$80K in 10 Days, The Story of Extra Credits - As Told By Show Co-Creator James Portnow

The Extra Credits RocketHub project has raised over $80,000 in under two weeks with over 3000 Fuelers - making it a bona fide crowdfunding hit. What’s most exciting is that this project still has 45 days to keep going. We caught up with Extra Credits co-creator James Portnow and as he shares his story, gives an update on how Allison is doing - and how he’s using the overage to form a fund that helps independent game developers publish their games.  Let’s turn it over to James… Our story is simple. Over the last year we’ve built up a web series discussing game design and the positive impact that games can have on humanity. We’ve used it to get people looking more deeply at videogames and to get them thinking about what they can take away from their games and add to their lives.   Then, out of the blue, I got a call from our artist, Allison Theus.  She had injured her shoulder.  If she didn’t get surgery soon, she’d lose the ability to create art.  It’s the one thing she loves in life and the thing she’s dedicated her whole life to - yet in that moment she was about to lose it forever. I knew I couldn’t let that happen, that I wouldn’t let that happen, but I didn’t know where to turn.  Each episode of the show had cost us far more to produce than we ever saw from it, and so at this point I’d spent all of my reserves.  I’d never felt more helpless…so I took a shot at doing the only thing that could help change Allison’s life, I turned to the fans. I knew that millions of people watched the show every month, and so I’d hoped that if we could find some way to reach out to them we could raise enough money to cover her initial expense and buy us time to figure out a long term solution.  So at 6 PM on June 29th I put up a RocketHub page. I was asking for fifteen thousand dollars.   When RocketHub asked me how long I thought it would take to raise this money, I put in 60 days, then I hopped on Twitter and Facebook to let the fans know what our situation was.  I was trying to give them minute by minute updates as I heard from Allison while juggling the phones trying to figure out what I personally could do. By six fifteen, we had raised four thousand dollars.  At six twenty I was on the phone with a friend who runs a local startup, trying to raise three thousand dollars selling him computer equipment.  By six thirty the word had spread about Allison’s injury and donations were starting to come in - by six thirty we had reached nine thousand dollars. At six thirty five I was on the phone with every local game developer I knew, trying to gather them for dinner to talk about holding an industry fund raiser for Allison.  By six fourty-five I was out the door for our meeting. Twenty minutes in, at a quarter past seven, I received at text: you’re at fifteen thousand dollars.  Ten minutes later, I received a text saying YOU’RE AT TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.  By the time the dinner had wrapped up I had received a flood of texts pouring in numbers, ending with YOU’VE ALMOST CRACKED 30K!!!  I could barely speak at that dinner.  I’ve never been so impressed with humanity or proud of a community.  All the things they say about “gamers” are false. Within three days we had raised over seventy five thousand dollars. This Friday, Allison goes in for her first surgery, which will be followed by months of physical therapy, but she will continue to do art for the rest of her life and her passion, our show, Extra Credits, will go on.  Any overflow we have will be used to pay it forward and create a fund to help independent game developers publish their games, the way they should be published, without the onerous terms of the major publishers and without having to give up all the rights to their ideas. Hopefully out of this we can not only heal Allison but create a few more jobs in this economy…and see a few more people doing what they love. JP Thanks for these insight James! This story is an exciting one indeed. -Brian All images courtesy of James Portnow and The Escapist    

