Just Raised A $1.1M Seed Round

Today, we’re so happy – chuffed, one might say – to announce that we’ve just closed a $1.1M seed investment round in led by Blackbird Ventures, Bevan Clark (RetailMeNot, LIFX) and the Telstra Foundation. As part of the round, Blackbird and Startmate co-Founder Niki Scevak will be joining the Board.

Where it all started

I first met Niki back in late 2014. Susan Wu from Stripe had introduced us and somehow between the two of them, they decided to put me on stage at a Startmate/Stripe event. The line up included John Collison (who was running a billion dollar startup), Jake Lawton (co-Founder of LIFX that had just raised $12M from Sequoia), Y-Combinator alumna, Lauren McLeod… and me. If you want to know what Imposter Syndrome feels like, that’s the line up for it. At the time, I had no idea why I was up there, and no idea why they were being so nice to me. I’d only later realise that that was just the type of people they were.

Over the next year, I went back to Niki several times for advice. Each time, I walked away buzzing with thoughts that I wanted to share with the team – that I knew would make our product better. I remember saying to Liv that if we could just find a way of bringing the collective brain of Blackbird into the organisation, it could really take us to the next level.


So when we first pitched to Blackbird, and they said no, it was pretty devastating. The next 85 pitch decks, and the next dozen or so no’s we got from various VCs and Impact Investors didn’t really do much for our collective self-esteem either (aside: thanks partners for putting up with us through this).

In a strange way though, we were probably lucky. Had any of those other funds said yes, the emotional toll that fundraising takes, could’ve just pushed us to take money that we knew in our heart of hearts wasn’t the right money to take.

By the second Blackbird pitch, our international business had boomed, our unit economics were looking healthy and well, we had a slightly better clue what a pitch was. Oh, and this happened: just raised a $1.1m seed round

Social Benefit Company + VC = ?

Of course, money isn’t just money. It isn’t neutral. It changes an organisation. And to be honest, we were worried about how taking commercial money might change How it might corrupt our social mission.

Truth be told, it has changed us. But not at all in the way that I was worried about.

It’s made us more focused on how best to deliver on our mission. Because if you believe that delivering on your social mission is the thing that will deliver better financial outcomes (which we all do), what we do becomes really simple – figure out how to best deliver on our social mission of transforming the nature of non-profit fundraising.

This is where we’re starting.

  1. Fundraiser education: we’re going to play a much bigger role in educating the charity sector about how they can transform their fundraising and take advantage of the opportunities that crowdfunding presents.
  2. Donor movements: we’re going to play a much more active role in educating donors about the issues that effect our society through stories told by crowdfunders
  3. Grow: we want to support way more campaigners around the world to build their own audiences and to access ours

In short, the investment lets us play a much bigger role than just a transactional platform. It lets us help more non-profits transform the way that they do fundraising. It lets us help more donors engage, understand and act on the issues they care about. Simply, it lets us get a huge step down the path of delivering on our mission.

Thank you for helping us get this far. We can’t wait to build something with you that’s even better.

– Prashan, Liv, Seb, Dave and entire family. 

A couple of notes

While this round is exciting for us, we’re also excited for what this means for the social enterprise sector. As far as we can tell, this is the first time that a major Australian tech venture capital firm has invested into a social enterprise. We’re hoping that this is a sign of things to come, rather than an anomaly. If we can open up the four (yes, 4) $200M tech VC funds in Australia (and the many more commercial angel, VC and non-tech funds in Australia and around the world) to investing in enterprises that make the world a better place, we could radically transform outcomes for so many people. If you think that’s a pipe dream, you should check out Collabfund and Social Capital.

Also, we’ll always reserve a special place in our hearts for our friends at the Telstra Foundation, who backed us when we weren’t much more than a Powerpoint presentation. They’ve led the way in how corporate philanthropy should support the social enterprise sector – derisk early stage social enterprises using philanthropic grants with the view of growing them to a stage where external investors would invest in them. Unlike so many Foundations that do crazy things like only support social enterprises with DGR/tax-deductibility status, or use social enterprises as mentoring opportunities for their middle managers, Telstra have unrelentingly acted in our best interests. They’ve continued to back us, and others, regardless of our legal structure, they’ve always taken the attitude of being there to serve us – not assess us, and they’ve been willing to give us feedback when we didn’t realise we needed it. I think in time, the rest of corporate philanthropy will follow the lead that Jackie and Nat at Telstra have set.

Crowdfunding: What is it and how can it help my charity fundraising?

