PledgeMe chief executive-turned 'chief bubble blower'

PledgeMe co-founder Anna Guenther is back in Dunedin for Easter and is holding a crowdfunding...
PledgeMe co-founder Anna Guenther is back in Dunedin for Easter and is holding a crowdfunding session. PHOTO: ASHLEY CHURCH
Anna Guenther may have stepped aside as chief executive of PledgeMe - but she is still the "chief bubble blower", she says of herself.

Ms Guenther co-founded PledgeMe seven years ago as part of her master of entrepreneurship studies through the University of Otago.

Since then, she has appointed PledgeMe's first external board, raised its first external round of investment, helped it through the licensing process to become New Zealand's first-equal licensed equity crowdfunding platform, and worked with founders and businesses in New Zealand and Australia.

Helping people raise money through crowdfunding was the part she loved, and the part she excelled at, Ms Guenther said.

Since launching, more than 1400 campaigns had been successfully funded and more than $30million processed through the platform.

About 10% of that money had gone to Otago campaigns, which ranged from a weightlifter who raised $1600 to get to the world championships by selling biscuits, to chocolate maker Ocho which raised $2million in 32 hours by selling shares in the company to keep chocolate-making skills in Dunedin.

PledgeMe was the first-equal licensed platform to provide equity crowdfunding in New Zealand and Ms Guenther moved to Australia in late 2017 when the legislation changed to allow equity crowdfunding.

In the past few years, she had to focus increasingly on regulation, along with technology, HR and finance.

"The list keeps growing. I can do all these things ... but they're not where I add the most value," she said.

It was a busy time; there was a team of 12 working to grow PledgeMe, across sales and delivery, support, technology, marketing, finance, design and compliance.

Based in Brisbane - a city that she loved - there were so many opportunities to take what had been learned in the New Zealand market and to bring that to Australia.

"We grew our dollars pledged through the platform to successful campaigns 20% again last calendar year.

"With our launch into Australia, we've hosted our largest ever campaign, raising $AUS2.1million ($NZ2.2million) in November 2018. But we believe that hasn't even scratched the surface of what is possible."

And it would not be possible if she kept having to juggle the day-to-day management "with growing this exciting new way of raising capital".

So, following a meeting with the board, it was decided to bring in chairwoman Mel Templeton to act as an interim chief executive, as the company worked out what was needed on the leadership front.

"I'm just really excited about the next stage of PledgeMe," she said.

It also produced a "weird feeling", like your child had grown up to the point where you felt you were not needed in the same way but that they still needed a parent.

Some people had been puzzled why she had not chosen to be based in Sydney or Melbourne, but Brisbane felt more like New Zealand, she said.

She was back in Dunedin to spend Easter with family and would be running a session on crowdfunding

at Innov8HQ on Wednesday at 5.30pm, she said. Firebrand founder Rebecca Twemlow would also be sharing her own tips on pitching.

The session was for anyone thinking about running a crowdfunding campaign and wanted to specifically focus on their pitch.

She was pleased to see how many women were doing "really well" in crowdfunding, which was a particular passion, she said.


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