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  • July 15, 2011

Take a Ride On the Good Bike in Toronto

"The neon bike outside of the OCAD U Student Gallery was conceived as a simple art project that we thought would beautify and energize the grim strip of Dundas Street West where we work. The bike’s bold, graphic and current aesthetic was an instant hit with passersby." The Good Bike Project is an innovative visual arts endeavor led by Vanessa Nicholas and Caroline Macfarlane. Both are curators at the OCAD student gallery in Toronto who are taking real-world art to new places. "The two of us work at the OCAD U Student Gallery on Dundas Street West in Toronto. Whilst working on a window display this past winter, Caroline noticed the sad, rusted bike parked on the sidewalk out front and suggested that we plant flowers in its basket come spring. Over the weeks, our idea evolved and what resulted was the neon, painted bike. This simple act of spontaneous creativity became a city issue when the bike was ticketed by the police; and from there we’ve managed to start bigger conversations about pubic art, cycling and community here in Toronto. We’re completely committed to this project because of this meaningful ripple effect. The support has been overwhelming. After being ticketed, we appealed to the public for support. We didn’t want to remove the bike as we’d already had so much positive feedback from passers-by. The emails and phone calls poured in. To date, we’ve received over 250 emails from as far as England, Brazil, Belgium and Australia. Our neighbors have been wonderful too. Fellow artists, local bar tenders and corporate sponsors alike have all been so generous and helpful. It’s been so fun meeting so many great people and feeling so connected to our community.” The project has garnered global support and press coverage - including a great recent piece in The Toronto Star. "I think we’ve generated so much positive support because our initiative is all about community building and regeneration. We’re looking to give a lot back to the city, and so we’re finding enthusiastic people at every turn." Take a peek at this fun and rewarding project. Thank you to Vanessa and Caroline for their work and for being a part of the RocketHub community. -Vlad

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  • July 14, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for this Jimmy Pardo PSA

"Scott and Alison first met working together at "The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien." Scott used to crack Alison up reading letters from TV Guide during rehearsal and from that, an idea for a web series was born. In the spring of 2010, Alison and Scott had some down time after "The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien" ended, so they used that time to bring TV GUIDE LETTER THEATER to life. The web series launched in the summer 2010 to many laughs and was featured on the comedy website, Funny or Die, and in the magazine that had served as their inspiration, TV Guide. The people who write those letters are hilariously devoted to television, and we felt they deserved to have a web series devoted to them or to what we think they would be like." This dynamic duo, is now engaging their community of fans to make the second season of the show into a reality. Alison gave us more: "So far, it’s been great. I’ve seen a lot of support on Facebook and on Twitter from both friends and fans. I was impressed that people who I’ve never met, and just know me from Twitter, had donated. It’s a great feeling. We are both really feeling the love and support out there for TV Guide letter-based comedy." Thank you Scott and Alison for this hilarious project. And a special thanks to the talented Jimmy Pardo for his awesome PSA. Join the fun, support this project. -Vlad

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  • July 12, 2011

Crowdfunding a Peace-building Documentary - The Future Guardians of Peace

Everyday Gandhis Project is a nonprofit organization with mission is to educate and inspire the public by supporting peace through sharing stories and experiences. "Future Guardians of Peace: From Child Soldiers to Peacebuilders," is their documentary about a group of former child soldiers, who struggle to rebuild their lives in post-civil war Liberia. Thanks to Robert Majak from Everyday Gandhis Project, we get a deeper look at this film, the meaning behind it, and their current RocketHub crowdfunding project. What was the inspiration behind your project “Future Guardians of Peace” you are currently running on RocketHub? In 2005, Everyday Gandhis staff members met former rebel commander Christian Bethelson on the Road to Voinjama in Liberia, when his car was broke down and we offered to help him. It turns out he was on his way to a neighboring country to go fight as a mercenary, because he needed money to provide for his family. We persuaded Bethelson to not go fight in the conflict, and from that moment on, we hired him and we have been working with him on his own healing journey, and eventually, he became one of our full time peacebuilders. It was Bethelson that brought his former child soldiers Akoi, Morris, Ezekiel, Mohammed, Lassana and Varlee to our compound to begin rebuilding their shattered lives. It is because of these remarkable and unique people, their stories and their deep capacity for peace that we felt inspired to create this film, and the documentary has changed all our lives and brought us more joy than I can express. We feel that it’s very important to tell the the stories of The Future Guardians of Peace, and the stories of them being child soldiers and finding their new identities as peacebuilders through photography.This film shows despite the fact that these kids have endured so much tragedy, they still have this incredible capacity for compassion and peace. The United Nations estimates that there are between 250,000 to 500,000 child soldiers that are active worldwide, with uncounted numbers of former fighters who remain traumatized and vulnerable to being re-recruited. The Future Guardians of Peace in our documentary show us that there is hope in the hopeless, and this documentary will show people that anything is possible if you give people an opportunity to rebuild their lives, even if these people may have committed the worst atrocities. Much thanks for this insight on a very powerful subject matter. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social film - how are your fans and community responding? Taking part of a crowdfunding is quite exciting because you are engaging your funders directly, and there is a great sense of community about people helping you fuel a project, because they support your ideas and project, and they want to see you succeed. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? Crowdfunding requires a lot of effort and a lot of faith, and you have to keep people interested and engaged in the crowdfunding campaign. Generally speaking, people want to be want to see your campaign do well and they will support you if you provide them with enough reason to get involved. Thank you Robert and Everyday Gandhis Project for shedding light on your mission and this film. - Team RocketHub 

