Jason Ha (courtesy TechCrunch)
Sites like Kickstarter have been used to crowdfund a wide range of projects, but I don’t think they’ve ever done what Synergist is attempting today — they’ve never crowdfunded themselves.
The site was founded by 17-year-old Jared Kleinert, who described Synergist as a mix of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding for social enterprises (i.e., organizations that aim to do good, rather than make money, but apply commercial strategies to achieve those aims). The funding mechanism is pretty similar to Kickstarter — projects need to reach their funding target in order to receive any money, and the money is given for rewards, not equity. But Kleinert emphasized that the fundraising is really only a small part of the process.
“We help teams crowdsource ideas based around shared values and strengths and weaknesses,” Kleinert said. “Anyone can post an idea.”
Synergist breaks the process down into three main steps — create (where you find team members and discuss ideas), collaborate (Synergist offers tools like document sharing and chat rooms so that a team can develop a project together), and share (that’s where the funding comes in).
The site launched in private beta in February. (It’s “private” in the sense that Kleinert hasn’t done much marketing, not in the sense that you need an invite to access the site or start a campaign.) Some early campaigns focused on areas like kids education and music singles from celebrities, Kleinert said. None of them have been funded yet, but now he’s trying to raise money for Synergist itself. He said it’s as “a very meta test to try and get out of private beta.”
And Kleinert’s learned from the initial projects, he said — most importantly, that you need to do “pre-campaign” work, building up support before the campaign officially starts, in order for your crowdfunding efforts to be successful.
“It’s not like you can just put it up and ta da, you have $100,000,” he said.
Kleinert’s hoping to raise at least $25,000. That doesn’t seem like much money, even when you take into account his goal to keep Synergist “very lean” — like Grockit and 15Five, the startups where he interned. Apparently it will serve as a “pre-seed” round, which will go towards improvements on the site, but it will also keep Synergist going until it raises a bigger seed round — presumably through more traditional means.