a crowdfunding campaign. Each category has a different preparation strategy. For example, I’d prepare for a publishing campaign much differently than a technology or design campaign. But, unless you invest some time in learning the differences and looking at campaigns that are similar to yours, you won’t know that.

Crowdfunding has become SO competitive that you really need to make the first 3 days of your campaign count, so that you rank well in the platform’s algorithm and begin to generate some momentum.

Don’t get me wrong, you can make a comeback halfway through the campaign and maintain momentum throughout it. It’s just more difficult. For many campaigns, the biggest influx of pledges is in the first week and last several days.

The second biggest mistake has nothing to do with crowdfunding. You need to validate your startup product or idea as thoroughly as possible before launching.

Does your target audience actually want these rewards you’re promising? Are you solving a problem or are you just trying to raise money for something that would benefit YOUR life and not the lives of your backers?

Finally, you need a compelling story. You need a great WHY. You need a way of connecting with your backers and developing relationships at scale.

It’s important to nail down how you’re going to cut through the noise and seduce backers into liking you AND your product.

Many of us are taught to treat customers differently than our friends. When we talk with customers, we’re supposed to use corporate language. We’re supposed to get them familiar with a logo, not our face.

But, that’s not how crowdfunding works. You need to treat your backers like your friends. A campaign with personality and a creator who genuinely connects with backers will win out when put up against that same campaign that reads like an infomercial.

It’s sad that we ARE seeing more campaigns with commercial-style videos and detached creators, but I genuinely believe that the campaigns that use crowdfunding as a way to develop a genuine relationship with a group of backers will have much more success.

With all that you know behind how campaigns work, do you think you’ll ever be inspired to run a campaign of your own?

If anyone has read my history, they’ll know that I started programming in middle school and am proud of some of my technical abilities. It’s taken me a while to learn this, but I’m not a hardcore programmer. I’m not a hardcore technical engineer. I’m not a designer.

I’m a marketer and sales guy. I’m not comparing myself to these people, but I’m far more Mark Cuban than Elon Musk (if you get that reference, we should be friends).

If I did my own campaign, I’d partner with a designer or technical cofounder to bring the product to market. Right now, I don’t have the time to focus on finding that person, but maybe some day. Some day, I might even do another tech startup. Who knows – with Title III in effect early next year, I might even fund a few!

(Laughing) It almost sounds like I don’t have the time to pursue a romantic relationship, but at the end of the day, a finding that perfect co-founder is very similar to finding a great marriage partner. You’re going to go through ups and downs and you need a shared vision.

For now, I’m going to stick to demystifying the crowdfunding industry. Crowdfunding is still in its early childhood and moving into its teenage years. We have a lot to look forward to!

Follow Sal on twitter at @sbriggman and @crowdcrux

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