By Alex Daly
I grew up in Miami in the 1980s and ’90s, long before the invention of crowdfunding as we know it. My dad owned a company that created anti–money laundering software for banks and financial institutions, and my mom had her own company doing marketing for radio and television stations. Through my parents, I learned the value of hard work, which pushed me from job to job through different New York boroughs until I found my life’s work.
I never thought I’d be the industry’s “Crowdsourceress,” an expert in the field of crowdfunding. It wasn’t like I had a guidance counselor in college telling me I was perfectly suited to the role of “Kickstarter campaign manager.” And yet, just three years ago, I launched my company Vann Alexandra from my kitchen table in Brooklyn –– a creative services agency that helps clients raise money for their creative projects through crowdfunding. Since then, my team and I have managed over 50 crowdfunding campaigns across the design, technology, film, music, and publishing categories, raising over $20 million dollars for our clients from close to 100,000 backers worldwide.
The road here, like any entrepreneurial journey, was full of bumps and twists and turns. After college, I worked as a fact-checker for New York and WSJ. magazines. Then I tried my hand at film and worked as a production manager at a boutique documentary production company. My role included managing a team, working on several documentary projects, and writing lots of grants to raise money for these projects. Grant after grant after grant. So many grants. I was beginning to think this wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing.
Then one day an office mate I barely knew who was trying to raise money for his documentary asked me what I knew about Kickstarter.
The short answer? Pretty much nothing. Still, I told him I was game to help.
We planned the campaign on our lunch breaks and after work. Really, I knew almost nothing. I remember having to Google how to write a press release. But we worked really hard and launched a stellar project. When we went live on Kickstarter, we discovered there was a passionate audience who responded to our campaign and lept on board as backers. Meanwhile, we worked around the clock sending personal emails to friends and family and pitching press to cover the project. By the last day of the 30-day campaign, we surpassed our $35,000 goal by more than 150%, raising over $80,000.
I was immediately hooked. I managed another documentary campaign, and another. Both were successful. As word got out about my success rate, more creatives started coming to me for campaign management, and that’s around that time I was named the “Crowdsourceress” by the press.
A big part of my job was connecting meaningfully with my clients, and gaining their trust by leveraging — or at least projecting — my growing expertise. I had to figure out what the essence of the project was so that I could talk about it effectively to potential backers. Then I had to frame the campaign pitch for those people — who were sitting at home online or swiping away on their phones — in a way that was so compelling that they couldn’t ignore it. I needed to give backers a feeling of real investment in these campaigns, and a sense that they were going to feel good about their donation. Over time, I was getting better and better at what I was doing.
Then one day, just two years after my first campaign, I got a text from my friend about handling a huge Kickstarter. The product was a high-resolution digital music device called the PonoPlayer, and the client was Neil Young. Yes, that Neil Young.
I got the job and had to start immediately because the campaign was launching in just over a week. Then, for 35 days I managed Pono’s Kickstarter and helped them raise a whopping $6.2 million. At the time, it was the third highest funded Kickstarter project ever.
It was after the Pono campaign wrapped that I finally realized it was time to launch a full-time, full-service agency. Since then, we have managed incredibly campaigns like the NYCTA and NASA Graphics Standards Manual reissues, TLC’s final album, the Joan Didion documentary, Eric Ries’ Leader’s Guide, the Maya Angelou Documentary, Makerarm, Bellingcat, the Today Clock, and many more.
Now, I'm thrilled to share both my journey and top crowdfunding tips in my new book: The Crowdsourceress: Get Smart, Get Funded, and Kickstart Your Next Big Idea. This book will give you the tools not only to run your own successful crowdfunding campaigns, but also to build, launch, and grow your brand and your business.
I will be reading and signing The Crowdsourceress at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Friday, May 5 at 7:00 pm. I hope to see you there!
Alex is the founder of Vann Alexandra and the industry’s “Crowdsourceress." Alex has shared her expertise at top film festivals, universities, and organizations, and is in the class of 2016’s Forbes 30 under 30.
Find information on her book here: www.thecrowdsourceress.com
Find information on the Books & Books event here: