Recently, the CCA Group performed an audit on the crowdfunding ecosystem in the United States.
Speaking with industry experts, performing original research, and updatinga database of all active and inactive crowdfunding portals in the country, we were able to develop a “30,000 foot” view of the ecosystem, including a closer look at the types of platforms in the space (e.g. lending, reward, equity, etc.), the verticals (e.g. business, non-profits, etc.), and comparative social metrics. In this post, will take a look at three takeaways.
Niche Plays Tend to Survive
Business programs around the world often teach that startup businesses who identify and exploit a niche have a much higher chance of surviving. In their paper New Firm Survival: Industry, Strategy, and Location, authors Sterns et. al. write “niche purveyors were found to have increased survival chances” and from our initial analysis, this rings true among crowdfunding portals in the United States. When looking at the failure ratio of crowdfunding platforms by vertical, those platforms that could only be described as crowdfunding for “everything” had a 48% chance of failure. That is, of the platforms from our previous database and with the new platforms our team was able to identify, 48% of the platforms that were set up to fund “everything” were no longer active as of the time of this study. Conversely, though there are a few funding portals that focus exclusively on environmental causes, all of the portals that we’ve been able to find in this vertical are still active. See figure 1 for a breakdown of the failure rates of US funding portals by vertical.
Funding for Businesses is a Crowded Part of the Ecosystem
Our study breaks the ecosystem down into seven verticals: everything, nonprofits and causes, creative, environmental, businesses, science, and other. Of course, these verticals are somewhat imprecise and the classification of an individual funding platform into one of these categories involves some subjectivity on the part of the researcher. Nevertheless, one striking takeaway from our study is that the space for business funding platforms is crowded. Our study found that the “business” vertical had more than double the number of platforms than the second-highest category: non-profits & causes. On the opposite in of the spectrum, the least crowded parts of the crowdfunding ecosystem in the United States are funding platforms that focus on science and environmental issues. See figure 2 for a visual representation of the crowdfunding ecosystem in United States by vertical.
The Major Players Have all the Social Proof: a Natural Oligopoly?
When our team looked at some of the comparative social metrics between platforms in United States, we were struck by the presence of outliers. Looking at the descriptive statistics (see figures 4 and 5) of the active platforms that have at least one “like” on Facebook, the kurtosis (a measure of skew) is enormous, signaling that the distribution of these data is nowhere near normal. The same can be said for the audit of these platforms’ presence on Twitter. Instead of a somewhat normal distribution, there are a few players in the top quartile that dominate the crowdfunding presence on Facebook and Twitter. This is an important consideration given the impact that social proof has. It builds trust, attracts funders, and attracts campaign managers. This may not surprise many of the readers of this piece because a couple crowdfunding portals are becoming household names and others remain relatively obscure.
In his paper Supermarkets as a Natural Oligopoly, Paul Ellickson of the University of Rochester describes the “size of the store” as a factor that drives the success of few firms in the supermarket space: “The oligopolistic chains do not carve out separate turf, choosing instead to compete head to head with their rivals, with choice of store size behaving as a strategic complement. No other theory seems capable of explaining these facts.” Interestingly, he believes that this idea is not unique to supermarkets, but applies to many retail verticals saying, “the same features seem to characterize modern retailing in many arenas.” Could it be that a crowdfunding portal shares economic similarities with large brick and mortar retail spaces? If so, that might be a strategic lighthouse for portal owners.
Written by Davis Jones for CCA