Crowdfunding has changed the game for many grownups who need money to achieve their dreams, whether that’s making a film, building a unique new gadget, or becoming president. But sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are for adults. When kids need to raise money for their schools or extra-curricular projects, they’re often still using decades-old methods like selling candy bars or wrapping paper.
A site launching to the public today called Piggybackr wants to bring kids’ fundraising out of the dark ages (or at least the 1980s.) Piggybackr is a crowdfunding platform that’s specifically targeted to the needs of kids, with educational tools, game mechanics, and age-appropriate directions, and parental controls. The site is focused on efforts, rather than physical products — kids ask potential sponsors for donations online and offer “thank you gifts” in return such as volunteer time.
Piggybackr’s founder Andrea Lo tells me that she came up with the idea for Piggybackr when helping her then 11-year-old sister set up a webpage to raise money for the rainforest by selling $1 bracelets.
“I saw how much more effective she was fundraising online, and how she became more confident. While crowdfunding is exploding for entrepreneurs and non-profits; it has not spread to young people and schools. With federal budget cuts hitting education, these are some of the people who need it the most.”
We first met Piggybackr in May 2012, when it graduated as a one-woman startup out of the AngelPad accelerator. Since then the company has grown its full-time team to three staff and run a private beta, which saw more than 1500 kids raise over $250,000. At its public launch today, Piggybackr is opening up to users throughout the United States with the support of ten partners including Tim Draper’s Bizworld Foundation, California YMCA Youth in Government, and others.
For its own financial needs, Piggybackr takes a five percent commission on its funding projects and collects a 30 cent fee on each transaction it processes. The company has also raised a seed round from “passionate investors,” but Lo is currently declining to talk specifics on that front for now.
What I like best about Piggybackr is that it is focused on the educational experience of selling, more than the money itself (even though the money tends to follow, as the online platform tends to get higher donations compared to your typical bake sale.) In our interview, Lo brought up a story told by Steve Jobs about when, as a kid, he reached out to tech magnate Bill Hewlett for guidance.
“There’s so much importance in learning how to ask for help, to take action, and be willing to sell at a young age,” Lo said. “Beyond just making this really inefficient industry online, we are excited to equip this generation with these skills early on: To learn to be self-starters, asking for help, being OK with getting nos, and funding their dreams.”