PledgeMe co-founder and self-acclaimed Chief Bubble Blower Anna Guenther is making the leap across the ditch to Queensland with Advance Queensland’s Hot DesQ program. PledgeMe is a crowdfunding platform helping people to raise money to turn their ideas into reality. Since PledgeMe launched in Wellington, New Zealand five years ago they’ve helped over 1,100 creative, community and entrepreneurial projects meet their goals, with over $15 million pledged.
How did you come up with the idea for PledgeMe?
PledgeMe was started as part of my masters thesis. I was working for the New Zealand Government at the time, and decided to go back and complete a Masters in Entrepreneurship.
As part of the masters, we needed to do everything but launch a company (write the business plan, complete a feasibility analysis etc.). I was just so excited by the crowdfunding I was seeing overseas and wanted to bring it home to New Zealand. While I was doing my research, I met a guy who was building the first iteration of PledgeMe, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Was it always your goal to found a startup- or did it come through an unexpected pathway?
It’s funny, my family have all started their own businesses but I was pretty content working in economic development for the New Zealand Government. But then I started thinking about business, and I went down the academic path to start with, rather than starting a company straight out. But I got there, eventually.
What are you packing to bring to Queensland?
All the sun dresses! I am excited about being warm, and perfecting my tan WHILE working.
Are you list makers or a last minute throw it all in the bag type?
I make lists when it comes to work, but when it comes to travel I’m a just a throw it all in the carry-on and run sort of girl.
What are you aiming to get out of moving to Queensland with Hot DesQ?
I’m really excited about being able to come into a community to build our new platform. We want to meet as many companies as we can, so we can know if equity crowdfunding will work in Australia as it’s currently proposed. We want to build the best solution we can, with the community, and really help companies grow in the Queensland region.
(The Australian Government has introduced legislation that would allow start-up Australian entrepreneurs and businesses to turn to crowdfunding to raise funds.)
What excites you about the start-up ecosystem in Queensland?
The fact that it seems connected and growing. That you’ve got some great co-working spaces, a focus on support from the government and cool people doing cool things!
What benefits are you bringing to Queensland?
We’re definitely bringing our experience around inspiring and helping emerging companies. We’ve also got some great connections in New Zealand and internationally, and a bunch of experience growing a tech company (and a social enterprise).
What would you say has been your greatest success so far?
From a company perspective, it would have to be when our local craft beer company, ParrotDog, raised $2 million in two days through us.
From a personal perspective, it would have to be when we crowdfunded ourselves in 23 hours. It was so awesome to see our crowd come in to support our company.
Your favourite campaign to come through PledgeMe?
I really love all the awesome female founded companies. A special favourite was Ethique, a social enterprise that makes solid haircare bars. They’re trying to reduce waste by packaging their bars in paper (rather than shampoo typically coming in plastic bottles). They’ve already stopped over 200,000 bottles from going to landfill! When they raised through us, they got $200,000 in two weeks, and 80% of their investors were customers. Even more cool, 3 of them were chemists, and when Brianne was having trouble increasing her batching in their new factory one of those shareholders came in and solved her problem in like 10 minutes.
Since then, Brianne has gone on to get shout outs from Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher, been featured in Forbes, and went from $165k in revenue to over $2 million after running her campaign.
Let’s say I’m interested in working for you — what do I need an interest in? What are you looking for?
In helping people! But in creative ways. We like supporting people through the process by connecting them into people around them.
Our best interview question is: who would win in a fight, a tiger or a bear? The choice of who would win doesn’t really matter, just how the person answers. They need to be creative, engaging, and willing to debate it with the crew.
(I’m Team Tiger, obvs).
Can you describe your perfect work day?
It would probably be a Tuesday! We have our full team meeting first thing (six of us dialing in from around the world), followed by a mix of meetings with campaigners and work on the business. Probably followed by me speaking at an event, I love sharing stories of people who have crowdfunded, and meeting people that might want to crowdfund one day.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. It came out of a group session I did with some other entrepreneurs, and one of the founders in the room shared that advice. It made me realise that everyone is working through hard stuff growing their companies, and you can’t always believe the shiny shiny we all put out into the world.
What is your vision for the future of PledgeMe?
To launch really really really well in Australia and help a bunch of companies raise the money they need to grow.
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