1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Zach Smith, a serial entrepreneur who has never had a “real” job in my entire life. I’m always starting, selling, running, and managing businesses and I love helping others turn their dreams, ideas, and inspirations into successful companies.
My passion led to the creation of Funded Today, LLC, the world’s most successful crowdfunding firm and largest provider of crowdfunding marketing services worldwide. In 2018, my company finished 27th on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies and #2 for fastest-growing privately-held companies in Utah and #3 in the “Advertising and Marketing” category. Funded Today broke into the Inc. 5000 for 2018 and is the 27th fastest growing privately held company in the country.
Funded Today started in Mid-2014 with a chance partnership between myself and my co-founder Thomas Alvord to help a local South Ogden company, Earl and Brenda Brundage and The RooSport (Now a brand that is recognized at marathons nationwide) raise funds on Kickstarter to produce an improved version of its magnetic sports pocket. We were the first to effectively use Facebook ads, cross-promotions, affiliate marketing, and email marketing in crowdfunding marketing, which was extremely successful and attracted more clients through word-of-mouth alone. Demand was so popular that before 2014 ended, we decided to incorporate Funded Today, LLC as a full-time business.
Funded Today helps startups to succeed, especially in the fast-paced world of rewards-based crowdfunding on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo! Since its inception in mid-2014 among Utah’s Silicon Slopes, Funded Today has worked with 3,000+ crowdfunding campaigners worldwide, for whom it produced 146+ videos, designed 200+ pages, and helped raise $280,625,782+ with its full suite of marketing services.
You can see here for our Inc. 500 listing that goes into our growth and company finances: https://www.inc.com/profile/funded-today
As for our current pricing, we charge 25-35% of everything we raise and an initial Due Diligence and Product Validation fee that ranges from $2,500-$3,500.
We initially did not charge upfront fees but this proved necessary in order to mitigate our risks because ads were relatively expensive and so many campaigns proved unprofitable to advertise.
Our staff personnel peaked at over 50, which is more than any other agency. Today, we make $11.7M/year.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
To increase business volume, we built a full-time sales team to engage in outreach, as well as to handle inbound leads to their website. Placing badges on each new client’s campaign page helped to draw traffic to that website, and slowly boosted its search rankings.
Sales also came from marketing, including PR-generated news coverage, past clients who became affiliates, partnerships with complementary agencies that served crowdfunding campaigners, social-media advertisements, and finally content marketing in the form of a podcast, a blog, and an e-mailing list.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
The great challenge I faced as an entrepreneur was dealing with growth. We grew so quickly that it became a problem (a good problem, however) to hire great people quickly to keep up with our demand. The ability to work ON my business rather than IN my business and doing that as quickly as possible was one of the greatest reasons we grew so quickly.
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
During Funded Today’s early growth phase, competition among crowdfunding agencies started relatively weak while it focused mostly on public relations, which continue to be very popular. But Funded Today was the first crowdfunding agency to regularly use Facebook advertisements effectively in crowdfunding marketing. Advertisements have great advantages over news coverage in urgency, even though they are weaker in both credibility and longevity, and they are the only marketing technique that can potentially bring a steady flow of pledging traffic.
Social-media advertising proved to be a great short-term advantage, although this advantage dwindled after a few years as its profitability inspired both old and new competitors to learn to provide comparable service. One of those new competitors was our first chief advertiser, who got fired but then decided to compete with us in violation of a non-compete clause in his employment contract—but litigation solved this problem. Although Funded Today still maintains a slight edge in effective crowdfunding advertising, its biggest advantages are now its impressive fundraising totals plus its full range of services. Also, our podcast has proven exceptionally popular, and very valuable at both improving our reputation and establishing our credibility.
5. What is your advice for those are starting productized services?
Find someone or a few people who have been to the top of the mountain (i.e. To where you want to go) and seek mentorship. Help them in any way you can and they will, in turn, generally be willing and able to help you too. Mentorship is key. It opens doors, it provides training you cannot receive in college/school, and your mentors’ networks become your own (And that speeds up the process of growth which leads to success).
6. What are your plans for the future?
Funded Today’s core mission is to create 1,000 independent business owners or millionaires by the year 2020, while internally supporting an infrastructure that creates great new and existing LONG-TERM jobs at Funded Today and great new jobs for all of those we help.
Our marketing, creative, and consulting services will continue to expand and evolve. And, we will keep educating ourselves to remain cutting edge so we can continue to raise millions for our Clients.
We are entrepreneurs ourselves. We value self-learning. We believe in “failing fast” and “pivoting quickly.” We envision our entire workforce as successful, thriving entrepreneurs, with flourishing businesses inside and outside of Funded Today.
7. Where can we learn more about you?