We started laying out the plans for Karolina Fund in 2011. We’d throw around ideas and as the night progressed increasingly fantastic and complex plans emerged on the whiteboard.
Our mission was to create a hub to for making ideas come to life. How do you connect together the right kind of people? Where can you get the money? How should the projects be organized, and how do you make sure everyone is treated fairly? As we discussed, debated and brainstormed, detailed plans of a complex web platform emerged — a sort of a machine that would take an idea and spit out a ready new product, piece of art or new business.
Year 2011: Playing on the whiteboard
We had a lot to draw from, coming from such different directions as film making, business, marketing, art, stock brokering and law — we all had our unique viewpoint of what was important. Often we stumbled on solutions and methods we thought were brilliant. Sometimes we even thought so also the day after — and other times we somehow didn’t remember what had been so brilliant or mysteriously couldn’t understand our own plans, despite having photographed the white board during he night.
With time, basic principles of what we wanted to do began to emerge. We wanted to create a place where ideas, people and money can find each other to make creativity happen. We wanted to use the power of the social internet to connect, to allow transparency into projects to increase trust and a visual structure to keep everyone participating up to date.
Year 2012: From the abstract to concrete
As we moved from whiteboard games to actually making a working tool, we realized two things:
a) You can’t lay out blueprints for a complex “ready made” solution that has never existed before and simply expect it to work out of the box. Even if we were brilliant visionaries (which we are not, we’re just a bunch of guys and girls trying to make something we’d love existed), we’d have to take one step at a time.
b) You can’t move faster than the community was ready for. Crowd funding, for example, was meant to be an essential part of Karolina. But around 2012 most people around us still hadn’t even heard of online crowd funding. Explaining how many people can pool their money together to back a creative project on a website was enough for people to digest. Adding layers of features on top of that was confusing to them.
The conclusion was to start basic, but with a small “twist”. By the end of 2012 we had programmed and launched a new crowd funding platform, and had the first campaigns successfully raise money. The platform was intentionally not very different from what people would expect from similar sites, but had a few small experiments included.
Milestones: We allowed the project creators to define milestones and tasks for their projects, and tick them off as the project progressed.
Skills: We put in a possibility for people that registered on the site to add skills to their profile.
2013: The initial test
We had out first full year in business. Out platform grew from campaign to campaign. We had some small project and then some bigger projects. To be honest, most people saw us as a standard crowd funding platform.
As we put our energies into learning the day-to-day realities of crowd funding, we kept going back to our initial concepts and our experiments seemed to validate that we were on to something. Using the milestones, potential backers could quickly see what the plan was, and after the project was funded the crossing off from the todos list provided accountability and trust in the community.
The skills feature was not very prominent, and you couldn’t really do anything with it, we were almost a bit surprised when we checked out database to see that people were actually using this feature, adding diverse skills such as programming, singing, yoga, project management to the pool.
What was also important: The crowd funding campaigns were doing really well. When this is written, 70% of the campaigns reach their funding goal. This is significantly higher than the older platforms out there, which have numbers closer to 40%. We do not claim to have any scientific explanation to why we are doing so well, but proceed with a healthy combination of data and intuition.
This year is our most exciting to date. We are no longer a bunch of guys from different directions in front of a white board. We’re a team with tested experience in running a service which has value for the creative community. We don’t only have abstract ideas about online creativity, we are living and breathing projects going through the Karolina platform, and we’re taking steps, one at a time, to shift the paradigms of how people work together to make things happen.
As a business we’re seasoned in the day-to-day running of our service and we’ve entered in to partnerships with key companies for us to keep growing. On top of this we’re about to open doors to significantly bigger markets through the recently announced Nordic Crowdfunding Alliance, which we’re part of launching.
New features — more innovation
In the last few weeks we’ve added several new features to Karolina:
We’ve made the milestone and tasks more prominent on the project page:
We’ve given project creators a chance to display their team’s profiles. Increasing transparency and widening their social net:
Skills are now searchable by the community:
Projects can now not only raise money, but use Karolina to find people to join the project:
We’re excited and proud of these new tools we’re making. We know some of them will work and add value to online collaboration, others might not. That’s ok. We’ve got thousands of users now and a constant stream of projects participating in our community. If something is working we’ll know. If something isn’t, we’ll also know, and we’ll change them until they do.
Some people prefer to work alone. We respect that. Karolina is for when you need the community to take part. When you need outside funding, when you need feedback on your ideas or want to put the skills and resources behind your project.
Come on in. Have a seat. Tell us about what you want to make: firstname.lastname@example.org