How rLoop, Kuli Kuli and Kite Brought Crowdfunding to Social Innovation

co-written by Bre DiGiammarino and Alisa Cordesius

Social innovation crowdfunding Indiegogo

Social innovation is thriving and as the community develops impactful ideas, crowdfunding can be an essential piece of the journey from concept to market. Social entrepreneurs on Indiegogo not only launch new organizations, but also gauge market demand for additional products, raise awareness for their area of impact and continue to innovate by engaging their community long after the initial term of their first campaign.

Three extraordinary social entrepreneurs recently came together for our Social Innovation Happy Hour, moderated by Indiegogo co-founder Danae Ringelmann. For rLoop, Kuli Kuli and Kite, crowdfunding provided the pathway to bring their ideas to life, from market validation to prototyping and growth.

rLoop crowdfunds its prototype (and a movement)

For entrepreneurs of all types, moving from design to prototype can be a challenging stage to navigate.

This is when rLoop – a crowdsourced group of over 140 Redditors who passionately call themselves “the world’s first non-profit, open source, online think tank” – turned to Indiegogo to attract a global audience.

rLoop SpaceX team

In 2013, the rLoop team entered Elon Musk’s SpaceX a hyperloop “pod design competition” to spur research into the feasibility of 700 mph Hyperloop technology. Winning teams would build and test their pod design at Musk’s hyperloop test track in Hawthorne, California. Under Tom Lambot, head of engineering, and Brent Lessard’s lead, rLoop managed to impress SpaceX judges with their pod design and was selected as one of 30 teams (from an initial 1,200+ design submissions) to actually build their prototype for the competition at SpaceX this summer.

Since their campaign launch, rLoop has raised $33,245 of their $60k goal with 23 days left to go. They appealed to their active Reddit community by utilizing Indiegogo’s secret perk, a new tool that allows you to reward loyal backers and attract new adopters. Like Solar Roadways, rLoop’s innovation represents an environmental movement, an innovation that individuals across the globe can help move forward and show their support through sharing, funding, and participating.

rLoop SpaceX hyperloop

Kuli Kuli runs a second Indiegogo campaign to spur growth

Crowdfunding can support social entrepreneurs at many stages of their growth – from launch to manufacturing. And in Kuli Kuli’s case, it can even expand the impact of social innovation.

Kuli Kuli’s founder Lisa Curtis, realized the powerful nutritional value of moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Niger when she experienced malnutrition. After returning to the US, Lisa founded Kuli Kuli to help women in West Africa use more moringa locally and earn a sustainable livelihood by selling a portion of each harvest to the US.

Lisa Curtis Kuli Kuli

Kuli Kuli was launched as a successful small business in large part to her first Indiegogo campaign raising more than $53,000 and attracting Whole Foods Market as a distribution partner. Last year, Kuli Kuli announced a new moringa initiative in partnership with Whole Foods Market, the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti Program and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to plant hundreds of moringa trees in Haiti and sell a Moringa Green Energy Shot made with Haitian moringa. As part of this new initiative, Kuli Kuli launched a second campaign that raised $100,009 from 542 backers, doubling her first campaign.

As a repeat campaigner, there are challenges that come along with a second campaign. Reaching back out to your core network of friends and family is one example. To streamline the number of asks, Lisa suggests utilizing Indiegogo’s referral tool and launching a social media contest with unique perks or experiences as reward in order to reach new networks. This network growth and relationship with new contributors goes beyond the campaign’s 30-60 days.

In fact, Lisa’s currently in Haiti hosting a group of Indiegogo backers, visiting the moringa tree farm, and showcasing the social enterprise that they helped her make a reality.

Kuli Kuli Haiti

12,000 backers validate Kite’s mosquito-repelling alternative

Amro Albanna is the CEO of ieCrowd, a company that discovers and brings to market innovations that might otherwise never see the light of day. The company used Indiegogo to move from a prototype to field tests and development of Kite, a non-DEET alternative for repelling mosquitoes. During the term of the campaign, more than 11,250 backers demonstrated their interest in this product by jointly raising $557,254.

They are now targeting to deliver Kite products in the coming months. At a time when mosquitoes are in the news so frequently, it’s inspiring to see how ieCrowd and their Indiegogo backer community cared deeply enough about this product when the campaign ran in 2013 that now it’s a real option for repelling bites in the near future. To make this possible for products like Kite, Indiegogo’s InDemand is designed to support entrepreneurs in raising funds even beyond the term of their initial campaign.

Kite patch

As Amro says, “I just believe that too many promising innovations never see the light of day due to lack of visibility or financing. Indiegogo plays a key role in providing an opportunity for such innovations.”

We know bridging business and impact isn’t easy. It takes perseverance, iteration, funding and a supportive community. Crowdfunding is only one step in the journey from concept to market, but it is an important one that we can take with you. We want to help, and are actively developing the product solutions that make excelling as an entrepreneur more possible than ever before.