In the middle of a crowded conference hall, Anastasia Emmanuel pulls out a chair from one of the tables not currently occupied by a caffeinated delegate. As the UK marketing and community manager of Indiegogo, she's right at home amidst the startups littering the 2014 Wearable Technology Show's floor. Within about thirty seconds she's gushed about a new gadget that's imbued with a multitude of sensors, shown off a little lapel tag that monitors your fitness using a series of flashing lights and told me about a new technology company that has just launched on Indiegogo.
In the same energetic stream she then recaps how much she enjoyed the crowdfunding panel she was part of earlier in the day, all while laughing off the fact that she's been up since 4.30am and actually did I want to start the interview because gosh, she just can't stop talking and I probably want to talk about something other than her erratic sleep patterns.
In a nutshell, she's one of those people you can't help but instantly warm to.
It makes sense then that she works with a company that prides itself on providing a human face to the often intimidating world of financing. Indiegogo was founded out of the frustration of how difficult it is to find funding back in 2008 at a time when most businesses were struggling to source any form of investment at all.
"Our mission is to empower anyone to fund whatever matters to them," Emmanuel explains, "and we've seen literally everything. We've had a crowdfunded baby, missions to mars, a cat café. But hardware and wearables work well because of the way we're set up. We're an open platform; it's not up to us to let you know if your idea is good enough, it's up to the crowd. We're not just another gate keeper."
Contrary to popular belief, crowdfunding is not a new idea. As Emmanuel recalls, in the late 1800s the French gave the statue of liberty to the Americans and Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper to raise $100,000 to build the monument's platform. Hundreds of readers donated, showing that really crowdfunding has in fact been around for ages, "it's just that now we have the tools and the Internet to make it popular and worthwhile."
So if you're a business looking to use crowdfunding to boost your enterprise, what should you know?
Well first, says Emmanuel, "you should follow the strategy we advise. Prepare well, have a clear pitch, make a good video, offer amazing contributor perks, set an attainable goal and rally your community (the first 30 percent of contributors will come from your own friends, family and customers and will thus validate your idea to Joe Blogs on the street)."
But out of the 180,000 campaigns that have launched on Indiegogo since 2008, it's key to remember that monetary contributions are not the only benefits a fledgling business will receive through crowdfunding. As Emmanuel points out, "people use Indiegogo as a market validation platform. Your audience will either love your product and contribute, or you have to go back to the drawing board, and the contributors are not just Facebook liking or Tweeting you, they're validating you with a solid dollar. "
It means that if you decide to take your business down the route of VC funding after your Indiegogo experience, you greatly reduce the risks for your investors and consequently gain more power over the amount of equity you could potentially give away. According to Emmanuel, crowdfunding proves the market by enabling you to say "I have 9,000 people who have proven they like the product, have bought the product, and I have all their emails and contact details to chase further business."
Consequently, crowdfunding is gaining resonance as not only a way to source funds, but to engage with and market to customers in a dynamic way. In the technology space, sites like Indiegogo can also shine light on new technologies in their infant stages that will one day enter the mainstream market.
"Indiegogo has watched this huge growth in hardware, wearable and smart technologies," nods Emmanuel. "Our site is a signpost for the next hot thing, and we've found angel investors often consult us to look into the future. Crowdfunding is a crystal ball into the future of wearable technology."
In the middle of the Wearable Technology Show, the future is all that anyone seems to be talking about. What are the next big personal computing technologies? What will they do? When will they arrive? They're huge questions, but alas, Emmanuel has little time to answer them. She knocks over an empty water bottle as she packs up her things, before dashing off to the main auditorium where she has to meet "two more people before heading off to a meeting, arrange another press interview, find time to check out some of the stalls" and presumably at some point solve world hunger.
For all the latest updates from London's Wearable Technology Show as they happen, check out our liveblog of the action here.