Monday, February 16, 2015

Crowdfunding: Current Status & Future Perspectives Workshop

Logo of the Greek National Documentation Center (EKT)On February 16th, 2015, the Greek National Documentation Center (EKT) organized a workshop titled "Crowdfunding: Current status & future perspectives" in the context of the Enterprise Europe Network-Hellas and supported by the European Commission, the European Crowdfunding Stakeholders Forum and the European Crowdfunding Network. I like to attend various events organized by EKT (and I would like to thank them for giving me the opportunity) and since Agro-Know considered this an interesting event as well, I managed to register on time in order to ensure my participation and bring some fresh ideas back to the office.
The workshop started with a short but interesting presentation of the Enterprise Europe Network Hellas by Georgia Tzenou (EKT, the coordinator of the Network in Greece) and consisted of three sessions:

Session 1: Crowdfunding in EU: Current Status & Good Practices

This session aimed to provide the current status of crowdfunding at a European level, through related networks and initiatives. It was facilitated by Georgia Tzenou (EKT) and consisted of the following presentations:
  • The European Crowdfunding Network (ECN): Oliver Gajda, the co-founder & Chairman of the European Crowdfunding Network AISBL and Executive Committee member at CF50 (the global think tank on crowdfunding) presented ECN and the issues related to the lack of  harmonized framework for defining crowdfunding  activities.
  • The Peer2Peer Finance Association: Samantha Ridler, the president of the Association presented the work of the association, focusing on the Peer-to-Peer Lending approach.
  • European Crowdfunding Stakeholders Forum (ECSF): Nikos Daskalakis, member of ECSF and IME/GSEVEE presented the role and activities of ECSF, a forum that aims to help the European Commission to "assist the Commission in developing policies for crowdfunding to flourish while taking into account the interest of contributors".
During the 1st session of the EKT Workshop on crowdfunding
During the 1st session of the Workshop

Session 2: Crowdfunding in Greece: Legal and Regulatory Framework

This session consisted of the following two presentations:
  • Nikos Kontizas presented the "Crowdfunding: Legal Challenges and the Situation in Greece", presenting the gaps regarding the legal framework of the crowdfunding activities in Greece
  • Dionysis Paraschis presented "Regulatory framework for the Crowdfunding market in Greece", representing the Hellenic Capital Market Commission and focusing on the Capital Market perspectives on this issue.

