ELT dips its toe into the crowdfunding pool

Back in June, Laurie wrote a piece on crowdfunding in ELT, which lamented the fact that nothing much ELT-related was happening on crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.

Well, there’s one recently launched project that’s definitely worth a look. Atama-ii Books is the brainchild of, amongst others, Marcos Benevides, a Japan-based teacher, publisher and author. Marcos is well known on the ELT scene — a constant presence on Twitter and on the conference circuit — which would go some way to explaining why his Atama-ii Books project is already almost one quarter of the way towards its $10,000 pledge goal, with 33 days left to run. Marcos has got a great platform, which is very useful in this kind of ‘fundraising’ situation, but he’s also got a very nice, simple idea that people can easily understand: multiple-path stories in easy English. It’s a five-word pitch that clearly explains what he’s planning to do.

That combination of good platform and simple, well-expressed idea could be the key to success for ELT projects such as this on Kickstarter. I’ll be pledging a few dollars myself to help Marcos get his book series off the ground, and I hope that a few fellow eltjammers will too.

Best of luck, Marcos!

A screenshot from one of the Akama-ii titles.
A screenshot from one of the Atama-ii titles.

11 thoughts on “ELT dips its toe into the crowdfunding pool”

  1. Thanks, guys. I somehow missed Laurie’s and Alex’s posts on crowdfunding in ELT, but I agree with most points raised. Regarding Alex’s examples of failed projects linked above, it seems clear that they fell victim to a couple of common crowdfunding mistakes.

    First, the fact that they could only manage $100 or so implies a clear lack of pre-planning. It takes months to lay the groundwork properly, and if you don’t have a strategy to get at least your first few hundred from close family and friends right out of the gate, you’re simply not going to be able to build much enthusiasm overall.

    Second, 20K-30K in funding seems rather high for the types of projects listed. I agonized over our own 10K goal for weeks, thinking it wouldn’t be achievable… in fact, even a quarter of the way in I’m still biting my nails! That 20K goal just sounds terribly optimistic!

    Finally, they seem to lack clear goals. The word-game guy (great idea, by the way) wanted the money partly to fund a trip to China to oversee production, which doesn’t sound terribly productive to me. I’m sure it didn’t to a lot of his potential backers either. And the legal fund project technically isn’t even a project at all–why would people fund someone else’s legal battle? It seems to go a bit against the spirit of crowdfunding.

    Ha, I suppose I should have written this reply on Alex’s blog eh? Sorry, too tired to correct that now! (Been a crazy couple of days, as you can imagine!)

  2. I’m going to be looking at Crowdfunding vs Seed Investment in around 6 months. Before then I’m taking the whole winter off to work on an eLearning website. It will be a ‘showcase site’ (proof of concept). I’ll need that plus a Business Plan to take the site forward. Issues are likely to be:
    * Total amount needed – is Crowdfunding appropriate for large amounts? I’ll need to employ freelance content creators beside myself, editors, techies etc. Plus software licences for everyone. Plus site development costs. Plus marketing costs to launch the site once it’s ready. And all the bandwidth of the online interactions of 000s of site visitors has a cost. It’s all going to add up to six figures for sure.
    * % shares given away – beside CF there are many Seed options (eg Seedrs). But how many shares will I need to give away?
    * Open to non-UK investors? Many of my potential crowdfunders or seed investors will be non-UK. Legally possible?
    * Timing. Am I looking at regular UK seed investors, not from ELT world, next spring? Or should I focus on crowdfunding with push at November BESIG?
    * Public access to showcase site. Should I promote my showcase site once it’s ready, even though it’s just proof-of-concept? Traffic to site might show level of interest. But public access would show my hand re content ideas to other players.
    I’ll be grappling with all this next year. For now I have to focus on implementing my many content ideas through an authoring tool and seeing how I can design it all for mobile.
    If anyone reading this knows a web development person with high-level WordPress programming skills, HTML5 skills, and ability to manage a customer database with different levels of access to the site (freemium model) – please let me know. I can’t pay much, but share the risk with me and they can certainly have some stock options!

    • Thanks Alex. For teachers the gift would be – for example – a free PDF copy of my self-pub book plus some token shares. Plus maybe a year’s free sub to the premium content on the site once it’s up and running (although the site will be aimed at learners like the Voxy/GlobalEnglish sites and not teachers like English 360).

  3. I just remembered that I’d suggested crowdfunding to you and you sounded interested Paul, and turned my computer on to mention it here!

    On sites like Kickstarter people aren’t strictly investors because they get some sort of gift rather than a share of the profits, so don’t think location is an issue. Not sure about the actual seeding sites you mentioned. Do you have any idea for gifts you could offer people?

    • Thanks Alex. For teachers the gift would be – for example – a free PDF copy of my self-pub book plus some token shares. Plus maybe a year’s free sub to the premium content on the site once it’s up and running (although the site will be aimed at learners like the Voxy/GlobalEnglish sites and not teachers like English 360).

  4. Paul, on Kickstarter the campaigns that reach six or seven figures tend to be video games, films, and other ‘sexy’ projects such as Ryan North’s famous multi-path Hamlet. It may be difficult to get to such amounts for an eLearning tool–but I don’t think it’s impossible. You may have a better chance with a Seedr type investment option, though.

    • Yup, you may be right. Sale of stocks on exit is a tempting offer for investors – that’s what seed investing is all about. And I think that a site that could capture global eyeballs on mobile would get interest from all sorts of buyers. Not UK publishers who already have their offers in this area, but the usual suspects of American internet companies. And new, unexpected players in eLearning.

  5. One successfully funded language learning project is the Magicians RPG. It’s originally for learning Korean, but it includes hacks for English among other languages. http://kck.st/TuOkPa

    Also, another crowd-funding site, but with a different twist is Patreon. Instead of funding an individual project, you fund a person repeatedly for each of their creative endeavors. That could be appealing to some ELT folks putting out regular work with a fair amount of followers. http://www.patreon.com/Epidiah&ty=2


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