The story of the Finnish crowdfunding company Mesenaatti.me is an interesting one. They were not planning to launch until later in 2013, but thanks to a series of events that took place in 2012 they were basically forced into it. The market was asking for it, they listened and have already successfully funded 5 pilot projects.
We got together with Tanja Jänicke from Mesenaatti.me to talk about their story and plans for the future. Jänicke revealed that originally when they launched a informational website on the 23rd of August 2012, it was simply to announce their plans and to get a feel for the market. The idea was not to start any crowdfunding projects just yet.
However in the first 24 hours, they received over 40 applications to the project and over 2000 likes on their Facebook page. This was the initial response of the market, and gave the company strength and encouragement to continue the development. Still, they planned to launch in over a year.
Unpredictably, at about the same time, “Senja Teaches You Swedish” reached their Kickstarter campaign goal and then was forced to give all the money back to their backers due to intricacies of the Finnish law. Basically, in Finland you are not allowed to ask for donations unless you are a charity. Although the Kickstarter campaign of Senja was in of itself legal, unfortunately she mentioned the words “donate” and “give” in her local promotional materials, which caused the police investigation and the decision to refund the campaign. We have outlined some of these issues in Legal Challenges To Crowdfunding Volume 1 and Volume 2.
This hit the Finnish media big time, and the press was lavishly saying that “Crowdfunding is illegal” in Finland. To combat this, Mesenaatti.me together with Senja sent out press releases to the media, trying to alleviate the false notion of crowdfunding being illegal. Unfortunately, positive news is not really good news in the mainstream media, so nobody cared.
The only logical way to persuade the public was to launch a test campaign, which is exactly what Mesenaatti.me did in order to fight the publicity war. As a result they gained a lot of local news coverage and successfully funded their Pilot project by Jussu Pöyhönenhttp://www.mesenaatti.me/projekti.php (Formerly a part of a famous finnish band Suurlähettiläät)
The project raised more than double of its initial goal and was a true success and proof of the legality of Finnish crowdsourcing. Mesenatti was going to stop there and wait for their launch in 2013, however the 177 projects that have by then signed-up demanded attention and wanted to start right away.
So, Mesenatti.me made the decision to go ahead and add additional pilot projects. To date, they have successfully funded 5 projects with 5 more in the funding stage. They accomplished all of that without even launching their true project.
“This was not planned but more of an accident that we did the pilot projects. It was very good for us. We were able to get the message through that it is legal and we got a lot of press coverage with the projects.” – Tanja Jänicke
It will be interesting to see how the company will perform after launch. There have been a huge hype in this space lately with a lot of copycat’s but Jänicke tells us that Mesenatti.me “is not going to be a Kickstarter copy. There will be quite a lot of different qualities.”
For instance, they believe that often it makes sense to make multiple milestones in the funding as opposed to an “all or nothing” strategy. So for example you could have a project that would have milestones at 5 000, 10 000 and 20 000 EUR’s and you could promise different results at each milestone.
They are also looking into equity crowdfunding as well, but that will not be their main focus. Jänicke also disclosed some of their more unique crowdfunding features to me, however I promised not to publish that. All I can say, they are actually very creative and might make for a good argument to keep Mesenatti on the radar.
After they launch the actual Mesenatti.me about 100 additional projects will be published.