This Saturday the University of West Georgia will host CrowdWest, an event that may be the first ever conference on crowdfunding, a new way to publicly fund projects facilitated through social media interaction.
“Crowdfunding is the use of a crowd or the development of the crowd to fund a cause, an organization, a project, or a company,” said Gene Wright, event organizer and founder of The Crowdfunding Association of Georgia.
The conference has already sparked national attention. The event is the first of its kind because it combines businesses, faculty and students.
“This is the first event that we know of in the country that has combined a university’s campus, which is very, very important for future research,” said Wright. “It gives the university a wonderful opportunity to conduct primary research on crowd funding.”
Wright explained that crowdfunding is nothing new. People have always made contributions to projects they support—for whatever reason. “Crowdfunding” is just a new term for a time worn practice.
Wright used the example of public financing to construct the platform of the Statue of Liberty.
“Well after France gave us the statue, the government didn’t have the money to fund it,” said Wright. “Joseph Pulitzer went out through his newspaper and collected pennies and nickels and dimes to build a platform for the Statue of Liberty.”
Digital culture has changed the ways we receive information and donate to the causes of our choice.
“What I think has brought crowdfunding into the 20th century, and brought it mainstream has been two factors: the growth of the Internet and the emergence of social media,” said Wright, who further explained that platforms such as YouTube draw attention to events and causes with lighting speed.
While the Internet and social media have helped to create a new wave of communication, there have also been advantages for crowdfunding to expand through these mediums.
“What we have seen in crowdfunding is that organizations can use the same techniques of social media to communicate to the crowd great ideas that in a business sense helps businesses to get funded,” said Wright.
In collaboration with the new ruling passed in 2012, Wright and two local business leaders—Faye McIntyre and Daniel Burson of Carroll Tomorrow worked to create a conference and its theme to raise the awareness of crowdfunding.
“We [Faye McIntyre and Daniel Burson at Carroll Tommorrow] named it after the ‘Go West’ campaign, we were looking for a theme to compliment ‘Go West’. So we decided to call this thing CrowdWest. Our theme is the ‘crowd is heading west.’”
Wright encourages that anyone interested in learning how to grow and utilize the options of democratizing capital for their business, organization or cause—attend the conference.
“If you have a concept or an idea, it would be a topic of tremendous increase to the MBA class, and to the college of business, and to the college of marketing because those guys are really looking at going into business when they graduate from school,” said Wright.
“This event would be a primer to financing to start or grow a business,” said Wright.
The event will take place at UWG’s, The Coliseum from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature sessions, workshops, and over 50 keynote speakers. Anyone interested in attending CrowdWest can still register online at crowdwest.org or in person during registration on Oct 12. The cost is $100 per person, with a special student fee of $25.