A Shocking Case Study In Crowd-Funding
by Joe Mandese, Mar 12, 2013, 6:58 PM
Talk about your lightbulb moments, Matthew Inman’s inspiration for using online crowd-funding to preserve the heritage of electrical inventor Nikola Tesla came from doing battle with some pirates. The pirates, in this case, were the online copyright kind, a site called funnyjunk.com, which he says were lifting the work of online comic publisher Inman (The Oatmeal) and others without payment or even attribution. So he did what any online comic publisher would do, and created comics poking fun of funnyjunk.com.
That led to the threat of a lawsuit from funnyjunk.com unless Inman paid them $20,000 in damages, which led him to poke further fun at them, and to launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise $20,000, which he would donate instead to charities, on their behalf. That campaign exceeded its goal more than 10-fold, raising $220,000, which he donated to the World Wildlife Fund and a cancer charity.
Inman offered that backstory during a keynote at the SXSW Interactive festival today, as a way of explaining what led to a more recent crowd-funding campaing via indiegogo to raise money to purchase and preserve Tesla’s last laboratory on Long Island.
Inman rattled off the number of inventions Tesla gave to the world -- including alternating current, etc. -- and said that while Thomas Edison is celebrated in the U.S., Telsa is barely remembered here, but he is a hero overseas. Which may explain part of the success of Inman’s campaign, which initially sought to raise $850,000 to buy by the lab and its property, but ultimately raised $3.7 million to pay for a museum honoring Tesla.