Crowdfunding Goes Hyper-Local

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There used to be a time when, if you wanted money to create public
art, produce your invention, or start a company, you had to appeal to
higher authorities. Big banks, wealthy relatives, local governments–they had the green, and we the humble innovators had to prove we were worthy of it. 

Thanks to the internet and the rise of collaborative consumption,
however, this bureaucratic bottle neck need no longer stifle our
entrepreneurial spirit. Ever heard of a little startup by the name of Kickstarter?
This online crowdfunding forum created a place for individuals to
showcase their ideas, and appeal to the masses for financial backing.
Turns out, there are millions of people willing to chip in a few dollars
to help bring fantastic concepts to market. Now Kickstarter is the
world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, raising a total
of $327 million dollars and counting. 

With this kind of success, it’s only natural that different
iterations of Kickstarter would emerge. There have been many imitators,
some successful, some not. What’s setting the latest crop of crowdfunding
platforms apart from the rest is a passionate focus on local projects.
Instead of looking for backers in all four corners of the world, these
hyper-local fundraising outlets are helping to connect local
entrepreneurs with their neighbors in an attempt to energize local
economies, and create lasting relationships between innovators and their

Lucky Ant
Unlike Kickstarter, which launches hundreds of campaigns a day, Lucky Ant
features only one project per week. Also unlike other crowdfunding
platforms, the projects chosen are all already established businesses.
Members list their neighborhood when signing up, and every week Lucky
Ant lets them know about a local business that needs to be funded. The
great part is, you get rewards and perks from the business in which you
invested, creating a lovely little reciprocal loop designed to keep you
coming back for more. Founded last year, Lucky Ant is currently
operating in Downtown New York City with plans to expand to more cities
this year.

Community Funded
Founded in the sunny little town of Fort Collins, Colo., this
crowdfunding platform is focused on finding and spotlighting projects in
the community that might otherwise be swept under the carpet. Among
other things, CommunityFunded supporters
recently prevented a two-screen, downtown movie theater from closing,
and helped a local designer realize her dream of having a storefront to
showcase her clothes. If you don’t see a project that piques your
interest, there’s also an open fund that helps CF provide a boost to
campaigns that need it.

is a
crowdfunding platform designed exclusively for small,
independently-owned businesses. No franchises. No big box
stores. Smallknot aims to help local businesses connect with fans and
gain new customer by offering products or services in return for
providing financial support. For instance, making a small investment in
the Saucey Sauce Co. (actual name) will earn you a 3 pack of their newly
bottled Vietnamese dipping sauces, but a big investment earns you a
private dinner for four. “If you desire a neighborhood full of diverse
and independent businesses,” write the SK founders, “you have the power
to step up and ensure your neighborhood stays that way.”

Do you know of a hyper-local crowdfunding platform that belongs on this list? Share it in a comment!

Image by Jorge Barrios, in the public domain.

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