A major hurdle to raising money with crowdfunding is that you need to get a large number of people to support your cause. If you happen to already have a fan club, then raising money through crowdfunding is a whole lot easier. Especially if you can talk directly to your fans in real time.
That’s the idea behind Laffster, which as of today is rebranding and expanding to become Cogo.
Officially founded in 2012, this Santa Monica, Calif.-based crowdfunding platform was a place for comedians to engage their fans and raise money for causes they care about. Comedians live-stream events and shows and encourage fans to donate money during them. So far, over 100 events have been hosted on the platform.
The concept was such a hit that the Laffster founding team is relaunching the brand, calling the new site Cogo, and extending the platform to cater to actors, authors, musicians and athletes. Anyone with a devoted following of fans and a talent that can be performed live can leverage the crowdfunding technology.
Comedians Jimmy Pardo, Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm and Patton Oswalt raised over $140,000 in 12 hours for the cleft-palate removal non-profit Smile Train charity on Laffster. The comedians performed live and fans donated to the cause to support the cause in real time, as they were listening.
In another successful fundraise on the platform, YouTube personality Timothy DeLaGhetto raised over $9,000 in an hour and a half on Laffster for the World Food Program and the Philippines in the wake of the 2013 typhoon.
Crowdfunding campaigns on Cogo last as long as the live event does, which means the campaign is much shorter than most other crowdfunding campaigns. “A traditional crowdfunding campaign is 9 weeks long and it takes a really great deal of marketing and effort behind it. This is very fluid, and it is very immediate,” says Daniel Altmann, the site's co-founder and CEO. The world “cogo” is Latin for “congregation” or “to bring people together.”
Cogo is at the intersection of two rapidly developing trends: video being everywhere and crowdfunding entering the mainstream. (Your mom can probably tell you what it means to crowdfund. Five years ago? Doubt it.)
Cogo sees itself taking crowdfunding to a new level. “We want to be part of a new wave of crowdfunding that allows performers to not just have a static page, but to actually engage and actually showcase why you should be crowdfunding for them,” says Altmann. “Where we want to take crowdfunding is where it’s more engaging, more interactive. You are actually engaging with the person that is asking you to spend on the cause.”
Investors are pretty jazzed about the idea. Cogo has raised $750,000 from investors including Los Angeles-based startup accelerator MuckerLab. Cogo has also pulled in some cash from the likes of Howard Lindzon, the co-founder of StockTwits, and Adam Nash, the CEO of software-based financial-management company Wealthfront.
The talent lineup for Cogo is not too shabby, either, with the entire cast of Glee, former Daily Show star John Oliver, musician Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of The Roots and legendary documentarian Ken Burns on the upcoming playbill for the crowdfunding platform.