Mesenaatti Helps Individuals and Organizations Crowdfund in Finland

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We recently reached out to Pauliina Seppälä, co-founder of the Finnish rewards-based crowdfunding platform Mesenaatti with some questions about her platform, as well as the crowdfunding scene in her country, in general. Check out her responses (edited slightly for clarity) below.

Anton Root, Why did you decide to start your own crowdfunding platform?

Pauliina Seppälä, Mesenaatti co-founder: I came up with the idea in the autumn of 2009. Having never heard of crowdfunding, I called it “collective consumption.” I talked to some people about it, but they didn’t quite get it. I went on with my life, until a year later, when I met Tanja Jänicke, who immediately took to the idea and we decided to found such a service.

Later that year, we ran into Kickstarter and discovered our idea is not unique, and that other people have already done it, and very well. After some initial disappointment, we decided that it makes sense to open up a local crowdfunding service in Finland, matched with the societal context we have, as well as the language and culture.

Why do you think Finland is a good environment for crowdfunding?

In a way it is not: people are used to the public sector covering funding for anything important, and people are not even accustomed to charity and volunteer work. Everything is already taken care of. Our idea, however, is to help the public sector, as well as foundations, distribute the funds more transparently — by using crowdfunding. We are working together with various institutions, both public and private, and try to gather them all to provide the funds for our projects. On Mesenaatti, organizations can also crowdfund, and not just individuals.

Additionally, the tax base is decreasing and the funds for fields such as art are becoming smaller, while the cultural industry, record companies as an example, are struggling to find the business logic in the digital era, so there is also a new need for additional funding. Also, in Finland as everywhere else, we now live a new age of connectivity, thanks to social media, and that makes all kinds of collective action possible.

What kinds of campaigns do you focus on?

We are a general platform for any kind of campaigns. They do need to address the public somehow, rather than being utilized for private use, though, like “I want to pay for my surgery.”

How many campaigns have you launched, and how many have been successfully funded?

We have launched around a hundred campaigns, out of which about 80 have succeeded in reaching the minimum goal. However, only a few have reached the full goal.

What’s the total amount of money you’ve raised, and how many people have pledged to campaigns?

Our projects have now raised a little over €300,000 from 6000 pledges. We cannot rule out that the same people may have pledged several times, however, so the actual number of backers may be lower.

What’s your business model?

We take a fee of 7 percent. We also build custom subpages for customers, where they can present themselves to audiences and showcase several projects simultaneously. These projects can be projects that the organization has funded, or ones that the organization runs themselves, or campaigns of their stakeholders (such as a record company running campaigns for potential new bands to list).

Are you thinking about equity crowdfunding?

Well, that is quite well covered in Finland, and our competences lie elsewhere, so it seems unlikely we would start that. We are cooperating with the Finnish equity crowdfunding platform Invesdor.

What’s the regulatory landscape in Finland regarding crowdfunding, both rewards and equity?

I don’t know so much about the equity side, except that crowdfunding seems to have caused quite a stir, and there is a lot of discussion going on about changing the laws and regulations. Also there is discussion on the EU level. As the reward based crowdfunding goes, it is important not to mix it with asking people to donate, as the Finnish money collection law is quite unique, and it forbids anyone to address the public and ask for donations, unless they are given a money collecting permit from the police. This permit, moreover, can only be given to nonprofit organizations for nonprofit causes. The reward is thus really an important part of reward based crowdfunding in Finland, so that the project can be seen as presales, or even micro-sponsoring, but not asking for donations.

The current government, however, is in the process of changing this money collecting law into a less strict version.

What are your goals for Mesenaatti? Where do you see yourself by the end of the year?

I hope the number and size of projects will start climbing faster, taking us towards a better situation business wise, and also that our recognition improves significantly among the potential audience. We are also looking at forming a pan-Nordic group together with four other Nordic platforms, called The Nordic Crowdfunding Alliance, which aims at enlarging our market together, and giving the best projects more visibility. There are also many developments for the platform that we intend to implement during the latter half of the year.

Tags: crowd-funding, crowdfunding, finland, mesenaatti