Crowdfunding isn’t a new way to raise money, and at this point, we know the drill: you give a moderate donation to support a creative endeavor or seed a social enterprise. If enough people give, you get a reward (be that a warm-fuzzy, a tote bag, or a portion of potato salad).
The wisdom of the crowd allows for good (or at least novel) ideas to get off the ground.
Now, a local company called billion wants to compound that funding structure and add a little friendly competition to the mix.
Like other crowdfunding models the whole thing starts with the pitch: explaining how an idea, action, or product will change the world for the better.
The old way, an idea had to generate enough support to meet its goal. With Billion, an idea has to generate enough support to prove it’s better than other ideas.
Billed as “the world’s first tournament-style crowdfunding platform,” Billion invites individuals and organizations with ideas for social good to solicit money for the Billion Fund. Pitted head to head with other endeavors, the competitor with the most points (read: solicited funds) wins.
Soliciting continues, bracket-style, money still rolling in, until one big idea wins all the money in the fund. Instead of harnessing crowdfunding to a lot of relatively small ideas, Billion pools resources to let an individual initiative have a larger impact.
“Ultimately, the idea is to foster innovation, create new ideas, and new non-profits.”
“The reason we choose one is because giving a huge fund to a movement with huge potential creates bigger impact than spreading the fund over several,” says Eileen Guan, president of Billion. Bigger crowd, bigger impact, theoretically.
Billion came out of the inaugural GiveBackHack in April, a weekend-long event meant to generate ideas to solve community problems and put in some elbow grease to prove that they can work.
The model for “gamification” pitting organizations against each other for points came from that weekend of vetting the idea. “We wanted to be clear that the money you give may not go to the organization that you’re supporting.”
The first cycle of funding, with 40 local causes competing, held its “playoffs” at Independents’ Day and raised close to $10,000 for the winning organization, She Has a Name, a service organization for survivors of human trafficking.
For the first bracket, Billion allowed any organization to participate. Future competitions will be amongst ideas that aren’t attached to organizations. “Existing groups already have a network … and the ideas should stand on their own merit.”
Billion was founded as a low-profit limited liability company (L3C), a new type of business entity meant to bridge the gap between non-profit and for-profit companies in the eyes of the federal government.
The group behind Billion says they want to “pool the world’s resources.” How big will Billion get? They’re not trying to raise billions of dollars (but that would be nice)—they’re trying to impact billions of people.
“Ultimately, the idea is to foster innovation, create new ideas, and new non-profits,” Guan said. •
For more about Billion, visit