Jamie Harford is the Community Manager of Crowdfunding Academy (which you can join free here).

In this first ‘Meet The Community Manager’ Jamie shares his insights into launching and running a professional community on Guild.

And if you’re an entrepreneur, investor or provide professional services read on as he provides some tips on crowdfunding.

Hi Jamie. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your crowdfunding journey.

"I’m the co-founder of Inverse, a consulting business with expertise in crowdfunding and fundraising. We advised on 100 crowdfunding campaigns in 2020, raising £100m for businesses.

I was first introduced to crowdfunding after successfully VC funding my own company. I then went and worked with a family friend and we undertook a funding round - after weighing up all the options we decided that crowdfunding gave us the most flexibility in terms of use of funds, no board seats, no restrictive covenants, no personal loans and guarantees.

But it also gave lots of flexibility and freedom in terms of narrative, marketing, exposure, so I really fell in love with it at that point. I realised that it has the benefits of cash but also the residual benefit was community engagement and marketing opportunity and exposure. This was in the early days of crowdfunding - around 2015 when it was less mainstream, more alternative as an investment class at the time."

You’re running the Crowdfunding Academy community on Guild - can you tell us what it is and why you wanted to be part of this?

"Quite simply it’s a peer support community for anyone interested in crowdfunding.

I realised that there are far more people out there who are curious about crowdfunding,  or are considering it, than are engaged in a crowdfunding round. I’d started doing a lot of webinars on crowdfunding in 2019, including events like London Fintech Conference and Bread and Jam Festival.

Webinars are a great way for people with specialist expertise to share information,but most attendees have many more detailed questions than can be answered on a webinar or picked up on a free training course.  

I wanted to create a Guild community  where anyone can get access to crowdfunding experts and ask questions in a trusted, professional space.

We’ve got a really lovely balance of expertise in the group and it’s a really supportive space."

The Crowdfunding Academy community on Guild is free to join
The Crowdfunding Academy community on Guild is free to join

Who should join the Crowdfunding Academy community?

"I think three main groups can benefit from joining the community on Guild.

Firstly, entrepreneurs who want a sounding board for what it’s actually like to raise funds during crowdfunding. “It was nothing like what I expected” is the typical reaction of entrepreneurs who’ve been through crowdfunding, and we’re trying to bring that forward and help them learn what it’s really like before they start.

Secondly, it’s for investors - the more investors know about the process, the more they can have confidence in their investments, which should ultimately lead to more investment. I think many investors have wrong impressions of what crowdfunding is and the process companies go through. So I’d love investors to have more transparency over what really goes into a crowdfunding round. I think that would increase the overall investment, which is good for both investors and crowdfunding companies.

The third group is industry professionals - accountants, lawyers, marketing professionals, videographers - people who aren’t “in” the industry but have the potential to have an impact. I think they can learn a lot about what is still an emerging market and refine their services and skills to fit. A lot of our clients come to us, and they have an accountant or lawyer, but those professionals might not have worked with a start-up before. They don’t know how to forecast or write shareholders’ agreements between siblings, for example - it’s a very different skill set and I think there’s a lot to learn."

Could you give us a quick idea of the atmosphere in the community?

"Crowdfunding is really a story-driven activity, so with that in mind, I think the Academy community is very narrative-driven - we “seek the purpose” if that makes sense.

So while we care about the narrative and drawing out the fun and engaging side of people’s stories, we can also be a hard sounding board for those who need that.

As a member, if you ask for criticisms/critiques that’s there too. The worst thing you can do to an investor or an entrepreneur is to offer them a false reality, so we will be honest as a community.

With my own clients, who can be very high profile, I will say, “I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. I’m going to give you an honest opinion.” I feel like that’s the same with the group; people are quick to say if an opportunity wouldn’t be for them and why, but we are very much about constructive criticism - how can we help people improve their results."

Crowdfunding Academy on Guild is a peer support community for anyone interested in crowdfunding
Crowdfunding Academy on Guild is a peer support community for anyone interested in crowdfunding

Are there any threads or activities that work well in the community?

"The ‘Welcome’ thread is good for understanding who’s coming in and what they need from the community and the AMAs (Ask Me Anythings) on Guild are really good for community engagement.

We’ve also done a couple of roundtables on video. They’re good because you see the same faces, and it feels like a real community. There’s a wide variety of talents in the group which really come through in an informal setting like this - it’s a great way to pull out the balance of expertise in the group in a conversational, personal way that complements the question and answers."

Is there anything you find challenging about managing a community?

"It’s probably trying not to make it feel like a one-man, egomaniac stage show to be honest!

I do have a lot to say on the subject of course...but you never want to be that guy standing on a box in the middle of the town just shouting at people. So the hardest thing is finding that balance between posting and contributing enough and annoying people. You want to build conversations, so we’re always aiming for that balance."

What do you love about the Crowdfunding Academy community?

"It has to be the expertise - the breadth of experience and skills within the community - from people like Adam with his marketing experience, Ivan my co-founder, Ashley with insights on being an entrepreneur.

If people ask the right questions, they have the potential to get an answer that’s worth its weight in gold. It can be expensive to consult experts and there are a lot of crowdfunding questions out there that need answering.

That’s why I took this on - to find a way to answer crowdfunding questions without being a financial burden on people who aren’t in a position to pay. I want people who have a question about Crowdfunding to know they can come to the Academy, ask a question and know that there’s a hotbed of talent there that will give the answers they need. That’s the dream - it’s already happening, but I also know that we can keep doing more."

Finally, are there any crowdfunding resources you’d point people to as initial sources, experts, books, courses to start educating themselves?

"Yes, I’d definitely recommend the Seedrs Academy. I’ve written some articles for it, and it’s partner run, so it’s very personal and subjective. I’d definitely recommend it.

In terms of people to watch, there’s a guy called Jack Lam, who runs GradSmart - he’s just vibrant, he’s got the right energy to make it all the way. And one person who’s had a big influence on me as a good entrepreneur is Paul Gaudin - he’s probably the best entrepreneur I’ve ever come across, and he will always be the answer to that question for me, for his mindset and approach."

Jamie hosts Crowdfunding Academy, a successful professional community on Guild.

If you’ve got questions about crowdfunding, whether as an investor, an entrepreneur or a professional who works with crowdfunders,  join Crowdfunding Academy today.

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