UpEffect is the first UK entrant in this year’s InnovatorsRace50, a global competition for early-stage start-ups that offers $50k of equity free funding to a winning idea. I spoke to its founder and CEO, Sheeza Shah, to find out more.
What does UpEffect do, what’s your big idea?
“UpEffect is a rewards-based crowdfunding and support platform for social good companies tackling today's greatest challenges. We curate high-quality products created by revolutionary founders and inventors. Projects have raised over £117,000 to positively impact over 10,000 lives in 7 countries. Examples of products we recently helped fund include solar cook stoves, ethical and fair trade fashion brands, water shops, eco-friendly bags, employment for women in underserved areas and more.
“Our big idea is based on the insight that over 50% of crowdfunding campaigns fail on the major platforms, particularly niche campaigns as there are thousands of mass-market products launching at one time. To help social entrepreneurs effectively use rewards-based crowdfunding, we have built a platform optimised for campaign success. We vet companies based on purpose + profit, quantifiable metrics and founder credibility. Selected companies then benefit from our personalised feedback. We have found that our unique vetting process and success rate has won us many campaigns and partnerships. We're disrupting the crowdfunding industry by offering a higher quality service, and we currently maintain a 100% success rate.”
If you win $50,000 in the InnovatorsRace50, what will it allow you to do?
“As a bootstrapped company, we've excelled at innovating, testing and iterating with limited funds and resources. This approach has enabled us to build strong ties with our users, understand their problems better and build a financial platform tailored to the needs of social entrepreneurs."
“I feel we've done a pretty decent job at helping social good companies successfully raise capital on our platform. However, the next step for us is to ensure these companies have access to detailed data insights that enable them to understand the activity of funders with more efficacy. Part of the funding will be used to build analytics tools and referral features so that social good products reach a larger audience.'
“In addition to this, the $50,000 will go a long way in helping us improve our technology to build reporting features that encourage all companies on our platform to share their impact and financial growth metrics. Did you know that 9% of Kickstarter campaigns have failed to deliver a single reward? This means thousands of companies have either disappeared after a successful crowdfunding campaign or have simply gone bust, and it’s due to the limited protection available to funders, the vital component in a crowdfunding campaign. We believe this is unfair and that the fundraisers and funders should both be protected in a crowdfunding transaction - this is why we're big on transparency. Those additional reporting features we could build would encourage all companies on our platform to share their impact and financial growth metrics. Not only will this strengthen relations between fundraisers and funders, future employees and impact investors will be able to identify their next social good company and/or investment as well.”
You were named to CauseArtist’s ’37 Social Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2017′, DotEveryone’s ’12 top female tech founders’ by Baroness Martha Lane Fox. What would be your best piece of advice for anyone just starting up or thinking about founding their own start-up?
“Train your mind to treat failure as your saviour – without falling down, you can’t possibly know how to rise. There will be hundreds of no’s during your entrepreneurial journey, particularly when you’re asking for money but all it takes is one yes.
“Validate. Without getting direct feedback from your potential consumers, you will never know how useful your solution is and no amount of funding can replace this step.
“Figure out how the business will survive without public funding, grants and donations. Build a financially sustainable model for your social venture; your impact will be limited and short-lived without an independent revenue stream and won’t allow you to keep moving forward without spreading resources.”
To vote for UpEffect, visit the InnovatorsRace50 website.