This Kiwi startup is using crowdfunding as a way to promote equitable access to capital in the startup sector, with a focus on Māori-led enterprises.
Tā Koha aims to open the way for Māori entrepreneurs to recognise and use crowdfunding as a way of unlocking funding and support from their whānau, communities and those who want to see an equitable and inclusive funding landscape in Aotearoa.
Tā Koha is more than just a crowdfunding platform. The team guides and supports entrepreneurs throughout their funding journey, through a learning programme that also invites whānau to share in the learning alongside the entrepreneur. Tā Koha also aims to allow its campaigners to put together a wishlist of in-kind support, which may be anything from time, skills to energy and equipment. Tā Koha is also an online community space, where entrepreneurs can share their plans and grow their business.
Crowdfunding is a beautiful process. It allows the community to be part of something bigger, and it allows the entrepreneur to feel supported by his or her community, which can be very motivating.
PledgeMe’s CEO Anna Guenther believes in the power of crowdfunding.
“There is definitely something empowering about having your crowd fully invested in your success – be it because they pledged to your project, invested in your company, or lent you money,” she said.
“They feel more part of your journey, and you get super engaged champions (if you do it right).”
Her belief is clearly a strong one; Anna brought crowdfunding to New Zealand when she co-founded PledgeMe, a supportive and inclusive funding platform with a goal to “actually make a difference for both creators and pledgers.”
Tā Koha came about because PledgeMe wanted to level the playing field so that crowdfunding becomes just as accessible to indigenous entrepreneurs as those who use platforms like PledgeMe already.
“We, as Māori, have always used our whānau and communities to fund our ideas,” says Linda Clay, MWDI’s Kaitiaki Putea, and co-creator of Tā Koha.
“What is stopping us from using the technology within PledgeMe to seek further funds and services to grow! E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o tou ao, ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha hei ara mo to tinana: ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna Mãori hei tikitiki mo to mahuna.”
Important for indigenous communities
Guenther said that it is vital to create equal opportunity for different communities.
She gave us some statistic to highlight the need for Tã Koha:
- 57% of Mãori SMEs say capital is a barrier to innovation
- 12% of Mãori SMEs invest in expansion vs 20% Pakeha SMEs
Guenther pointed out that currently, crowdfunding is not really democratising access to capital.
“Equality is when you treat everyone the same. Equity is when you realise that the social systems we operate in don’t allow everyone to start at the same place and that you might need different policy settings or support to produce a fair society. It’s when you understand fair is people getting what they need, not everyone gets the same.”
Tã Koha was created with the intention to access to capital more equitable. Some of the ways that Tā Koha is exploring a path to equity include:
- Co-creation – anything that is done should be done with the community, not to the community.
- A focus on removing structural inequality – we need to name it as the problem it is.
- Simplicity – people need to be able to understand what they’re getting into.
- A transparent platform – people need to see what’s happening both for themselves and others.
- Matched funding – we believe the government has a role in matching the funding raised.
- Education – not just of the entrepreneurs, but of the wider whānau and community. Both in person, and online.
PledgeMe entered a partnership with MWDI as a first step towards creating equity.
MWDI specialises in offering the ability to loans and support programmes to wahine (female) entrepreneurs. By partnering with PledgeMe to co-create Tã Koha, MWDI can provide similar education services to entrepreneurs interested in crowdfunding.
When asked about the plans for 2018, Guenther said the focus is on building and shaping.
“We have been a part of the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator Programme for the past few months. During this time we have been out on the road up and down the Kupe (country), talking to our target market. This has really shaped our learnings, tested our assumptions and helped us to design something that actually meets the need of our users. You can expect a formal launch of Tā Koha a few months down the line.
We have about ten campaigners coming through the first iteration of Tā Koha right now, and we expect these Māori-led enterprises to be launching their campaigns from July.
After we have tested out our model, we will spend the rest of 2018 investing in and building the technology to support Tā Koha. We see it being part and parcel of the PledgeMe platform, while campaigns will still carrying the distinctive Tā Koha mark.”
A platform that is creating equal and equitable opportunities for different communities is definitely something that we love to see.
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