Los Angeles Business Journal

Crowdfund Site Taps Star Power

By James Rufus Koren Monday, July 8, 2013

Zanker, along with Trump and a few other investors, started FundAnything with $1.5 million earlier this year. Zanker is the company’s chief executive. Trump owns 10 percent.

The company’s team of about a dozen employees, most now in the process of moving to Los Angeles, includes several former Learning Annex executives, among them its former chief technical officer and celebrity booker. The Learning Annex continues to operate classes and seminars nationwide.

Like most crowdfunding sites, FundAnything makes money by taking a percentage of all money raised on the site. For campaigns that meet their fundraising goal, FundAnything takes 5 percent. For campaigns that fall short, the company takes 9 percent – an incentive, Zanker said, for campaigns to set realistic goals.

In contrast, Kickstarter collects a flat fee of 5 percent, but only if a project meets its fundraising goal. If the target is not met, the money is returned to donors.

As the name suggests, FundAnything lets people raise money for nearly any purpose: starting up a small business, covering medical bills or putting down a security deposit on an apartment.

In that sense, FundAnything is no different from better-known crowdfunding companies such as San Francisco’s Indiegogo or New York’s RocketHub Inc. Kickstarter, however, allows only campaigns for art, food and tech-related projects, not for general fundraising.

But where FundAnything aims to set itself apart is in how it promotes campaigns. Brad Wyman, FundAnything’s chief creative officer, spent a year at Indiegogo and said that the company and others don’t do much in the way of promotion. Rather, campaigns market themselves with little involvement from the crowdfunding sites.

Kim Sherrell, an L.A. filmmaker who recently raised $87,000 through Kickstarter for a documentary about crowdfunding, said she worked full time to get press coverage of her campaign.

“Getting the attention of the right people is key,” she said. “Kickstarter has highlights and staff picks, but they don’t really go out of their way to promote you.”

FundAnything, meanwhile, plans to hire celebrities – Trump is just the first – to endorse and promote campaigns through their own social networks. The FundAnything site already features a special section called Donald’s Picks, highlighting a handful of campaigns selected by Trump – though Trump said Zanker and his team are largely responsible for the selections.

“Bill (Zanker) will show me things, show me campaigns he likes,” Trump told the Business Journal. “In virtually all cases, I’ll approve.”

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