Beyond Kickstarter: 10 Niche Crowdfunding Platforms for Startups

If your company fits one of the niches that has its own crowdfunding sites, it's worth considering using a specialized platform.

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By Carol Tice

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When most entrepreneurs think about raising money online, hopping on Kickstarter is probably what comes to mind. But, the big brand name in crowdfunding has its drawbacks -- most notably, that only 36 percent of its campaigns get funded. So many campaigns run on Kickstarter these days, it can be hard to stand out from the pack.

Related: My Company Raised Over $1 Million on Indiegogo -- And It Almost Killed Us

The good news? There are many alternatives, and quite a few emerging crowdfunding platforms are specialized by industry. In the real-estate sector, for instance, crowdfunding has exploded -- the site Real Estate Crowdfunding Review recently ranked over 100 platforms in the niche.

If your company fits one of the niches that has its own crowdfunding sites, it's worth considering using a specialized platform.

Curious if there's a better way to score crowdfunding money for your startup? Take a look at this list of the cream of the industry-specific crowdfunding platforms (listed alphabetically):

1. CrowdStreet

If you're building a real-estate investment business -- or developing real-estate projects -- check out the online crowdfunding opportunities on CrowdStreet. The site gives you a chance to invest in or seek funding for major commercial and residential construction projects -- recently funded developments include a Red Lion Hotel in Houston, a Colorado self-storage facility and a major condo redevelopment project in Chicago.

2. CrowdSupply

CrowdSupply focuses on funding computer hardware startups. The average amount raised here is $66,000 -- and CrowdSupply's 70 percent success rate has Kickstarter beat.

A typical recent success: Open-source video board-maker Alphamax raised almost $78,000 for its NeTV2, beating its $15,000 goal.

Related: 3 Entrepreneurs Who Raised More Than $1 Million Crowdfunding Share the Secrets to Their Success

3. Experiment

Experiment is a platform for startups looking to fund research projects in 20 different categories, from biology and computer science to political research. Most goals here are modest -- think $1,000 to $5,000 or so -- and many entrepreneurs are university-based. But, it adds up: Over $8 million has been raised, and 845 projects funded.

An example of a recent win: Orca Network raised $7,000 to study whether Northwest marine mammals carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

4. FundThatFlip

If your business is remodeling and reselling homes, FundThatFlip offers a place to get quick cash to fix up and resell. Investors put in a minimum of $5,000. FundThatFlip promises a five-minute application process and seven-day approvals.

5. Patreon

If your business puts out product monthly -- say, training videos or graphic novels -- Patreon is a site to explore. Unlike any other crowdfunding platform on this list, Patreon lets you solicit recurring monthly support from "patrons.' If your startup could thrive on a monthly membership model, you can earn big here.

An example is the motorcycle-safety video business MCrider. Owner Kevin Morris brings in nearly $12,000 per month from over 2,600 patrons with his monthly video releases, special events, forums, and more.

Related: 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Running a Crowdfunding Campaign

6. PledgeMusic

If your business involves making music, PledgeMusic is the platform for you. Over 50,000 artists connect directly with over 3 million fans to earn here, offering downloads, limited-edition releases, private concerts, signed vinyl, posters and other promo items.

It's not just used by unknowns trying to break out, either. On a recent viewing, a limited-edition Willie Nelson album was taking preorders.

7. Seed & Spark

This movie-and-TV focused platform works a bit like Patreon, except backers can subscribe to the platform itself, as well as backing individual creators' offerings. The Seed & Spark platform invests additional funds in shows, with an emphasis on gender parity.

Over $12 million has been raised to fund over 900 shows, and Seed & Spark boasts an 85 percent campaign success rate.

8. SelfStarter

Attention techies: SelfStarter is the platform for D-I-Y coders, or as they put it, "roll your own crowdfunding." It was built by startup Apigy, after the company's own Lockitron keyless entry system was turned down for fundraising on Kickstarter.

If Ruby on Rails and Heroku are familiar tools, you can build your own crowdfunding campaign here, to host on your own site. It's open source and free to use. Goodbye, platform commissions!

Related: Study Details Why Women Entrepreneurs Have Greater Crowdfunding Success

9. Techmoola

Techmoola hosts a broader range of tech projects than CrowdSupply, taking projects in 3D printing, clean tech, electronic, software, biotech and more. Started back in 2011, Techmoola functions like major player Indiegogo -- you can elect to keep whatever you raise, or make your campaign goal "all or nothing."

This is a big-money crowdfunding site, with the average campaign pulling in $200,000 to $400,000, Techmoola states. On a recent visit, payment systems were being updated -- check back to see if you can submit a new campaign. Bring your "A" game: The site states only 3 percent of submissions are accepted.

10. Women You Should Fund

Traditional venture capital tends to be a man's game. Women entrepreneurs tend to get a tiny fraction of that investor money -- and Women You Should Fund hopes to do something about it. Brought to you by the digital hub Women You Should Know, the site offers to help promote your campaign through its extensive social network.

Many campaigns here have a social mission, such as ending domestic violence. But, there are straight-ahead business startups here too, such as the Cheese Grotto, a cheese-storage system that raised $8,000 for cheesemaker Jessica Sennett.

Consider your country.

If you're outside the U.S., don't ignore country-specific crowdfunding platforms that could help you attract patriotic investors who want to help build the local economy. Examples include Canada's GoTroo or the U.K. platform CrowdCube. Both sites host equity crowdfunding campaigns, in which investors acquire a small stake in your startup in exchange for their cash.

There are many flavors of crowdfunding, so be sure to investigate any platform you're considering for a crowdfunding campaign. Ask successful funders for tips, ask platform staff questions, and plan carefully before you launch.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Longtime Seattle business writer Carol Tice has written for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Delta Sky and many more. She writes the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog. Her new ebook for Oberlo is Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs.

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