We go through different phases in our life. I am in a phase where I like to watch videos of people doing different adventure and extreme sports on YouTube. It fascinates me and I want to do all those cool stuff. I want to jump out of planes, climb mountains, ski, surf and everything I see on those videos. Now where do I start? Which sport do I start with? Mountaineering was the first pick but something always told me skydiving. But, how do I go about doing it? Where do I get the money from?
I was at a very nascent stage of adventure sports to get any sort of sponsorship. One weekend I was at Prajwal Da’s place for a night out and as usual we were discussing mountaineering throughout the night. When I woke up early in the morning, I was pretty bored so I went on YouTube. While browsing I watched a documentary on parkour, People in Motion. There they had run out of money for their film so they decided to crowdfund their documentary. Crowdfunding, as the name suggests is getting funding from the crowd. You pitch your idea to the public and if they like it they help fund your dream/idea/concept. In return you offer them a reward for their contribution mostly based on the amount they fund you.
The concept hit me like a bolt. I was like damn! That’s such a cool idea. How about I try crowdfunding my dream to become a skydiver? I was always into photography and filming, amature level of course! So I thought how about I film my journey about being a skydiver?
I’ve heard about crowdfunding abroad but did it happen in India? Were there any platforms in India? While researching I came across Wishberry.in. I pitched my idea to them and luckily they were interested in hosting me on their platform. Good, now the main question was, was the Indian audience ready for such a new concept?
I spoke to a few friends and Nat (Nathanielle Kumar) about this idea and I got mixed opinions. A few said it was amazing, others said they had never heard of such a thing and it would never work. Why would someone want to give me money if they are not going to get something in return of equal or more value? Why would someone want to fund my dream instead of funding their own? These were the issues I faced till the very end of my crowdfunding journey.
After talking to more and more people and getting positive responses from most, I was convinced that this was a good idea. Based on my conversations I made a conservative list of who might contribute and who might not. The numbers looked pretty good and if I worked a little harder I’d be able to raise the money required. Meanwhile the startup I was working for went bust so I took up a job as a Quality Control Analyst so that I would have my own funds to add.
I signed up with Wishberry for a 60 day timeframe funding, with a target of Rs 350,000. My campaign went live on the 20th of Sept 2013; I had embarked on a journey where I would face a lot of ups and downs. A journey that would change the way I looked at a lot of things. Nat and I discussed different strategies on how we can make it a success and tweaked it from time to time as we felt necessary. From day one I went gung ho marketing my project. I shared it with a lot of friends; I requested a lot of friends to share it with theirs. Some did, some didn’t. Some even went out of their way to spread the word around. The progress was painfully slow but contributions poured in little by little. Every morning when I’d wake up I’d check my email to see if any contribution came in through the night. This would be my morning ritual till my campaign ended.
After the first round of marketing, Wishberry’s servers were hit by viruses and most antivirus companies blocked their page making it inaccessible. It was a big blow to me. A lot of people got back to me with negative messages for spamming; a few potential contributors who went on the page to contribute never came back. A few days later their site was back and running only to be attacked again, after almost a week the site was stable again. But the damage was done, I had lost many potential contributors. Wishberry agreed to extend my deadline till the 10th of Jan 2014. Little by little contributions trickled in and by the end of my campaign I managed to get a little over Rs. 200,000. More money poured in from late contributors outside of the platform and I’d also managed to save some from my salary.
At the end of my crowdfunding campaign, I came out a humbler person. Receiving contributions of Rs 200,000 is no joke; they came in from everywhere imaginable. Close friends, not so close friends, acquaintances, friends of friends and people I didn’t know and hadn’t heard of. A humbling feeling engulfed me when I saw someone who I didn’t know contribute, a friend (who I had probably ignore when he called me to catch up) contribute, a person who I’d least expect, or when a friend who I last met years ago mails me a cheque after the campaign ended, with a handwritten message saying that he’d be too scared to jump out of a plane and this was the only way he’d be able to do it. Contributions came in other forms too, friends helped me spread the word; they helped me with graphic designs, music for the film and tons of motivation whenever I needed them. Having taken care of the financial part I was ready to jump out of a plane but little did I know there were more roadblocks ahead….
My Campaign Pitch Video: https://youtu.be/wAveqHsNaC0
PS: A special shout out and thanks to my Mom and Dad for their support in all forms, my sister Sneha (Mayya) for her support and helping me convince my parents to let me jump out of a perfectly working plane and Nat who worked harder than me in helping me achieve my goal of becoming a skydiver.