Keep your money. CrowdRaising wants to be Kickstarter for your time. It's a simple idea, as the startup's website explains: "Pledge time, instead of money, in exchange for rewards." CrowdRaising is launching itself on its own platform as a test case. Currently 86 people have promised to devote 633 hours to tasks such as advising CrowdRaising on its app usability or helping to plan social media promotion. The rewards are modest at this point, ranging from connecting with the founders on LinkedIn to receiving a cardboard phone holder meant for watching VR videos.
CrowdRaising is also seeking launch partners. These are up-and-coming companies or community projects that want to use CrowdRaising to collect time pledges. Among the current launch partners are Merlin Guides, a software service for training employees, and PhoneFlare, a nonprofit campus safety app that previously raised $2,039 on Kickstarter.
In addition to Kickstarter-esque gifts, CrowdRaising aims to enable companies to grant equity in exchange for labor pledged through the platform. This lacks the regulatory burden of cash-based equity crowdfunding, co-founder Maxim Price told Inc. "You're not buying shares. It's work," Price explained. "And people have been giving out equity for work forever now." It's an especially common practice among startups, he says.
CrowdRaising does plan to expand into conventional equity crowdfunding at some point, which will mean competing against the likes of Indiegogo's partnership with MicroVentures, or SeedInvest. If CrowdRaising lasts long enough -- most startups don't -- it could face off with AngelList or LendingClub. Given these well-capitalized rivals, CrowdRaising will need to raise venture capital, which its founders have yet to seriously pursue.
CrowdRaising itself plans to make money by charging the companies that use its platform. "We will be charging a sliding-scale rate to run a campaign," Price explained, "starting out with a cheap campaign for startups where they can raise a limited number of hours with a very limited set of tasks that they can ask for, and the rewards are also limited. And then it'll go up from there, so you can raise more hours if you pay more, or you can ask for more complicated tasks."
Price added that CrowdRaising will eventually enable companies to pay for work in a more straightforward manner, blending the approaches of marketplaces like Upwork and Mechanical Turk. "We want this platform to become a place where you go to get decentralized labor," he said. Still, Price doesn't think that CrowdRaising will supplant traditional employees -- at least not today. "We are on the path in the very, very long term towards an economy where traditional employment is no longer traditional, where people don't necessarily work for large corporations," he said. "But we're not there yet."
Labor pledged through CrowdRaising is intended to "augment" internal labor. "Companies realize that no matter how good their recruiting is, there will always be smarter people outside of the organization, and the ability to tap them when necessary will be very valuable," Price said. This is true, which is why consulting can be so lucrative.
Work isn't the only thing that CrowdRaising wants to decentralize. Price told Inc. that the platform itself will probably move to a blockchain, the core technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Price identified Ethereum as a likely prospect, since it allows contracts to be executed and distributed programmatically via its blockchain. Price explained that CrowdRaising will wait for Ethereum's security issues to be worked out before hopping aboard.