Last night brought the official launch of IslandFunder, a crowdfunding startup focused specifically on Hawaii projects.
The gala event, at Five-O Bar and Lounge in Waikiki, featured Jason Alan, Jahlivity, and Rebel Souljahz. But while it was the coming-out party for the startup, the site already has funding campaigns underway: a catering company, a skateboard company, ocean cleanups, and a statewide tour for a reggae band.
IslandFunder was founded by David Rippey and Nick Von Wiegandt. Wiegandt attended Maryknoll School and Chaminade University, and along with Rippey runs local web design firm Biz Revamp. Rippey took a more unusual path to his latest Hawaii project.
“I was born here but attended high school in California and studied Business Organizational Management at Abilene Christian University [in Texas],” Rippey explains. He was able to attend ACU, his “dream school,” on a football scholarship, but after a career-ending knee injury, he returned to Hawaii and the entrepreneurship program at UH.
His studies led to starting a web design company. And a trip to Europe last year, during which he came to admire the efficiency and economy of Germany, inspired him to “make epic things happen here locally.”
Knowing the challenges that everyone faces, from tech startups to artists, he started True Innovation Hawaii in July, and got to work building IslandFunder.
“I just want to bring amazing ideas to life; things that help the community and better the lives of others,” he says. “I put the Islandfunder project together because I saw a need to develop a platform for this idea.”
Of course, Hawaii has seen several successful crowdfunding projects using the largest platforms out there: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Juicies (raising $240,000 in round two, with five days left to go), Ti2 Design, Snapzoom, Pow Wow Hawaii, Naked Cow Dairy, Tealet, R&D…
“Sure there are other crowdfunding platforms out there, but Hawaii needs [its] own,” Rippey replies. “We need a place where we can come together and fuel our money into projects we want to see happen.”
While he’s not aware of other state-specific crowdfunding platforms, he notes that “Hawaii to me is another country when it comes to marketing strategies.” And he feels that very few locals know about crowdfunding, something that IslandFunder can change.
IslandFunder is open to projects that are more about helping the community than about making money. Teachers can seek support for their classroom projects, for example. And emphasizing local innovation is key to its founders.
“Shop local and build local is a huge movement that’s growing, and the coffee shops are filling with entrepreneurs everyday working hard to make their dreams happen,” Rippey says. “Some of the first campaigners on Islandfunder are start-up companies I met while buying a cup of coffee at Capital 360 Café.”
Using IslandFunder doesn’t mean not using Kickstarter, he notes.
“Get the community first at Islandfunder, then try and reach the world with another platform,” he suggests.
Rippey says he was inspired by the speed of progress and competitive energy he saw while visiting California.
“I hope to bring that motivation to Hawaii, but [to] compete with each other to build each other — in the end, your competitor is always your neighbor,” he said. “I know Hawaii can innovate the local entrepreneur world… to compete with the mainland companies.”
Rippey says that IslandFunder isn’t about making money, and that fees are set as low as possible.
“Nick von Wiegandt and I put all our money into this site, and the last thing we thought about is when we will get it back,” he says. “Our concerns right now are what can we do to make a difference and how can we make the campaigns on our site a success.”