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Summary:

The explosive growth of crowdfunding projects is turning lots of assumptions about business and creativity upside down. But nowhere is that change more apparent than in Germany, where Indiegogo founder Danae Ringelmann says the huge popularity of crowdfunding is even challenging the country’s conception of itself.

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We all know the German stereotypes: efficient, focused, deliberate, perfectionist. It’s a cliche that many apply to the whole of German culture, including its entrepreneurs and companies, who often stand accused of lacking the creativity or riskiness that most people associate with startups.

But that stereotype may just be flat out wrong — at least according to Danae Ringelmann of crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

I caught up with Ringelmann earlier this week in Belgium, and heard how the company has been putting a lot of effort into Germany recently, including partnering with Google to support the Gründer Garage competition in Berlin.

Why? Germany’s Indiegogo user base is “blowing up” she explained. It’s already one of the biggest countries on the site, and Indiegogo’s biggest non-English market full stop.

“They’re embracing it so much,” she said — and in doing so, the site’s German users are blowing away all the old jokes and assumptions.

“From the outside what you hear is that Germans follow the rules, they’re highly structured — these are all the stereotypes,” she said. “I kept looking at our data and it didn’t make sense why Germany was one of our top markets: if Germans are so structured and need to have everything perfect, well, crowdfunding is incredibly cavalier, sometimes it can feel like flying by the seat of your pants, it’s incredibly experimental.”

“I wouldn’t have necessarily expected Germans to have embraced it because of that stereotype. I’m still trying to figure it out, but… maybe it’s a load of bullshit.”

It’s not just a mindset that other people apply to Germany either, she pointed out. In fact, some of the most strict adherents to the idea of the stereotype are the Germans themselves.

“I was actually in Germany and a lot of people were saying ‘we’re so passive’. I think you need to stop believing yourself; I think that’s what is said, but that’s not what the data says.”

Increasing competition

Germany is not alone, though, in its love for crowdfunding. It’s clearly a hot time in Europe for the market, with Kickstarter opening up to UK-based projects for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Indiegogo has long been an international platform, but it looks like the conflict between the two may step up as Kickstarter expands.

Ringelmann was keen to stress the differences between the two — for example Kickstarter, she said, took more of an editorial approach, while Indiegogo tried to use neutral algorithms to promote projects — but it seems fairly clear that the two sites are going to compete for some of the same attention, especially when Kickstarter is seeing a huge amount of growth.

But, she argued, Indiegogo’s data-focused approach can help it grow and stick to its core philosophy by building out more tools around relevancy, filtering and recommending projects to users.

“We have all the data scientists, we’ve built our data science team to figure all that stuff out,” she said. “And I think that’s the future.”

Whatever happens in the end, though, it is all a very long way from where things started — and Ringelmann seems genuinely happy to see the market as a whole grow, even if it is starting to generate the often-disliked sub-industry of specialist consultants.

“Five years ago I was grabbing anybody I could to say “this is possible, you can raise money online through social media means” and people were like ‘you’re crazy.’ But now everyone’s like ‘I’m a crowdfunding expert, let me tell you how to do it’,” she said.

“It’s good. The moment there’s ecosystems — ‘I’m a consultant who helps campaign raise money via crowdfunding’ or ‘I’m a consultant who consults to crowdfunding platforms’ — and when you get all these consultants around something, I think there’s clearly a market. It’s a little annoying, but it’s part of the whole thing because if they’re helping people learn how to do it, great.”

  1. If the german bureaucracy- here is the cliche still alive- would do his job better, there will be more entrepreneurs. There are lots of people especially best agers who would be able found a start up instead ob beeing bored out by the company, but for whom they “owned§ their working place. Its time for crowdfunding!

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  2. William Michael Cunningham Monday, November 12, 2012

    Interesting. I think crowdfunding will prove many stereotypes wrong. See: http://www.amazon.com/The-JOBS-Act-Crowdfunding-Businesses/dp/143024755X

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