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  • July 6, 2011

Declaring Independence, One Crowdfunding Step at a Time

We’re happy to celebrate Independence Day alongside our friends, family, and fellow Creatives. Today is a great opportunity to reflect upon everything that we’ve accomplished together as a smart, supportive, and very creative community. Thousands of artists, entrepreneurs, and organizations have galvanized hundreds-of-thousands of Fuelers to support incredible projects. Along with the historic revelry of July 4th, today we also celebrate a newfound independence: crowdfunding has empowered thousands to declare independence from the stodgy inustries of the past. Together, we have taken the first step in launching a new era, in establishing a new creative economy that is fair, democratic, and independent. Happy Independence Day from the whole RocketHub crew.

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  • July 4, 2011

Crowdfunding is Micro-Patronage for Lena Stefon

Lena Stefon is a talented young woman. Based in Grandville, Michigan - she is leveraging the power of her community in order to crowdfund her first album. In her project description, Lena presents one of the most clear and eloquent explanations of crowdfunding that I’ve ever seen: What’s crowdfunding? It’s like in the old days when a rich person wanted a new painting, sculpture, or piece of music; they would commission an artist to create it for them. Crowdfunding is the same idea, but instead of one person commissioning an artist, it’s a bunch of people supporting an artist in the creation of their art, and receiving something in return. This clarity combined with a compelling story has given Lena much success. I had the pleasure of chatting with her and she explained her process even further: After the first song I wrote and sang for my family, my dad wanted to direct me in a music video. That encouraged me to continue writing music. I sang my songs for friends and family, and they encouraged me to share them with more people. Then I found out about RocketHub and began to think that perhaps I could record a CD. I’m looking forward to making the music videos with my dad latter this summer after we finish the CD. Becoming a singer has always been a dream of mine, and I want as many people as possible to enjoy my music. It’s a gift I give to other people. God gave me the gift of music, and I want to share that gift with others. My crowdfunding experience has been extremely rewarding. I’m very happy with the results so far. It is truly amazing. I had no hope for anything this great, and without RocketHub this project would not have happened. My supporters think RocketHub is really cool. They’re saying how glad they are that RocketHub is helping me with the opportunity to make this CD. I took the advice RocketHub gives about getting the word out, even before we went live on the site. Share what you’re doing with other people. Don’t think it will happen by itself – you’ve got to talk about it. It helps a lot if you have a few people partnering with you. My mom and dad really believe in me and my music, and have been willing to put a lot of work into helping me. I also have friends who are willing to spread the word about what I’m doing. It takes a lot of effort to do this, but it’s definitely worth it. Very good advice. Thank you for your sincere project and good luck with your young music career. Check out Lena’s work. -Vlad

