WHEN it first started, crowdfunding was a simple idea - people with ideas but no start-up capital would turn to the Internet to raise money. It also marked the launch of pioneer sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which created a dedicated space for creatives to put their ideas out and await interested supporters.
Now, the industry has evolved to spawn a new generation of crowdfunding platforms - those which provide customised services catered to niche industries.
In Singapore, Haystakt was the first one out of the stable in 2012. Unlike most crowdfunding platforms which cater to project ideas from any genre, Haystakt zeroes in on the creative market. Designers of furniture, for example, can make a campaign page with a target number of pre-orders for a chair, and only start production once they hit their target.
According to Haystakt founder Joel Leong, this development into niche markets is only natural for any successful business model, which in this case is crowdfunding. He adds: "What's great about some of these platforms is that entrepreneurs are providing value-added solutions that are applicable for their specific niches."
In the last few months, at least three similar platforms have also emerged for niche industries like self-publishing, concerts, and even fundraising for non-profit organisations.
Publishizer, for one, helps independent authors collect money from pre-orders to fund their book. It may sound like the average crowdfunding model but it's not, says founder Guy Vincent, 27. "Some authors just want to write. They don't want to think about things like their book cover or marketing or who is editing - we can sell them these publishing services so they don't have to worry about all that," he explains.
StartMyGig has a different aim. Their game plan is to build a more tangible database so concert organisers have a more reliable measure of a musician's fan base in Singapore.
"Our platform is a form of insurance against a dud concert," says Adrian Mah, 35, one of the founders of StartMyGig. "There are general crowdfunding sites but running a campaign via these platforms would require a concerted effort. Whereas for us, ideally we would already have a base of music fans to which these campaigns would be promoted," he explains.
At the rate such platforms are popping up, is oversaturation inevitable as users get confused by the myriad choices?
Not to Subhas Avadiar, one of the founders of Geofundit, a website that uses crowdfunding to raise funds for non-profit organisations (NPOs). He believes it is up to each individual site to reach out to their target audience.
Says the 27-year-old: "Trends always exist - group buying, social media, and now crowdfunding. The pattern explains itself, but only the most innovative will stay. And as first movers in our niche, the time we take to get our services out there is key to ensure we stay ahead of the competition."