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Swarm: Crypto crowdfunding raised to a new level

posted Jul 6, 2014, 12:17 AM by Siamak Ebarhimi

Two words have made the leap from the technology world to become part of the common cultural lexicon in 2014: Kickstarter and Bitcoin. Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform that allows individuals to back projects in return for rewards, has hosted 150,000 prospective products — 43 per cent of which have been funded. And even the most technophobic grandparent now knows of bitcoin, a crypto-currency, even if they cannot explain how it works.CrowdFunding advertizing

So it is only apt that somebody should try to combine the two concepts. This is the goal of Swarm, a new crowdfunding platform that also uses the technology that underlies Bitcoin. Based in Berlin, the startup was founded by Joel Dietz, a software developer and entrepreneur. It wants to be a better way to support technology projects.CrowdFunding marketing

With the help of Swarm, startup companies and projects seeking funding can mint and distribute their own digital currency. Supporters buy into these projects by changing real money (or bitcoin) for branded coins. The approach was pioneered by another startup, Mastercoin, an effort to enable all kinds of financial services using Bitcoin technology. Dietz, a self-professed economics buff, says Swarm goes further because it constructs not only a system through which crowdfunding can occur, but a marketplace for startups.Kickstarter Marketing


To prove that the concept works, and to avoid the complication of having to explain how Swarm operates, Dietz is using his own platform to secure financing. More than 500 early adopters, who by and large possess both an understanding of crowdfunding campaigns and a bitcoin wallet, have bought into the idea to date, stumping up an average of $1,000, or around 2 bitcoin, in support of the project. Swarm is nearly one-third of the way towards raising its target of 4,500 bitcoin ($2.6 million) by July 20th. For their investment, users will be given an equivalent amount of swarmcoins, the platform’s proprietary currency, at a rate of around 5,000 swarmcoins to one bitcoin. Those swarmcoins are then used to back projects much in the same way dollars or pounds back projects on Kickstarter.Indiegogo Marketing

Swarmcoins, like bitcoins, are tradable, and can become more valuable. If a project is particularly popular, early backers can sell their stake to a third party who is willing to buy in at a higher valuation. This addresses one key criticism of Kickstarter: projects that go on to become huge successes often short-change their early supporters. When Oculus VR, the makers of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, was sold to Facebook for $2 billion in March 2014, some of the 9,500 backers grumbled that they received no share of Oculus’ buyout cash. Swarm will give its users a share in projects and thus allows returns to be spread among the crowd.crowdfunding websites

Swarm’s users can also receive tangible assets: one of the first projects will be a nanosatellite manufacturer, which plans to reward backers with their own piece of space materiel orbiting the earth. A dozen projects are currently under evaluation by Swarm, including several that let crypto-tokens unlock certain software features that non-paying users could not access, similar to some shareware software popular in the late 1990s.crowdfunding marketing

Dietz has grand plans for Swarm: not content with financial support, he hopes to establish technology incubators for selected projects in cities across Europe. London and Berlin are mooted as prospective locations. In short, Swarm is meant to be, to use a third vogueish buzzword, “disruptive”. In fact, so disruptive is the concept that Dietz himself openly admits the project gives his lawyers palpitations: current legislation was not designed to deal with novel concepts such as Swarm.crowdfunding advertising

All this is certainly worth a try. If Swarm reaches its funding goal by late July, if it manages to woo the less technologically literate Dietz hopes to find, if its mooted incubators become a reality, and if the company manages to keep its legal counsel happy, it could become another notable technology term to enter everyday conversation. The worry is there are a lot of “ifs” to overcome.indiegogo marketing

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By David Khorram