It’s almost Christmas time and your little daughter, Sara, is begging you to get her a pony. She makes a good case with arguments like “but I want it!” and “pleeease!”, but as a responsible parent you understand that a carrot muncher is not the most practical gift.
Suddenly you realize that many of the gifts Sara will get this year will either be impractical or have to be returned or thrown away. Uncle Jim will probably get her an inflatable cheeseburger and you can bet your socks that someone will get her a set of glow-in-the-dark stickers.
You’ve been giving her education a lot of thought lately and wish you could turn those gift cards into college funds.
A Montreal startup, Instagrad, is set out to do just that. The recently launched crowdfunding platform helps parents get contributions towards their childrens’ education funds. As a parent you would set up a profile on Instagrad and promote it to your network of friends and family who within a few clicks could contribute to her education fund. Those that are unable to contribute can leave words of support. The profile will also show a list of current contributers.
Startup promises to supply parents with tools and know-how for promoting those profiles. Founder of instagrad, Mauricio Idarraga, described the process to us in 3 steps:
“1) Parents create a profile for their child with minimal information. A profile looks like this: https://app.instagrad.com/ziggy-bakshani
2) We have tools for parents to share the profile with friends and family – who then visit it and either make a contribution or leave comments of support
3) We deposit all contributions directly in the child’s 529 college savings plan (RESP in Canada)”
The web has grown so much that there is now space for more niche crowdfunding platforms. It seems like the web has gone through a very private stage in the late 90s where it would be unthinkable of posting your name online to a very public web of Facebook and MySpace and now back to a more private and segmented echo-system.
For example Facebook has spawned the likes of the wildly successful “Path” that could be thought of as a more private version of Facebook for mobile. There is also the case of the Canada based “Plenty of Fish” VS “Ashley Madison” a very niche dating site designed for cheating spouses.
Instagrad’s idea is very shrewd, it’s no secret that most of the crowdfunding campaigns are funded by friends and family. In fact Indiegogo, a popular crowd funding system, estimates that as much as 25% of your funding is going to come from within your primary circle of friends and family.
The rest of the funding is going to come from people that know you, usually only a small percentage comes from complete strangers, so if parents are able to get those 25% of the education funds covered by someone else, I would consider to be a success. As opposed to other platforms I don’t think parents expect 100% of their childrens’ education to be funded by someone else.
The startup will make its debut in the United States, where the education costs are notoriously high. Instagrad is said to be backed by a number of successful serial entrepreneurs.
There’s definitely a big need, but there’s also one small concern. Family members need to be tech savvy enough to make their way around the system. I think in the future, as more and more people get online, this will be less of a concern, but right now some of the family members may require a crash course in computer use before they can contribute towards someone else’s education. A simple video tutorial that explains how to contribute funds could go a long way.