The media portrays founders as visionaries braving against the odds and changing the world while emerging to become financially successful. This portrayal of glamour and wealth has led many to pursue the path of startup creation. As with any large influx of interest arising from the potential of glamour and wealth, scruples may be left in the wayside in the pursuit of success. The media have in recent years have covered a slew of scandals within the startup world. From betrayal, to sexual harassment to misogynous comments on founder’s own social media accounts, the list of questionable ethics goes on and on. According to an article on Pando Daily, even VCs are uncomfortable with this shift in founders’ character. It seems that the greed mentality which many still associate with Wall Street bankers since the 2008 financial recession has spread to startup hubs and become ingrained as a part of its culture as well. However, there are still founders working against that grain of thinking. Alan Clements, co-founder and director of dana.io, a “mindful crowdfunding” startup for artists, activists and innovators, hopes the idea behind dana.io and its utilization will change the greed mentality shared by many founders in startup communities across the world. Alan, an author, activist, and former Buddhist monk in Burma (aka Myanmar), shares with us the philosophy behind dana.io, how it works and how dana.io can benefit Startup weekend participants.
Dana is the term in ancient Sanskrit originating from the Pali Buddhist canon for unconditional giving and the practice of generosity. Buddhist practitioners hold the belief that all life is interconnected. “Our intention is run a first class Zen-like crowdfunding platform driven by dana consciousness, that fosters a global culture of caring with giving or dana as the ground of liberation,” states Alan. “The basis of dana.io is to operate as a mindful crowdfunding platform; mindful meaning, that by utilizing dana.io’s services one is focused on creating conscious or mindful relationships with each other.”
To bring one’s vision to dana.io, project creators only need to setup a complimentary account, and create a project page with a pitch video in order to then start a crowdfunding campaign. To ensure campaigns are effectively developed, the platform freely provides users with customer service and professional and coherent online guides. One such guide, the ‘dana.io guide to mindful crowdfunding’ covers the a – z of how to build and run a successful crowdfunding campaign, including such topics as how to craft a great pitch video and guidelines on creating a set of great gifts or rewards campaigners offer to donors based on their level of contribution. To give supporters as many options as possible for making donations, dana.io uniquely enables and encourages donors to make use of offline payments such as cheques and wire transfers as well as facilitate use of crypto-currency, such as Bitcoin.
Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, dana.io offers a voluntary payment model. This comes in the form of a sliding “dana scale,” gifting or paying-forward a percentage of funds raised through one’s campaign. In the spirit of dana, Alanand fellow co-founder and CTO, Scott Nelson, have agreed to cap their salaries and instead invest the majority of income from voluntary payments into dana.io services and fund campaigns through the creation of a “dana pool.” When this feature is fully developed, votes will be held on a weekly basis by the community of campaigners to decide which campaigns will receive “dana funds.” Since coming on beta a little over 4 months ago, there have been close to 50 campaigns, with tens of thousands of dollars raised for projects, including films, books, music albums, and human rights initiatives. From such a brilliant start, there’s every indication that a huge demand exists for dana.io’s services as well as an appreciation for their dana practice of goodwill.
The team behind dana.io feels honored to offer the services provided by their crowdfunding platform to all Startup Weekend participants. They hope with the assistance of the platform, participants will find the playing field more leveled when facing existing incumbents of their industry. They consider it to be their gift back to the heart of innovation and contribution to the startup community. Coming out from my interview with Alan, I feel relieved that there are those within the startup community working to embody kindness and generosity. It is up to us to see how we can instill this in our startup ventures as well.