Dr Curt Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Business Administration at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC), is calling for the Jamaican Government to foster a public education programme with emphasis being placed on crowdfunding as a fundraising tool for entrepreneurs.
Brown was speaking at UCC’s Research Conference on Innovation Entrepreneurship and Technology earlier today (September 29).
The annual event saw several researchers presenting their findings on a variety of topics.
Brown conducted research on the awareness of crowdfunding among Jamaican university students.
“The purpose of this quantitative survey was to measure crowd funding awareness among university students and the focus was on Jamaican university students who had recently studied entrepreneurship,” he pointed out.
Crowdfunding is the method of financing a business venture, project, or cause by collecting small monetary contributions from a large group of people through online platforms.
“Crowdfunding is essentially creating large pools of funds from small contributions. Crowdfunding importantly is done nowadays by the internet,” Brown explained to his audience.
A prime example of a crowdfunding platform is GoFundMe. GoFundMe is a crowdfunding platform where you can easily set up your campaign to help in raising money for events, life events and businesses.
The starting up and expansion of businesses remain a challenge for entrepreneurs in Jamaica and one of the main reasons for this is the inability to secure capital.
Rameish Desouza, popularly known for his unique style of cooking, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to open his own restaurant.
This is a great move by the entrepreneur to harnesses the power of social networks and the Internet to get the funds he needs to start his business.
Current research shows that crowdfunding can be an effective approach for securing capital for startups and existing businesses.
The idea of crowdfunding would somewhat relate to the “one one cocoa full basket” concept.
“The major goal of crowdfunding is to secure small monetary contributions from a large pool of people from the general public,” Brown noted.
Crowdfunding may seem like a new idea, but it actually has a long and rich history dating back to the 1700s. However, the first recorded successful instance of crowdfunding occurred in 1997, when a British rock band funded their reunion tour through online donations from fans.
During his presentation, Brown listed some of the benefits of using crowdfunding to start up or expand business.
He noted that the benefits of crowdfunding include the fact that it is efficient in raising capital and creates an opportunity for businesses to market their existence.
“One drawback, however, is that businesses can become damage if there proposed fundraising projects fail,” Brown highlighted.
According to a study by the World Bank, the level of crowd funding awareness in Caribbean countries appears to be low.
The study included 90 participants from a Jamaican university who had studied entrepreneurship.
From this sample, a total of 84 participants noted that they were willing to become entrepreneurs while six revealed that they would not become entrepreneurs.
“The results showed that 68 per cent of the participants indicated that they were unfamiliar with crowdfunding. That’s 61 out of 90 participants. While 27 of the participants responded that they were somewhat familiar with crowdfunding with only two participants conveying that they were familiar with crowdfunding,” Brown stated.
He continued: “The results of this survey are consistent with earlier studies. Now, according to a study conducted in India, only 44 per cent of entrepreneurs in that study were aware of crowdfunding.”
Brown also noted that his research study has significance, especially as it relates to university curriculum plans.
“These curriculum plans can incorporate the value or usefulness of crowdfunding in course outlines relating to entrepreneurship,” Brown said.
He recommended that Jamaican universities that offer entrepreneurship as a course place emphasis on the value of crowdfunding in their entrepreneurial courses. In other words, highlight the usefulness of crowdfunding as a fundraising tool.