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  • June 28, 2011

Seattle Mom Inspires through Crowdfunding

Writing a book is never easy - it takes dedication and talent. Writing a book of motherly advice for the 21st century from the perspective of a single mother is particularly challening. But Angela Toussaint has successfully written such an important work. Now she is engaging her community through RocketHub to complete her book and build awareness. I had the pleasure of chatting with Angela about her inspiration. What was the inspiration behind the writing project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Watching moms interact with their kids and seeing the weariness in their eyes. I have been there. I wrote The Momarchy in the hopes that my experiences and subsequent lessons will help other moms restore order and have fun raising their children. I truly believe our personal lives are the last bastion of feminism. We are liberated professionally and politically but in our private existences are not much different than they were 45 years ago. Women work all day and then are expected to go home, care for the children and do all of the housework. This is true whether they have a partner or not. As a result there is not enough “space” for a woman to pursue her passions or fully realize her talents. Maybe The Momarchy can help moms change this dynamic. That’s quite a bold vision. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of writing in Seattle - how are your supporters responding? This has been an amazing experience. The crowdfunding process has provided an opportunity for my supporters to get involved in a visibly meaningful way. Despite the recession, my supporters have been generous and encouraging. I am humbled by their faith in me. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I followed the RocketHub.org advice. I started with folks who are close to me. First, I sent emails and then followed up with phone calls. The public thank you to patrons who have recently given helped a lot as well. If I had any advice, it would be “if you build it they won’t come unless you TELL everyone about it.” Literally tell everyone because you may be surprised at who will support you. It warms my heart to hear your positive experience with RocketHub.org. Check out this valuable project and get your copy of The Momarchy. -Vlad

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  • June 22, 2011

New Jersey’s Own, Sixty Miles Down Rocks RocketHub

Hard-hitting and heavy, yet melodic and memorable, New Jersey’s own Sixty Miles Down grinds out gritty anthems pulled from the darker side of the soul. After 12 years of evolution, singer/songwriter John Mosco, guitarist Roger Manzo, drummer Chris Delli Santi and bassist Adam Young have been building on the buzz of acclaimed releases. Now, this talented group is engaging their fans to release a new album. I had the pleasure to speak with the group about their crowdfunding adventure. What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? This is currently our third CD project. Our first was in 2002 and our second in 2005. Each one of our releases was financed solely by the band. Since the release of our last CD we have had trouble keeping a steady line up and spent two years looking for a new drummer. Since we couldn’t play shows I focused a lot on promoting the band online and it really has started to pay off. We are charting on a handful of websites and making a lot of new friends and fans online who are all asking for new music. We finally felt like the time was right to record a new CD but we were faced with two problems. The first problem was that money had become really tight and the second problem was that it seems that more and more people are downloading music rather than buying CDs. We all grew up buying CDs, cassettes and even records. We really wanted to get new music out to our fans but the idea of releasing a digital only release just didn’t feel right. We decided to raise money to record a short run, limited edition CD with our new songs and the songs from our last 6 song CD “A New Skin” and a 4 song demo we recorded in 2000 that is no longer available. Once the CDs are sold out the 4 new songs will be available online as a digital album. I did some research online and really liked the idea of people being able to help fund a project while getting cool stuff in return. I checked out a bunch of different sites and decided to go with RocketHub.  That’s quite a journey - the time is right for a new release. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music - how are your supporters responding? Our experience in the world of crowdfunding has been great so far. We set a goal of $1500 in a 3 month time frame. We still have a ways to go to meet our goal but so far we are very happy with the results. By using RocketHub we have been able to not only raise money for our project but also interact more with our friends and fans. A lot of our friends on Facebook are sharing our project link with their friends so we are getting to people we would have not been able to reach on our own thanks to crowdfunding through RocketHub. The feedback that I have received from people that have “fueled” our project has been positive. Everyone tells me that it’s super easy to use RocketHub. No one has had any problems or bad experiences. We try to make it as easy as possible, so it’s great to get that feedback. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? The only advice I have for anyone interested in using crowdfunding is to take your time setting up the page. Fill everything out, put up pics and definitely put up a video of the band. Also be sure to have cool stuff to give away to your fuelers in return for their support. The better the gifts the better your chances of success. Thank everyone that fuels your project. Send them an email, thank them on Facebook just make sure you stay connected with them. Update your page whenever you can with a new video or audio clip of your studio sessions. Let everyone be a part of the project Thank you to Sixty Miles Down and their whole crew - great advice. Get involved in the release of this grassroots album here. -Vlad

