Success Wears Sneakers Preview: Meet Liz Wald, Indiegogo’s VP of Media and Technology

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On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Vivaldi will host a panel discussion at our New York office you won’t want to miss. Click here to register for the event.

Moderated by Vox Media, “Success Wears Sneakers: What big brands can learn from the city’s savviest startups” will include perspectives from panelists Liz Wald (Indiegogo), MaryAnn Bekkedahl (Keep), Andrew Yakub (Rayton Solar), Marie Cosnard (Happn) and Andrew Lin (Caviar).

To give you an idea of what’s to come, we talked with Liz Wald about the upcoming panel and her experience as VP of Technology and Design at Indiegogo, the world’s largest global crowdfunding platform. Liz works to ensure campaign owners creating  products in IoT and connected home, health-tech, fitness wearables, drones, robots etc. have the best possible experience raising funds and getting global exposure.

Since Indiegogo was founded in 2008, how have the kinds of campaigns on Indiegogo changed? Do you think this reflects some wider changes in the way business is done?

I think it’s not only the kinds of campaigns but also the overall number and size of the funds raised. We’ve had over 300,000 campaigns on Indiegogo for everything from fighting bullying (Karen Klein), to funding fan-favorite movie sequels (Super Troopers 2) that the studios wouldn’t touch, to a modern day beehive (Flow Hive) that mainstream investors were unlikely to support; and what was once mega campaign at $700K is now seeing amounts over $12M. This shows that crowdfunding as a concept, i.e., the ability to bring your idea to a wide audience and see if there is support, is something that is increasingly becoming mainstream. No longer are bankers, VCs, corporate establishments and foundations the only ones who control what gets funded, and in fact, these institutions are increasingly looking toward crowdfunding for validation of ideas they then go on to back themselves.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities (and challenges) on the horizon for Indiegogo? Where do you imagine Indiegogo being in ten years?

Given the pace of change in the crowdfunding industry, it’s really hard to predict where Indiegogo will be in 10 years. That said, if current trends are any indication, I’d say it will be even more global (I’m just back from China where so many of the tech products are manufactured and they are not looking to only produce but also create!), and there will be more industries and even large corporations involved in some way. Also, equity crowdfunding will continue to develop, and while it’s not clear what role Indiegogo will play on that front, we are certainly supporters of the concept that not just accredited investors should have the chance to participate in.

You have spoken before about being a ‘global citizen’ and using the Indiegogo platform for raising money for causes such as poverty alleviation; what brands have taken the lead from a social responsibility perspective? Do you think social responsibility is becoming more important to brands?

Companies are clearly starting to see the financial returns that come from social responsibility. It’s not about just doing “good”, you also have to do well and that’s where social ventures can really make a difference. We’ve had over 100 social innovation campaigns; some try to solve crises, e.g, Kite Patch fighting malaria, while others use sustainable materials, e.g., Ginkgo Umbrella, and in nearly all cases they lead with the efficacy of the product and then talk about the problem — it’s good business that is good for the world. There is definitely a place for charity in crowdfunding as well, as we recently saw with nearly 300 Nepal fundraisers being launched after the devastating earthquake and after shocks. Ultimately, though, unlocking capital that was previously not available is the big promise crowdfunding can bring to social enterprises.

How do you & your team determine the channels by which you market? Do you stick with tried-and-tested methods, or are you scanning for new, alternative media?

Marketing takes many forms from digital ads to speaking engagements. We strongly believe that if you bring your idea to Indiegogo, we will help you raise the most money and get the most exposure for your campaigns compared to any other platform. What we’ve made a cornerstone of our marketing approach is putting the campaign and campaign owners front and center. From our business cards to the rotating logo on our home page, we are consistently putting the incredible stories on Indiegogo at the forefront.

How has the culture at Indiegogo changed as you have grown? Has your international growth, in particular, changed the way the company operates?

We’ve basically doubled in size during the two years I’ve been at Indiegogo and of course your culture changes when you go through that kind of growth — mostly it just gets a lot busier! With some of our biggest campaigns coming from outside the US, we’ve adopted a global outlook without missing a beat. We have people on the ground in London, Toronto, and Tel Aviv and while those markets still slightly lag the US in terms of consumer adoption, from the entrepreneur’s perspective they are no different than NYC or San Francisco.

And finally: what is your personal favorite Indiegogo project?

Wow, this is by far the hardest question! I have my own campaign for Bpeace, a nonprofit on which I sit on the board, so that is right up there! In all seriousness though it probably is a toss up between the very first campaign I funded, The Ocean Cleanup, that was run by an inspiring then 17-year old from the Netherlands with a bold idea to clean the vast pools of trash from the ocean, and the Muse brain sensing headband. I love the Muse story because it shows exactly how crowdfunding can be such an amazing tool. The founder, Ariel Garten, a scientist from Canada was not easily able to convince investors that brainwave measuring headband was a revolutionary idea that everyday people would embrace. She ran her campaign back in December 2012 and raised $287K from 1600+ people, validating her vision. From there she was able to raise a $6M angel round and now you can get your own Muse at a Best Buy or order it from Amazon. A woman scientist from Canada had a pretty small chance of breaking into the VC world, but crowdfunding made the case and now she’s building a company that just raised an additional $10M and will no doubt be releasing several more innovative products in the future.

To hear more from Liz Wald and all our Success Wears Sneakers panelists register for Vivaldi’s June 23rd event here.