Crowdfunding’s Café Society
Ivey Business Journal
First appearing in China, physical platform crowdfunding is based on the basic formula used online by fundraising sites like Kickstarter, which is a symbiotic system between innovators, platforms, and investors. However, the new model combines these elements in a novel way in conjunction with the Internet and a physical business establishment, such as a café. In October 2013, 100 former students of Peking University formed the 1898 Café, the first crowdfunding café of its kind. It was established to serve the university’s entrepreneur alumni community and to stimulate the university’s entrepreneurial spirit. One of the most revolutionary features of the physical platform model is the concept of investors being members of the establishment, with each investor being a shareholder. The physical platform model emphasizes the equality of shareholders and takes advantage of the human desire to self-organize and self-manage. In this model, a physical establishment is the platform through which investors (shareholders) are sought and selected. That is, the platform, with a pre-specified focus, finds the investors—not the other way around. The second major difference is that the model is not simply about accumulating funds. The blending of investors, operators, and consumers in the business may have numerous applications beyond crowdfunding. Merging three traditionally separate business factions and pooling resources among them makes it possible to efficiently generate business results and do big things with little money. This model could prove revolutionary for existing businesses and industries looking for a different way to operate. A company that adopts it could drastically reduce its start-up risks and better ensure survival beyond the initial self-funded period.
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