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Thinking of Crowdfunding? This Review Site Helps You Choose Wisely

Thinking of Crowdfunding? This Review Site Helps You Choose Wisely
Image credit: Photo © Ewan Burns
A resource for a new industry: Alex Feldman of CrowdsUnite.

With hundreds of crowdfunding platforms online, it's hard to know which to choose. Do you go with a donation-based service like Kickstarter or RocketHub? An equity-investment site like EarlyShares? A debt-investment platform like Prosper? Should you pick one that lets you keep whatever you raise, or one that requires you to raise a predetermined amount? Or should you eliminate the middleman altogether and build your own page using a white-label platform like Crowdhoster?

CrowdsUnite aims to cut through the confusion. Alex Feldman, an MBA who spent six years working in IT at New York's investment banks, launched the site in 2012, after the U.S. JOBS Act was passed, paving the way for legal equity crowdfunding from non-accredited investors. Feldman's first thought was to build a platform of his own. But while researching the competition, it struck him: A platform that crowdsources user reviews of crowdfunding sites could be a big assist for business owners befuddled by all the options. CrowdsUnite was born. "What I'm trying to become is a Yelp for the crowdfunding industry, a resource that anybody can use," Feldman says.

He believes there are more than 1,000 global crowdfunding sites in existence. CrowdsUnite lists nearly 100 of them, with a focus on U.S. sites that serve entrepreneurs. To be listed, a platform must have at least 10 successfully funded projects. "I want to make sure I don't include any sites that might be fraudulent," Feldman says.

CrowdsUnite users can filter searches by country, type of financing (debt, donation, equity or reward) and type of campaign (all or nothing vs. keep what you raise). The site lists the number of monthly visitors each platform receives and its fundraising fees.

Using a five-star scale, reviewers--who must include a link to their crowdfunding campaign--can rate a platform's customer service and ease of use and indicate whether they succeeded in raising money from strangers. Reviewers also offer written feedback about the platform.

Feldman claims CrowdsUnite attracts roughly 5,000 unique monthly visitors and is growing by 10 to 15 percent per month. Thus far the free site doesn't have much competition: Crowdfunding Website Reviews offers a similar service, while the industry website Crowdsourcing.org, run by research and consulting firm Massolution, offers listings of crowdfunding sites worldwide, minus the reviews and filtering options.

Feldman, along with his team of seven part-timers and freelancers, wants to add listings for the growing pool of crowdfunding consultants and companies that have cropped up to help entrepreneurs with their campaigns, such as accountants, attorneys, videographers, marketers and fulfillment centers for shipping rewards to donors. "It's such a huge industry evolving right now," Feldman says. "My goal is to be a resource for people to find these experts and professionals and platforms."

Michelle Goodman is a Seattle-based freelance journalist and author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide.

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This article was originally published in the January 2014 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Rating the Platforms.

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