A plumbing supply company isn't likely front of mind when people think about raising capital through crowd funding.
But that hasn't stopped the executives at Sarasota-based Aqua Mizer from giving the newest way of raising capital a whirl. The firm, which sells a series of patent-pending products that reduce water usage in toilet bowls without impacting performance, set up an indiegogo.com campaign Feb. 11.
Indiegogo is one of several websites for crowd funding, where startups or established entities can raise money. Crowd funding is different from venture capital. The crowd funding theory is to raise small amounts of money from a large group of individual investors who don't receive equity in the business in exchange for their investment. The investors can instead get perks, like early product releases or other exclusives.
Aqua Mizer, which seeks funds to begin production on a new device, has had a tepid response on indiegogo.com. Through March 11 that total was $2,686 — far short of the $20,000 goal it hopes to reach by April 12. “It's a little less than we expected,” says Mike Sisti, the firm's vice president of branding and marketing, “but we are doing some things to move it along.”
Some of those steps are lessons learned in first month of crowd funding that can apply to just about any business. For one, says Sisti, firm executives realize they need to treat their indiegogo.com page like they do a company's Web page. That means there must be a focus on search engine optimization, otherwise few people will find the page. To get the best SEO, Sisti is blogging and sending out emails with links. He's also reached out to other tech bloggers for coverage.
The money that's trickled in through the crowd funding so far is from all over the world, including Australia. But a long way remains for the project to pay off. “The Brinks truck hasn't backed up yet,” quips Sisti.
Beyond lessons learned, the experience has another positive in the fact that the Aqua Mizer product detailed in the indiegogo.com pitch has generated several sales leads, Sisti tells Coffee Talk. Aqua Mizer, he says, has fielded calls from plumbing firms, real estate developers and commercial real estate landlords from Sarasota to Canada. The callers have read about the new product line on Indiegogo and would like to buy it — not fund it.