Do you love your local coffee shop enough to invest in its new patio? A new startup, Lucky Ant, thinks so.
There's now a better way than the tip jar to show appreciation for your favorite local businesses. Lucky Ant, the latest startup to enter the crowdfunding space, hopes to do for neighborhood merchants what Kickstarter does for artists: provide a convenient, social way for small-scale entrepreneurs to tap their communities for help funding special projects.
Every week, Lucky Ant will post a new call for funding from a business in your neighborhood—when the service arrives there, that is. (It's just in New York for now.) Supporters of the business can chip in funds in exchange for special perks—and, of course, the good feeling of helping a local company grow. As cofounder Jonathan Moyal told Street Fight, "what [the businesses are] really selling is a participation in their story—it’s being able to invest in your neighborhood; being able to see the benefits of investing in your neighborhood." If the business meets its funding goal after a week, it gets to keep the funding. If it not, the contributors aren't charged.
The idea behind Lucky Ant is that small businesses often lack access to additional capital even when business is booming. Projects that could give the company an edge in the marketplace—like expanding, renovating, or investing in new services—may be beyond the reach of many local entrepreneurs' modest cash reserves. Take Bari, for example, a fitness studio in Manhattan that's currently Lucky Ant's featured project of the week. According to its Lucky Ant listing, the business wants to trademark its brand to protect its unique approach to working out but didn't have the cash on hand to do so. Now Bari staff are asking supporters to help out with $5,000 toward the trademark application.
As Lucky Ant says in its promotional video, "Your favorite local spots aren't just businesses. They're part of your life." Time will tell whether people will be willing to invest cash in these parts of their lives.