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When accepting failure isn’t an option: what do you do when you realise your start-up business is not going to be the disruptive venture you’d hoped? FRSA Casey Parsons opens up about his recent experience and asks the Fellowship if they are up for a challenge!

In the run up to Christmas 2015 I was faced with three choices:

(1) Throw in the towel and forget about it.

(2) Attend festivities and ruin most, if not all of these festivities.

(3) Get out there and discover what went wrong and then develop a pioneering business out of the ashes of a struggling enterprise.

There was only one option. I now sit on what I believe is going to be a very exciting pivot for an ambitious tech venture.

I’d like to share my experience with you, my Fellows. I hope anyone who is passionate about ensuring the survival of the arts and creative practices will find this of interest.

My original idea: Eye the Prize, my original idea, is still proving popular and connecting creative people with global opportunities in the arts and creative industries. This includes commissions, competitions, funding, residencies and mentorship schemes among others. It’s worth noting that these types of brand-led or publically funded opportunities are all that remain of the traditional patronage system that was in effect killed off in the mid-19th century by the rise of the middle classes and industrial capitalism.

So where did we go wrong? 30+ hours of face-to-face interviews and multiple customer surveys later, I’ve had what can only best be described as an entrepreneurs’ epiphany, that clichéd light-bulb moment. The current system of opportunities in the arts does not provide enough or the right kind of support for creative people. Foremost, ensuring the financial day-to-day survival of a working creative practice is the priority. Opportunities can then complement practices – not the other way around. A complete pivot.

The answer: a return to traditional patronage with Pollinator – a next generation crowdfunding platform that enables creators and their supporters to engage in traditional patronage but in a modern environment.

Current crowdfunding models support projects and creators have to start all over again after every successful pitch. We support people through continuous crowdfunding. With us, creators can secure regular financial support from those who believe in them, allowing them to make a living from their creative endeavours.

I have long admired Patreon in the US, which, after two years trading, is generating £1.3m in traditional patronage per month, from patrons to their creators. But how can I deliver a unique and better service?

My research indicates UK creators don’t want to sign up to an American-based platform. They want to connect with patrons who share similar tastes and sensibilities and patrons want to connect directly with creators. Armed with these insights, I’ve developed an innovative business model that puts the emphasis on “the experience” with relationships developing off-line between creators and patrons.

For creators, current revenue models for the big players such as Spotify and YouTube mean creators earn very little for their endeavor. With our model, creators are paid directly by their admirers on a per creation or monthly basis with 93% of all donations (less merchants' costs) going direct to the creator.

In addition to supporting creators through traditional patronage, we hope our platform can also help small businesses and arts organisations garner further financial support so the latter aren’t dangerously over-reliant on single sources of funding.

I now find myself on an exciting journey searching for mentors to guide me along the way, trying to secure investment and assembling my creative team. With a little bit of luck, I hope to deliver a unique next generation crowdfunding platform that transforms how creative people earn a living from creative endeavour and how fans and admirers can support and engage with the creators they love.

If you have any suggestions or want to know more, please get in touch: go to Casey Parsons MyRSA or my linkedIn.



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