My Column

Crowds have a big say in getting deals.

  • Date: Monday 1st March 2021
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As Amazon announced the launch of its new crowdfunding platform, I’ve been thinking about what the future of crowdfunding may look like in the wake of the pandemic. 


Amazon’s ‘Build It’ allows customers to decide which new gadgets will be manufactured by the online retail giant next, by inviting shoppers to pre-order certain items they are considering for production. 


Products which secure enough pre-orders within a 30 day period, and therefore raise enough funds, will be brought to market, and buyers who placed a pre-order will receive a discount on the product as a way of thanking them for helping it come to fruition. 


The first three items being considered include a smart cuckoo clock, a sticky label printer, and a smart food nutrition scale.  While these don’t sound particularly groundbreaking to me, I’m sure they’ll be well thought through, and customers will be queuing round the block (virtually at least), to get their orders in. 


Amazon says this move reflects the company’s ethos of putting the customer at the centre of everything they do, by letting them play a crucial role in deciding which new products are made and sold on the site.  They describe the process as ‘low risk, high reward, and a whole lot of fun.’


This unique spin on crowdfunding may seem cutting-edge, but the concept has actually been around for several years now, and sites like Kickstarter have been allowing entrepreneurs to bring their concepts to market through crowdfunding for over a decade. 


Of course there are other crowdfunding models – rewards-based, where investors receive something in return for their investment, equity-based, where investors are given a stake in the business, and donation-based, where no financial return is given, and is often used for charitable causes.  


Turning my attention a little closer to home, BrewDog is a huge Scottish brand which automatically springs to my mind when crowdfunding is mentioned. The brewers first launched their Equity for Punks scheme back in 2010, and there has been a steady stream of announcements from the brand about further investment opportunities ever since. 


I’ve read about several Scottish businesses turning to crowdfunding in recent months. A mix of start-ups hoping to secure enough cash to get their product to market, and those which have been on the go for some time, but require more funding to grow. 


Perth-based Voyager CBD, for example, was founded in November last year and recently smashed its target of raising £175,000 via crowdfunding, generating investments of over £600,000 within just four days. Creative Scotland also recently launched its Crowdmatch 2021 programme, giving creatives the support they need to launch their own crowdfunding campaigns. 


It’s certainly encouraging to read stories of Scottish businesses looking for ways to finance exciting new projects, and it shows there is still a strong, entrepreneurial spirit out there - in spite of the ongoing economic impact of COVID. 


Naturally, some may shy away from seeking funding in the current climate, but crowdfunding platform Indiegogo has said its web traffic remains steady despite COVID.  Some of its top performing campaigns last year included e-bikes and state of the art coffee grinders, reflecting the kind of items we were most interested in as we adapted to life in lockdown. 


I think we may begin to see more stories about businesses turning to crowdfunding in 2021, as more Scots take the leap and set up their own businesses, or turn their side hustle into a full-time job. 


While the mass job losses people have faced as a result of the pandemic are heart-breaking, the situation has undoubtedly made some people more entrepreneurial, with many biting the bullet and going it alone. 


As an investor, the beauty of crowdfunding is that you can often invest a small amount of money, which is great for those ‘armchair investors’ looking to get a slice of the action without spending a fortune. 


It also gives consumers the opportunity to support causes they’re passionate about and get involved with brands they love. It’s not without risk, but I think crowdfunding is definitely here to stay for the foreseeable, and I look forward to seeing what exciting opportunities lie ahead for Scottish businesses going down this path.


Side (350 words)

Scottish businesses held their breath last week in the hope of a clear and concise plan for exiting lockdown and the return to a semblance of normality, from the First Minister.

However many were left scratching their heads over the apparent vagueness of the proposed roadmap, along with the timescale put forward for the easing of restrictions.

All going well, council areas in Scotland should return to at least Level 3 of restrictions by the end of April, which would allow non-essential shops to reopen. But, with no further details being released until mid-March, and no plans revealed on how lockdown could look beyond 26 April, many industry groups criticised last week’s announcement.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ Scotland were quick to ask for clarity on what economic activity could take place under each level of restriction to allow companies to plan ahead for the future.

They have a point. Businesses must be prepared for when they are able to open their doors once again. Not just to ensure that the relevant safety measures are in place for customers, but to allow for stock procurement, adequate staff numbers and training.

Hospitality, which has been singled out as one of the sectors hardest hit throughout the current situation, will also be disappointed as the timescale will mean it misses out on a usually buoyant Easter trading period.


Whilst Westminster’s announcement around lockdown had led to a huge surge in holiday bookings abroad, hopes that Scotland would align more closely with the rest of the UK were dashed, and Scotland’s aviation industry were understandably frustrated.


The lack of detail regarding international travel from the Scottish Government means that whilst airports south of the border can begin to implement a reopening strategy for summer, Scottish aviation was left in the dark on any meaningful plans to open up the skies once again.


We need to kick start the Scottish economy in as many ways as we can whilst we exit lockdown, but as last week has proven, the devil is in the detail and the Scottish Government has not delivered this time round. 


Laugh (130 words)

With both the Scottish and UK governments announcing their roadmaps out of lockdown last week, much of the population has set about planning what to do and where to go once allowed

One unlikely location certainly caught my eye in the media, as a group of strangers called Mary Hill are planning a post-lockdown visit to Glasgow to watch the mighty junior football outfit, Maryhill FC.

The special visit to the north of Glasgow from this eclectic band if Mary Hill’s has been organised by, you guessed it, Mary Hill from Leeds, who reached out to her namesakes via social media.

It was great to see the football club get behind the wacky plan too, with club officials inviting all Mary Hill’s to their first game back at Lochburn Park.


Weep (128 words)

It’s hoped that the economy will kick back into action, now that businesses have a glimmer of hope for re-opening in the coming months.

New official figures from The Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that Scotland's unemployment rate has fallen slightly to 4.5 per cent over the last quarter.

Although there has been a small drop in unemployment, unfortunately our younger workers continue to bear the brunt of job losses.

Whilst furlough continues, we also won’t see an accurate count for those without work and I’m sure figures will rise steeply when this lifeline for many is withdrawn.

Here’s hoping that as businesses come out of hibernation and sectors including hospitality and retail get up and running, all will be done to save jobs across the country.






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