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It's The New Thing: Crowdfunding Your F&B Venture

Six interesting crowdfunding F&B projects happening in Shanghai. The revolution will be alternatively financed.
2016-05-31 18:39:32
Following on the heels of the rolling momentum of Western online crowdfunding platforms, IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and Microventures, among others, China's own online crowdfunding solutions have been gaining massive popularity in the past two or three years, serving as increasingly viable and successful avenues for entrepreneurs to source investment funding.

The focus of this post, a platform particularly successful in Shanghai, is the lifestyle / F&B-oriented Kaistart, quickly becoming a major player in the way people are funding their start-up restaurants.

Crayfish Restaurant Nets Cray-Cray Funding

According to the Shanghai Crowdfunding Platform Development Report released in 2015, Shanghai is now the third most active crowdfunding city in China, right after Beijing and Guangdong. The primary types of our local crowdfunding platforms are equity-based and rewards-based -- smaller contributions get rewards, larger contributions buy into the project. Juanfu, an online crayfish retailer-turned restaurant chain on Jinxian Lu, had raised over two million within 24 hours and has 49 co-founders in Shanghai. Continuously calling for new "city partners", they plan to launch more stores in 10 different cities nationwide.

Among the numerous crowdfunding projects now ongoing in the city, here are six interesting cases that drew our attention on Kaistart, perhaps indicative of the future of venue investment in this city.

The Project to Rebuild Fudan University's Hi-Story Cafe

Ongoing: 576,621rmb achieved

Hi-Story was a two-year-old cafe / shop in Fudan University, regularly used as a study area and social meet-up venue by university students. Recently, due to re-purposed resources, the private owners were unable to continue running the cafe on campus -- they lost their venue. Lacking their own investment funds, they decided to crowdsource a new Hi-Story Cafe nearby the campus on Daxue Lu. Mirroring their endeavor to source funding from the student community, they're expanding the focus of the business to display original artworks from students -- literature, photography, and painting.

The campaign is ongoing but is already 500% past the goal. Investors can contribute anything from 9rmb, and be rewarded with one drink, to 14,000rmb and purchase a 1% share in the business. They plan to recruit 20 shareholders and open the cafe on June 10.

Raw Plus' Healthy Lunch Set Food Truck

Ongoing: 1,567,471rmb achieved

Raw Plus, a healthy food eatery on Shanxi Nan Lu, has been quite popular among local white collars since they opened last year. To expand the business, the owner is now planning to deliver fresh food to office buildings in major commercial areas such as Jing'an and Xintiandi via a hip-looking food truck that travels with its own kitchen.

About 12 days away from the deadline, they're already past their goal 10 times over. So far, 108 backers are getting lunch sets and / or membership cards in return for their contribution and a few at the other end are spending 20,000rmb to become shareholders. Although the legality of operating food trucks in Shanghai is still somewhat of a gray area, Raw Plus is willing to take the risk. They plan to renovate their restaurant later this year as well.

A Bed-and-Breakfast in Tonglu: Xiansuo

Ongoing: 2,415,062rmb achieved

Shanghai-born Miss Wang worked for architecture design consultant, Kokaistudios for five years and has been involved in projects like Bund 18, K11, and Huaihai Zhong Lu 796. After became a partner of Kokaistudios, she then moved to Singapore to start her own architecture studio, Achi Partners. Now, she's pursuing her dream of creating a 426-square-meter bed-and-breakfast in Tonglu, seeking to build an "ideal home that connects people with the natural landscape."

Impressively, over 70 people have contributed 25,000rmb to this project, and a shareholder meeting was already held after they hit their goal. They're planning a 2017 opening.

The Crowded Field for China's Crowdfunding Platforms

The first (and largest) "Chinese version" of an online crowdfunding platform is Demohour, launched in 2011. Demohour is setting the industry pace of China-based crowdfunding, doing much of the trailblazing work to adapt the idea, and technical and business model to Chinese markets and economic regulations. In their wake, countless competitors have emerged, with China's major tech and e-commerce companies, Baidu, Taobao and JD, adding the fuel to fire.

These days, there are several competing crowdfunding platforms in China, each jockeying to differentiate themselves from the pack and cater to a specific clientele: Demohour, still the biggest, is for gadget enthusiasts; Musicked supports local musicians and concert promoters; Manga-centric Modian focuses on the video game development industry; and Tmeng caters to film and web developers looking to fund video projects.

Light & Salt's Bouquet Wine Club

Finished: 2,258,683rmb achieved

French chef Samuel Albert was invited by Ethan, owner of Light & Salt, to work on their Chinese/French fusion menu. The third floor of their space, dedicated to wine and books, was also their area for low-key cultural events -- tastings and readings mostly. After receiving warm feedback from locals and expats, the pair decided to renovate the area and improve the storage for both books and their wine collections.

Despite the fact there were just 53 backers, the project was successfully funded in March. 28 of those contributed 40,000rmb for a 1.5% share in Bouquet.

Rooftop Herb Garden in City Center

Finished: 94,514rmb achieved

Starting as the scribe of a Wechat official account, plant lover/designer Miss Li had gathered over 23,000 followers and organized many offline events for local plant, herb, and flowers enthusiasts. She is now working with co-working space MoreSpace to build a 300-square-meter rooftop herb and vegetable garden called Nuan Zao Tang in the city center. They're planning on growing plants, organizing workshops, and hosting food events.

People who contributed this project received rewards ranging from free breakfasts, gift cards, and VIP memberships to "be an owner of the garden for one day" (6,800rmb price tag for that one). Having achieved their goal, they plan to finish the garden at the end of May.

Last but not least, a traveling venue for kid with special needs...

The Big Rain Exhibition for Children with Autism

Finished: 79,174rmb achieved

Mr. Wang is the founder of New Support Services Group, an organization that serves as an incubator for companies focusing on special needs and charity issues. He started to devote his career to children suffering from autism 15 years ago, and last year, he began working with Xiamen design group, SeeekLab to create an interactive exhibition in Hangzhou specifically for autistic kids. The installation is designed to help children with autism overcome their fear of touching their surroundings, and difficulty in understanding and comprehending their environments. On the other side, it's also purposed to raise autism awareness in society. Their second stop of this temporary touring venue is Shanghai.

Big Rain Exhibition in Shanghai successfully achieved their goal with 185 contributors. Their show is slated to open in June, with the details released soon.