Starting your own Islamic Crowdfunding Platform [Part 1]
Umar Munshi is the founder of EthisCrowd
Islamic Crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer financing (P2P) is a hot new area of growth in the global fintech scene. It is, however, very much still in its infancy. My own casual estimate is that there are less than 10 mature platforms globally, if we consider the whole range of crowdfunding platforms from donations to investments. This is set to change – this year alone I have been in touch with 10 Islamic Crowdfunding platforms that are starting up or that have just started. I project that by the end of 2018, there will be close to 30 active Islamic Crowdfunding platforms globally, inshaAllah. Exciting times!
Ethis started more than 3 years ago in Singapore, when the crowdfunding model was still largely unknown in the Muslim world and in Southeast Asia where we are based. I knew early on that for Islamic Crowdfunding to flourish there needed to be a solid support system. The first step towards this took place when a small group of founders came together to form the Islamic Fintech Alliance in 2016.
Since then, I receive numerous requests to share our startup and scale-up (we’re getting there inshaAllah) experience, especially from budding founders keen to start their own Islamic Crowdfunding platform. I thus decided to write this brief article to highlight a few factors for founders to consider before jumping onto the Islamic Crowdfunding bandwagon.
1. Test your model
My own approach is similar to what is known as the ‘Lean Startup’ method. The key is speed: going to the market with a ‘good-enough’ basic platform so as to receive market feedback before making improvements and adjustments to the business model. This is a continuous iterative feedback loop that I believe is key to the survival and success of any startup.
Technology is important, but I observe many make the mistake of spending a huge amount of resources perfecting their tech, and then, unfortunately, are not able to gain much traction in the market due to a flawed business model. Technology is merely an enabler. The fundamental business model must work and be solid first before the tech comes in to enhance user experience and automate operational flows.
You can and should, of course, plan to integrate more advanced tech, but that should come later. One option in quickly setting up your platform at a low cost is to work with white-label platform providers, which typically charge monthly subscription fees. You may have to give up some customisation and control though, but this is a good starting point while you refine your business model.
Ethis frequently receives requests to build platforms for others from around the world. Developing platforms for others is not our core business, but we do offer this as a service especially when there are potential synergies and alignment of objectives with the client.
2. Juggling both sides
Which comes first – campaign deal flow or a base of crowdfunders? Any marketplace has two sides, and with limited resources, you may have to choose one side to focus on first. In my experience and observation, it is clear that deal flow must come first, especially in the early stages. When you have quality campaigns, it is easier to build an active and loyal crowd. If you focus on the crowd first and in doing so are unable to provide good campaigns, you may start to lose your crowd and your effort goes to waste.
For investment crowdfunding, it is incredibly important to get the deal flow side strongly set up. Depending on your focus and concept, you may want to consider working with ‘field-partners’ who bring or process campaigns. Another approach is to limit the scope of the types of campaigns you will accept on your platform. A free and open-sourced approach to deals may sound cool and enticing, but the reputational risk is way too high for a new platform. You must develop a robust screening process and campaign financing structure to ensure that your platform features only quality campaigns.
Read Part Two Here (https://www.ethiscrowd.com/blog/starting-islamic-crowdfunding-platform-part-2)
Umar Munshi is a social entrepreneur from Singapore. An entrepreneur since the age of 18, he spent half his business years in Indonesia, a short stint in Saudi Arabia and is now based in Kuala Lumpur.
He founded EthisCrowd.com, the world’s first Real Estate Islamic Crowdfunding Platform. His experience and market leadership of this very new niche evolved and grew rapidly. Umar saw the unprecedented opportunity and was inspired to set up Ethis Ventures, to build more niche crowdfunding platforms with passionate and like-minded partners and collaborators.