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  • June 20, 2011

Launching Diverse Art From London

The Leytonstone Arts Trail is an annual festival of visual arts that happens all over Leytonstone - a town near London, England -  in diverse and unexpected venues. It showcases the creative talent in Leytonstone and its surrounding areas, builds connections between artists and local businesses, and invites the community to a week long festival of high quality art. But like many artistic organizations across the world, funding cuts have forced innovative new approaches - such a crowdfunding. I had the pleasure to speak with Carne Griffiths, the leader of the crowdfunding campaign, about this journey and about how to be successful at raising funds for an arts festival. What was the inspiration behind the visual arts project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you?  My view of the inspiration behind the art trail is that it is an opportunity for artists and people living and working in the area to share their enjoyment of creativitiy. Many talented artists live in the area but ironically there are few places to show. Through most of the year, viewers have to travel outside the area. For two glorious weeks Leytonstone has delightful, intruiging, astonishing sights accessible in shops, cafes, streets, parks, the libraries and pubs where they normally go and additionally in windows, pop-up galleries and unexpected new venues.  Sounds like quite a creative blast. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of arts in London - how are your supporters responding? We were pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to set up a crowdfunding project and are all excited about the impact it will have on this years trail. We have decided to try and raise a small portion of the money needed to successfully fund the Leytonstone Arts Trail through RocketHub as it is our first experience of crowdfunding but we are hoping that in future we will be able to provide a solid platform for this community project. Supporters are responding brilliantly, we have been sharing links on Facebook and have reached 10% of our target in just a few days. We need to step up promotion now as the Trail begins on the 1st of July! I really like your gradual approach. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Go with a small amount of your project first. We decided not to be overambitious and offered incentives for those giving small amounts to our project. As we are creatives we can utilise things that we can make to help attract funders for our project rather than just trying to sell items. I think if people know the money from the sale is going back into a creative project it makes them that more enthusiastic. Thank you Carne for chatting with me from across the pond. Good luck - support the Trail here. -Vlad

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  • June 17, 2011

Berklee Creative Team is Crowdfunding Pop Music

Co. Laj Productions is a female writing and production team that consistently strives to take popular music to a new place.  Cai James and TripStop are Berklee alumni, friends, roommates, confidants, business parnters, intelligently over-zealous musicians, and most inportantly: vigorously passionate about what they love - their music. The duo is currently running a successful RocketHub campaign, and we caught with them to get the scoop on their project, "Our Westlake Wish". What was the inspiration behind the unique music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it so important to you? TripStop had toured Westlake Studios during one of her trips to LA, and fell in love with it.  In each and every studio, there was a story… a feeling… a unique experience.  At one point along the tour,  Rihanna’s “Take a Bow” was played in one of the studios. (Rihanna often records at Westlake.)  Tears began to whelm in TripStop’s eyes as she realized exactly where she wanted to be - sitting in a studio like this, writing and producing a track just like “Take a Bow.”  Since that moment, TripStop knew she would one day record at Westlake Studios. After her experience in Los Angeles, TripStop returned home to relay her story to her co-writer and soon-to-be Professional Pop Star, Cai James.  Cai immediately responded, “We gotta make this happen.  We HAVE to record there.”   The team of TripStop and Cai James (aka Co. Laj Productions) had followed this instinctive, “go-with-your-gut” decision with a conversation about the many milestones, rough-patches, and “let-downs” they had experienced regarding the aspirations of their work lying in the hands of others.   So… here we are… having decided to take matters into our own hands.  We saw that we could finally make our “Westlake Wish” come true through the use of RocketHub’s incredible crowdfunding platform/website… and we have.  This project is important to us because we believe in the quality of music and the experience of the creation behind it. Recording at Westlake Studios was once a non-existent reality, but because of the continued support we have received, we are now on our way.   Thanks for that backstory (and for the good words on our site) - so, how has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pop music - how are your supporters responding?   Honestly…we are just so incredibly grateful for everything.  We cannot believe this is all happening so quickly, but we are so excited to see all of our hard work finally coming to fruition.  It is such a great feeling to receive so many positive reactions to our music from people of all ages and musical preferences.  However, one of the most important aspects of the crowdfunding experience was learning  what it truly took to monetize our music. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar type of project? Don’t give up, and take all advice given into consideration in regards to the presentation of your project because it truly does matter.  Take your time, and be sure that all aspects of your project showcase who you are and why someone should invest in you.  You won’t know what you’re worth until you put yourself out there.   Much thanks for these insights, and congrats on your success with “Our Westlake Wish” - we are stoked to have you as a part of our creative community. Brian

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  • June 13, 2011