Thursday, September 19

How to raise $500,000 with a $600 video

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This is a Guest Post from Alec Ramsey, the Managing Director of Churchill Gowns, an Aussie Startups expanding to the UK. Here how they turned a $600 video into a powerful fundraising tool below.

When we set out in 2017 to expand our graduation startup Churchill Gowns to the UK, we knew we would need to raise some money. So, we did all the normal things any entrepreneur would do: put together a pretty pitch deck, fussed over extensive financial forecasts, and went out to pitch events to hustle investors. It was hard.

As anyone that has spent much time at pitch nights will tell you, there is a lot of noise. In a room full of needy companies convinced that they are the next Uber, it’s difficult to find investors who have the time to hear you out in detail, especially when you’re not a very sexy (read: tech) business. We knew we needed to do something to help us stand out from the crowd so, inspired by the success of videos on crowdfunding platforms like Crowdcube, we decided to create our own pitch video on the cheap.

In total, we spent the princely sum of $600, and ended up over-funding past our goal and raising $500,000. For those interested, here’s the cost breakdown:

  • Videographer – $200
  • Microphone – $40
  • Models – $240
  • Props – $40
  • Transport – $80
  • Location – free
  • Script – free
  • Music – free

Sound too good to be true? Here’s how we did it!

1/ Find a videographer that needs real content in their portfolio

At pitch nights, we started talking to a lot of people about making videos. We contacted our friends, and asked everyone we could if they knew a budding videographer that needed to create a unique piece for their portfolio. Although there are a million things you can make a movie about, we reasoned that making a video that successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars was a pretty unique opportunity, and would give the person we worked with great exposure as well – a win win!

After talking to a few keen videographers, we decided on Gabriel (check out his other work here!), and booked him in for a shoot. Not only did he do a great job, but he did it at the cost price of equipment rental, donating his time shooting and editing for free.

Were we lucky? Absolutely. But there is a more important point here: this worked because we weren’t out there to take advantage of someone. We were offering Gabriel something of real value, and in turn, he helped us out immensely. Unfortunately (for you), he lives in the UK and is not free anymore, but I highly encourage you to get in touch with him at meld.me if you’re after video work in London.

Cost: $200

2/ Research heavily

Beyond the actual filming and production, the success of our video came down to one thing: lots of research and planning. We got our hands dirty, and we were pedantic about everything.

First, we started by finding successful crowdfunding videos on Crowdcube and Seedrs that had the same feel that we wanted to convey. We picked apart what they did well – everything from the physical setting and how much movement there was, to the point in the video at which they presented the problem, where they used numbers and figures to convey their points, and when the music reached a crescendo.

We then read as many blogs and articles as we could on how to make successful videos – in particular, we found this one by Videopixie very insightful. For example, we had no idea that an attractive location would make your video 2x more successful. Noted!

Cost: $0

4/ Write your own script

After approximately 20 hours of research, we set about writing our own script. We recorded ourselves reading it out loud, and edited it to try and keep it under 2 minutes (the sweet spot, according to the above research). We debated phrasing, and we re-wrote the script, again and again.

We annotated every scene with notes on the location, where people would be in each shot, how they moved across camera. I recommend taking notes on what other videos do well – in fact, feel free to replicate the structure exactly. As long as the physical location is different, nobody is going to notice if you do a scene-by-scene rework of anther crowdfunding video elsewhere on the internet. Just make sure your content is original!

My advice? Write the whole script in one sitting. Then walk away, and don’t read it again until the next day. Edit, walk away, rinse and repeat.

Cost: $0

5/ Have one of your team star in the video

This one is tricky, because the presentation needs to be compelling. If you’re not a great presenter, then see if one of your other team members to do it. If that’s not possible, then try finding some aspiring professional actors on websites like mandy.com. Especially if you’re offering a pivotal speaking role presenting the video, this could do wonders for someone’s career, as well as your pitch.

We were lucky enough to have a fantastic presenter in our UK Managing Director, Oliver, but we also managed to get three really great actors to help out with many of the other shots we needed.

Cost for 3 supporting actors: $240

6/ Choose a beautiful, free location

Film outside! Film inside. Mix it up, make it interesting. As I already mentioned above, having a beautiful setting makes fundraising videos on average twice as effective.

You can do a lot with interesting backgrounds without spending any money on a studio. Think of areas in your town or city with varied backgrounds that you can film at without too many issues. If you’re shooting a scene indoors with your presenter sitting on a chair, make sure the backdrop has depth, or interesting colours. Don’t place them in front of a white wall.

Try filming at dawn with beautiful lighting conditions, and end your video somewhere aspirational and exciting. In front of the Golden Gate bridge, for example. Or in a beautiful university.

Cost:  $0

7/ Write your own music, and edit your own audio

Ok! I agree, writing your own music might be a little hard for most people.

I was lucky enough to have a musical background, and writing a cheesy build up was pretty easy. And while many people might not have the ability to match the music to the scene changes, you can always work the other way around.

Start by finding a piece of music that is the right length and style, with a good build up overall, and a lull somewhere in the middle. Make sure it has the appropriate licensing conditions for your budget and usage. Although it just sits in the background and goes mostly unnoticed, music has a huge impact on the excitement of your pitch, and can really serve to accentuate the important parts.

Make sure you cut the scene changes to match the music as best as possible, and use it to emphasise the important talking points. Again, this is where planning is key – as long as you record yourself reading your script beforehand, you can plan everything in advance and get by with very minimal editing.

For the audio editing you need to do on the voice, just use a free program like iMovie on Mac. Never used it before? Neither had I! That’s what YouTube tutorials are for.

The key takeaway

Beyond everything mentioned above, we spent an extra $40 on a lapel mic (an absolute must!), $40 on props and $80 on transport, coming to $160 in total.

In the end, lots of research, meticulous planning and the willingness to be a pedant made all the difference between producing an average fundraising video on the cheap, and one that secured us £300,000 in investment. Our fundraising is done, but if you’re interested you can check out the final video here.

How did we get the video seen by the right people, and what other challenges did we face? Well, those are questions for next time.

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