Session 3: Greek Crowdfunding Platforms

This session was facilitated by Iraklis Agiovlasitis (EKT) and was the most straightforward of all three; representatives of the 6 most active/well-known crowdfunding platforms in Greece were invited to present their platform and work and discuss the joint issues that rise due to the lack of a solid legal and operational framework, as discussed in the previous session. The following platforms were presented:
  • OpenCircle: The co-founder Xenophon Krokidis presented this advanced platform which aims to turn researchers into entrepreneurs. It works on the Equity Crowdfunding approach and aims mostly at investors wishing to invest their money in a commercial enterprise (e.g. a startup or a small business) or idea for a project as well as on entrepreneurs who wish to develop an innovative idea but they do not have the resources to do so. You will need a well-defined business plan and a strong team to support it in order to get through the initial steps. It seemed like the most professional and advanced solution, rendering it more suitable for more advanced ideas and investors.
  • Give & Fund: Giannis Chatzimpeis, the founder and Paralympian Athlete described the story behind the development of this platform and his own success story in raising funds for a specific food purpose. Give & Fund is a digital crowdfunding platform that allows everyone to create a fundraising page through a simple & safe process (and with no cost!). The platform also allows the interaction with social media, in order to further promote the project. The platform is based on donations from individuals.
  • Groopio: Dimitris Anagnostou, the founder of Groopio, the oldest crowdfunding platform in Greece presented the simple (and successful) approach of his platform, which aims to inspire and fuel creativity, by "raising capital in small amounts from a large group of people who want to support an idea or effort initiated by a person or organization". It seemed like the most informal but still more appealing and easy to use platform (along with Give & Fund).
  • Winnersfund: Konstantinos Parissis, the Founder of Winnersfund, presented the platform. His background as a Lawyer & Economist helped him understand the issues behind the crowdfunding activities and seems to have the solutions to them. The platform provides a complete solution to crowdfunding focusing on businesses; some of these seem to be in the agri-food production domain. I have the feeling that the specific platform is aiming at serious investors, having a similar (but not as advanced) as OpenCircle.
  • GreekFund: A Greek crowdfunding platform, presented by its executive partner Tasos Taskaris. The platform aims to support innovative business and societal initiatives that require funding,focusing on the Greek initiatives (something that becomes obvious not only from the intuitive Greek user interface but also from the lack of any information in English). What makes GreekFund special, is the involvement of a wide variety of groups that work collaboratively in the process including the creators (those with innovative ideas), the wise (those who produce new knowledge), necessary collaborators (experienced scientists and professionals, experts in marketing & advertising etc.) - you can read more here.
  • OneUp by Praxi: Pau Kidner, from the Praksis Business Coaching Center NGO, presented the OneUp initiative. The specific initiative has a strongly societal approach, aiming to provide the means to those with no funds and job to get the necessary tools through a 4-month program on entrepreneurship, in order to allow them stand back on their feet and be more competitive.
Presentation of the Give & Fund
On top of that, Stathis Athanasiou, a Greek director, presented his own successful story of raising funds for the development of his own film using Indiegogo; he presented both the advantages and the issues that he faced during the process.
Almost all speakers highlighted the common issues faced in the crowdfunding context, such as the lack of a clear framework for the proper operation of related activities, the risks that may be low but still exist (e.g. of funding a project that will not be completed) and the issues caused by the need of using online payment services (e.g. increased complexity and sense of insecurity). However, all founders agreed that there should be collaboration between the different platforms in order to support the development of a transparent and functional framework to meet the requirements of all different cases.
The event concluded with a discussion between the audience and the speakers of the last session, during which a lot of answers to practical questions were provided. It was really interesting to see the level of interest from the audience, especially after having the previous presentations setting up the context and raising the awareness about crowdfunding.
All in all, it was a really interesting workshop on an emerging topic. It successfully managed to provide all dimension to the subject (financial, legal, platforms and end-users) in a compact agenda, allowing at the same time interesting discussions and informing potential stakeholders about crowdfunding. It became obvious that even an SME like Agro-Know may benefit from related activities under specific conditions.
All presentations are already available through the event's web page.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A really busy January is over

I can't believe that it has been more than one month since I last wrote something in my blog... it seems that my work absorbs most of my productive time and many of the things that I would blog about are already posted in the Agro-Know blog anyway (by me).

Well, January is officially over and there were a lot of work-related updates: First of all, there is a new team member in the Marketing team (that I am leading - or at least I try to); Alexandros seems like a talented and creative person that is currently doing his internship in Agro-Know, helping me out with marketing-related activities, such as the social media and the marketing material (which needs a face lift, I have to admit). It is a challenge for me to guide him through the team's needs and provide him with the knowledge and space that he needs in order to deploy his creativity and fresh ideas!

Apart from that, I have been focusing my work during January on the branding- and marketing-related activities of a new product that Agro-Know plans to deploy in the next weeks/months. These activities include:
  • the work on the product's logo with George, a talented, external (out of the Agro-Know team) graphic designer;
  • the development of a Drupal-based landing page for the product with the help of an external team of web developer;
  • the work related to the registration of the trademark of the new product (name and logo), in collaboration with the company's lawyer (Periklis, also a great guy);
  • the development of a methodology based on the AARRR (Startup metrics for pirates!) in order to measure the acquisition of new customers and the conversion funnel (?);
  • reading about SEO, conversion funnels, Call-to-action & conversion techniques, leads and copywriting and other unfamiliar terms and methodologies
This alone seems to be challenging, as it involves a lot of preparation related to work that I am not familiar with; however, getting to learn about such things helps me broaden my (already broad) knowledge obtained through my work with Agro-Know (including metadata & their management, digital repositories, information management, knowledge organization systems, linked data, big data, social media, open access & open data, etc.).

Last but not least, I am working on two publications (one for the Open Repositories 2015 Conference and another for the Open Knowledge in Agricultural Development (OKAD)) to be submitted in the next days and doing some work for the text for the website of the Wheat Data Interoperability Working Group of RDA (of which I am a member) and completed the Greek translation of the Pisa Declaration on Policy Development for Grey Literature Resources - a movement that I really endorse :-)

I have a feeling that February will be a key month for my work, as the deployment of this new Agro-Know product is expected and this will be affected in a high degree by my personal contribution. At the same time, my collaboration with my new team member is a stake that I need to win, as this will be a win-win situation for both sides; the team will gain a long-term new member and I will have more free time to focus on more high-level aspects of my work.