Girl with hand up

A definition, introduction and 101 for not-for-profits and charities

The traditional definition of crowdfunding goes something like this:

Crowdfunding is the process of funding a project online by collecting small amounts of money from a large volume of people

While there are a lot of flavours of crowdfunding the most important components are:

  • A project that needs to be funded (not an organisation);
  • A fixed goal that needs to be raised; and
  • A timeframe that the fundraising campaign runs for

The problem with this definition is that it’s misleading and makes people think that to access the crowd of funders out there, you just need to put your project online and do no work. That’s why we came up with a better definition. One that reflects how you get to the crowdin crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding (verb): A marketing campaign targeted at people who love you… which if you do well, spreads from your friends to their friends and from them to the crowd

Crowdfunding for non-profits - how your campaign gets promoted

We like this definition of crowdfunding better, because it emphasises:

  • That crowdfunding is all about marketing
  • That crowdfunding is social i.e. you access the crowd via people you already know talking to their friends
  • It makes it clearer what you need to do to succeed


So if I’m marketing to people I already know, how is this different to emailing my list a link to my website?

While it might not be immediately obvious, how you run a direct email campaign and the experience donors get is totally different to a crowdfunding campaign. Here’s three differences:

  1. A direct email campaign is designed to get a small percentage of people on a large list that you already own to donate. Crowdfunding is designed to get those people to donate AND to tell their friends about the campaign. That means that if you have a starting list of 1,000 people, a direct email campaign limits your maximum number of donors to 1,000, whereas a crowdfunding campaign could well attract donors that are not on your list.
  2. The fixed goal, timeframe and project nature of crowdfunding means that donors get an engaging experience that they want to come back to to check the progress of the campaign.
  3. A direct email campaign is about a charity (you) talking at a large volume of people (broadcast marketing). A crowdfunding campaign is about your supporters talking to their friends (social marketing).
  4. (Bonus) You’ll very rarely get press about your direct email campaign. Heaps of crowdfunding campaigns get written about – you can check out a few from campaigns here.


Ok, got it. So where does crowdfunding fit into the charity fundraising landscape?

So roughly speaking, you can split charity fundraising into two buckets:

  • Relational Fundraising: large value, low volume (Government, High Net Worth, Trusts/Foundations, Corporates)
  • General Public Fundraising: low value, large volume (Face-to-face, Direct Mail, Direct Email, Telemarketing, Events, Peer-to-Peer)

Crowdfunding belongs squarely in the ‘General Public Fundraising’ bucket and in a non-profit, it’s usually led by the same person/people who looks after other public fundraising campaigns.

While crowdfunding is heavily project focused, increasingly smart non-profits have found ways to running regular crowdfunding campaigns to fund their ongoing operational costs – but that’s a whole other post.

How to crowdfund forever with Infinity Mode

The basics: Infinity Mode is a new type of campaign at for all of you that have awesome campaigns that don’t fit into the traditional <90 day crowdfunding format. It lets you keep on fundraising past the 90 day limit, collecting money as it comes in.

It’s perfect for:

  • Larger, long-term campaigns, where you know you’re going to need many months to crowdfund;
  • Event crowdfunders, where the event is more than 3 months in the future; and
  • Selling crowdfunding perks ongoing, without the hassle of setting up an online shop

How Infinity Mode works

  • Submit and launch a normal campaign at
  • Once your campaign is live, login to your account, click on ‘More Options’ on your dashboard, and then on ‘Setup Infinity Mode’ (see the image below)

Crowdfunding Infinity Mode

  • If you haven’t already, follow the instructions to connect a account (which will be required to accept ongoing payments) and switch on Infinity Mode. Stripe is our payment provider and setting up an account takes less than 5 minutes.
  • At this stage you can choose to switch to Infinity Mode immediately, or wait until your main campaign is over. If you switch over immediately, your main campaign will end within the hour and it will automatically transition to Infinity Mode.
  • Alternatively, you can choose to wait until your main campaign ends, when you’ll automatically get switched over to Infinity Mode (there’s no downtime).
  • For Australian campaigns only: We’ll pay out any credit card payments from your main campaign period in one lump sum, and then any payments via credit card will be transferred to your bank account on a 2-day rolling cycle. PayPal payments will continue to be paid into your PayPal account.
  • When your campaign switches to Infinity Mode, it’ll look exactly the same as it did previously, except that there won’t be a ‘Days left’ indicator and there’ll be a ‘This campaign is currently on Infinity Mode’ under the donation box on the right.

The rest is up to you! When you’re ready to finish, just log in and switch off Infinity Mode and you’re done.