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The Next Big Thing in Crowdfunding: In-Person Events When it comes to landing funding, a smile and a handshake still go a long way. Check out the latest wave in crowdfunding.

By Jason HeadsetsDotCom Edited by Dan Bova


How's this for an old spin on a new invention? In-person crowdfunding events.

Rather than head to websites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to appeal to the crowd for cash to launch a business or fund a specific project, some organizations are now giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to land funding in person.

Crowdfunding site Rock The Post has experimented with in-person crowdfunding events. Find Boomer, an organization that connects young startup companies with experienced mentors, advisors and investors, has also held numerous in-person "speed dating" style crowdfunding events.

But one group out of Jacksonville, Fla., is aiming to make an even bigger commitment to the in-person crowdfunding concept. One Spark, a nonprofit founded in 2011 that helps connect entrepreneurs and innovators with investors and other resources, will host a five-day crowdfunding festival in April throughout various locations in downtown Jacksonville.

Related: Rock The Post's Tanya Privé on the Future of Crowdfunding

Though the event's organizers expect hundreds of entrepreneurs to show, the event is open to all that deem themselves "creators." A creator isn't limited to someone with a new iPhone app or a prototype robotic toilet cleaner, however. A creator can be anyone with a simple idea that they're passionate about and that they want to share with potential backers.

The Next Big Thing in Crowdfunding In-Person Events
Shahid Khan, entrepreneur and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has agreed to invest up to $1 million in the projects showcased at One Spark.

The public in attendance can explore different creators' displays, chat with them about their ideas and vote for the idea they like best. The potential for funding is three-fold: (1) $250,000 in crowdfunding will be distributed to ideas that get at least some percentage of public votes; (2) up to $1 million in capital from Shahid Khan, entrepreneur and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, in exchange for equity investments and (3) anyone attending the event can offer an on the spot individual contribution in any amount to any project.

This kind of in-person communication offered by events like One Spark trumps an online crowdfunding platform any day. Although you can make videos for crowdfunding sites that showcase you and your project -- and we all know I'm a fan of making videos -- but I have to believe that person-to-person communication can often be more effective.

Related: Thrillist's Ben Lerer on his Success as a Young Trep

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Creators have the opportunity to share their story in person, get feedback and speak with backers directly. They also have access to a built-in audience attending the event, and they can network with a group of peers that shares the same desire to see their ideas become successful.

While other events like Startup Weekend provide a similar opportunity for projects to potentially get funded, it's much more technically focused with a high barrier to entry. One of the best things about in-person crowdfunding events like One Spark is that they give people with less technical know-how the ability to get an idea off the ground and snag some capital to evolve it further.

I think in the future we'll see more and more attempts to bring crowdfunding from the online world to the real-time, in-person offline world.

Related: Crowdfunding for Startup Capital -- And Market Intel

But for this opportunity, you'd better act fast. Registration ends on Feb. 22. Note that One Spark is free to attend, but if you want to showcase an idea, there's a $45 registration fee. That fee is waived for students with a valid .edu email address.

How do you think this new crowdfunding model will pan out for entrepreneurs? Let us know in the comments.

Jason HeadsetsDotCom

Professional T-shirt Wearer

Each day at IWearYourShirt, Jason HeadsetsDotCom (formerly Sadler) and a team of four professional T-shirt wearers represent a different company online using an array of social-media sites. Before getting paid to wear T-shirts, he co-owned a web-design company. HeadsetsDotCom is an automotive enthusiast that loves playing Scrabble, watching terrible movies and has been known to dominate a basketball hoop or two. He lives at the beach in Jacksonville, Fla., which gives him the freedom to prance around in T-shirts 365 days out of the year with his Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Plaxico. Follow Jason @IWearYourShirt and Plaxico @PlaxicoTheDog.

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