Trine Harnesses the Power of Crowdfunding to Launch Solar Projects
Sam Manaberi, Founder and CEO of Gothenburg-based Trine, recently stopped by Impact Hub Stockholm to share his journey as a social entrepreneur with SE Forum and its members and talk specifically about Trine’s experience with running a crowdfunding campaign.
Manaberi shared a number of tips for social entrepreneurs throughout the evening, with his number one advice being, “do good business.”
“Being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s popular now, but it’s hard,” noted Manaberi. “And just because you’re a social entrepreneur doesn’t mean you should make your business plan less competitive.” he added.
Trine is a fintech startup that aims to eliminate energy poverty, which affects over 1 billion people in the world today. Trine provides access to capital for these populations through a crowdinvesting platform that focuses on solar energy projects in emerging markets. It enables people to invest in specific projects and realize both a return and social impact. After an extensive due diligence process, Trine works with entrepreneurs to set-up the projects. Local families are able to buy solar energy at nearly half the price that they currently spend on kerosene, with costs decreasing over time. In addition, solar energy does not pose the health risks that extended exposure to kerosene does. Some estimates note that exposure to kerosene light while studying causes similar harm as smoking cigarettes.
Trine launched its first crowdfunding campaign on FundedByMe in November. It was over 200% funded in a matter of hours, a new record for the platform. New projects are already in the works.
Based on Trine’s experience, some specific insights Manaberi shared for entrepreneurs thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign include:
1. Don’t underestimate the preparation time.
“We worked with FundedByMe, and it was about six months from our first meeting to the actual launch of the campaign. People think you do this in three weeks. It’s just not the case,” he noted.
2. Do your own due diligence on the platforms available
Trine worked with FundedByMe, one of Europe’s largest crowdfunding platforms. Yet, there is Kickstarter, Indiegogo, among others. Evaluate each platform’s audience and decide if you want it to be an equity campaign, a reward-based campaign, etc. These factors will help you decide which platform is best for you.
3. Set clear goals as to why you’re using crowdfunding
While many see crowdfunding as a marketing tool, Trine is looking to use it as a key part of their business model. This affected their approach to the campaign, and while it took months of preparation, they gained a lot of other valuable insight and experience that will enable them to make it a scalable model over time.
4. Outside resources can be helpful, but be prepared to do much of the work internally
While the Trine team did work with a PR agency during the post-production phase of the campaign (marketing, media outreach, etc.), the team did most of the work in conceptualizing and setting up the campaign itself.
5. Be prepared for community management
While Manaberi admits this didn’t become an overwhelming need in Trine’s case, he knows this can be a large part of the crowdfunding experience. He credits their ability to cut down the time spent on community management to their intense preparation and transparency by putting a lot of information up on the site, which enabled them to direct people to links and presentations for those that did have inquiries.
In addition, Manaberi notes that there are a vast amount of resources already online to help you understand what it takes to run crowdfunding campaigns. So there’s no need to start at zero. Many of the platforms themselves provide resources and best practices.
If you’re interested in getting first access to the next crowdfunded solar project launched by Trine, sign up now on their website: http://jointrine.com/. You’ll receive information about the next investment opportunity prior to the general public.