Indiegogo CEO discusses relationship with China

Article By : Rick Merritt

David Mandelbrot gives an update on Indiegogo's crowdfunding efforts, where tech is the focus and China is its latest growth engine.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Crowdfunding doesn’t always lead to success, and even when it does, it can take a long time. Just ask David Mandelbrot. The CEO of Indiegogo says that 2019 should be the first year the 11-year-old company will be profitable.

Even Mandelbrot’s most successful customers had to be patient. Watchmaker MVMT launched its first crowdfunding campaign in 2013, and last year, it hit $75 million in revenues and was acquired by the Movado Group, reportedly for north of $100 million.

MVMT never took outside funding. “If they had received investment, they might have been encouraged to take another path,” Mandelbrot said.

Misfit, the activity tracker company, is perhaps crowdfunding’s biggest success story. It started on Indiegogo and wound up being acquired by watchmaker Fossil in 2015 for $260 million.

But success is the exception, not the rule. Indiegogo hosted about 1,300 product launches last year, a small fraction of the 19,000 campaigns that it supports each month. The good news is that it saw an 18% year-over-year gain in the fourth quarter in funds raised for tech entrepreneurs, its focus area.

China has been Indiegogo’s big growth engine. Since it opened an office in Shenzhen about three years ago, it has raised $150 million for China’s entrepreneurs, up roughly 75% a year.

In the last quarter of 2018. five of Indiegogo’s top 10 campaigns were in China, and the country’s entrepreneurs had a 32% share of all funds the online service raised.

“About half of our blockbuster campaigns are from China, largely clustered around Shenzhen,” he said.

David Mandelbrot
David Mandelbrot joined the crowdfunder in August 2013 and has been CEO for more than three years. (Source: Indiegogo)

Vinpok of Hong Kong is one example. Its USB touchscreen monitor for the Apple Macbook is its biggest hit. Another example is Lily, a smart speaker for learning Mandarin form Shenzhen-based startup Maybe.

China web giants Alibaba and have crowdfunding services. “But they don’t reach a large U.S. audience … So far, the China government has been very supportive of us,” Mandelbrot said.

Indiegogo is adding services such as a video studio to help China’s entrepreneurs. It is also striking partnerships with companies like AT&T and Square to add services for its U.S. users.

Some established companies also see the company as a way of getting early feedback on consumer interest in a product — the company’s main mission, Mandelbrot said. Bose launched on Indiegogo earbuds to block out a partner’s snoring, and Gillette debuted a heated razor.

For its part, Indiegogo had its first profitable quarter last fall and has not taken outside financing in five years. It is staking out tech entrepreneurs as its position, while rival Kickstarter positions itself for a broader audience of artists and creators.

Mandelbrot is mum on whether his company aims for an IPO or acquisition. For now, it is sticking to its knitting with a focus on crowdfunding.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Leave a comment