By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
Editor’s note: Creative Oklahoma, a nonprofit group dedicated to supporting the state’s innovative economic strengths, will host this year’s Creativity World Forum March 31 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. Registration information is available at www.stateofcreativity.com. SIVI Corp. is one of the many entrepreneurial efforts that will be highlighted at the event.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The two entrepreneurs who relocated to the metro area from Los Alamos, New Mexico, in an RV to develop a business plan are ready to launch their pre-Kickstarter platform, they said Monday.
LaunchLeader is intended to fill the gap between zero and full public crowdfunding, said Ashok Kamal, who co-founded SIVI Corp. with Nicholas Seet. Kamal said the men are applying their personal entrepreneurial struggles to help potentially millions of people worldwide who believe they’re ready to start a business but can’t afford to make the jump. Those fledgling business creators often need to raise a little capital to enter accelerator programs before serious angel-investor funding can take place. In a sense, Kamal and Seet want to provide the bootstraps for other entrepreneurs to pull themselves up.
“We’re here for the 90 percent who aren’t ready yet,” he said. “We believe this will help prepare them.”
The men drove to Oklahoma City in 2013 to participate in the VentureSpur business accelerator, saving money by living in an RV instead of renting apartment space. At the time, they were focused on developing what they referred to as a gamified e-learning platform for aspiring startups, using gamelike rewards, points and badges to reinforce attitudes and goals in nongame contexts.
Kamal said that as they shaped their own business plan out of VentureSpur, they recognized some of the largest drawbacks of crowdfunding platform campaigns like Kickstarter are that a wide diversity of causes can create clutter, executive team members lack a minimum amount of practical experience, and low transparency and accountability disrupt financial planning, all of which lead to a high campaign failure rate.
Their work reshaped itself into the LaunchLeader format of micro-crowdsourcing, in which smaller funding increments of just a few hundred are collected toward specific tasks rather than one big request toward a confusing number of goals.
“It’s not the fees that are causing other entrepreneurs to fail. It’s their level of preparedness,” Kamal said. “A typical Kickstarter campaign might set a $20,000 target, while on ours it might just be $2,000 to create the tools they need to run the experiment or proof of concept. They need a smaller step to reach that working prototype and feedback.”
Although not specifically stated in the men’s LaunchLeader business overview online, their micro-step approach also stands to lower risks for non-institutional investors who can only afford to lose a few dollars on a big dream.
Kamal said a small group of early adopters involved in private beta testing over the last year have been helping the men refine LaunchLeader’s features. The public launch is expected soon this year, he said.