Tahan Lin is like a walking encyclopedia of crowdfunding. He responds intuitively and speaks assuredly about his own observations and analyses when discussing crowdfunding and the current situation, trends, and cases on both the domestic and international front. He uses vivid analogies to describe abstract concepts to ensure that his opinions are accurately conveyed to others. Behind the quick-fire thinking and speaking are profound observations from his long-term participation in the crowdfunding industry. He has been able to use crowdfunding to come into contact with many different fields.
Taiwan has seen many iconic crowdfunding cases in recent years. Among these were appeals or proposals that generated an enormous public response, such as the outdoor premiere of the documentary Beyond Beauty – Taiwan from Above, the 2014 civic movement to raise funds for advertising in the New York Times, The Appendectomy Projectto promote awareness of the right to recall legislators, and Ri Xing Type Foundry’s copper letterpress restoration project. Others were products that captured public attention, such as the made-in-Taiwan original Jin Xuan typeface, the ARRC’s advanced rockets, the Formoonsa Cup, and the Luna Lamp. Lin participated in all these projects as the crowdfunding agent.
It all began in 2011, shortly after the crowdfunding trend made its way to Taiwan’s shores. By that time, Lin was already working to develop a new, local crowdfunding platform, while assisting in the preparation and handling of a variety of fundraising cases. However, he soon realized that it would be difficult for him to provide any meaningful mentoring while working simultaneously on a dozen or more cases; his time and efforts were simply too divided. He decided to concentrate on mentoring, and established the crowdfunding consultancy Backer-Founder in order to achieve this.
A backer is a person who supports a crowdfunding campaign, while the founder is the person who initiates the crowdfunding campaign. Lin explains his role and that of Backer-Founder, “We are the hyphen in the middle that links up the two sides, and connects more people and resources.” The crowdfunding consultancy helps to raise funds, forges connections between people, and creates opportunities by bringing people together who can meet one another’s needs.
Participation and Trust Are Effective Boosters
Lin established Backer-Founder in 2014, and has since mentored over 100 crowdfunding teams, helping them achieve their goals in Taiwan and abroad through different channels. He has a success rate of over 90%! The consultancy begins by helping crowdfunding teams conduct market research, which clarifies their positioning, and determines their target audience. Next, it designs a copywriting structure and develops different communication strategies for demographics, advertising, and the media. It also follows up to develop backer rewards, post-launch promotions, and communication with backers, providing comprehensive assistance. It also summarizes and refines its experience into rules or models that help even more crowdfunding teams to promote their projects.
Although each one has its own form, content, and objectives, the essence of all crowdfunding projects is the same; to propose a new idea or innovation in response to an existing problem, or to meet an unfulfilled need, and then assemble the power of the masses to achieve this. Crowdfunding can even achieve such collective significance that it has the power to propel social or cultural reform.
Sharing crowdfunding secrets and marketing strategies are only secondary considerations. Lin expects the team to grasp the truly essential issues at hand. What kind of problem does this design or plan resolve? What is the impact of this problem? Why does it need everyone’s support? What can kind of change can the supporters bring? Can this lead to a movement?
In 2015, Backer-Founder mentored Taiwanese typeface design team justfont when it launched its crowdfunding campaign. At the time, Taiwan had basically not produced any new fonts in fifteen years, and the design team’s intention was to create a typeface called Jin Xuan, integrating the characteristics of two popular Chinese fonts, Sans-serif and Ming. It began as a response to local needs, and the objective was to bring a new look to Chinese script. The crowdfunding campaign reached its target in just two hours, and finished with nearly NT$26 million in pledges from over 7,600 backers. No one had anticipated such a response, as typeface was thought of as niche products. During the follow-up period, Backer-Founder helped to generate even more interest in typeface, and many people learned about its design and value.
In addition to establishing a crowdfunding consultancy and helping start-ups to take the first step on their journey by imparting knowledge and establishing guidelines, Lin also devotes his time to cultivating an environment and culture that can support crowdfunding in Taiwan. He believes that crowdfunding isn’t a revolutionary new model, since both temple buildings and print subscriptions follow a similar fundraising model, and these have been around since ancient times. It is only now that there finally exists the vocabulary to define it. What’s more, Crowdfunding is a new type of e-commerce platform, which allows people to participate in creating change. Lin believes that the sense of participation and trust associated with crowdfunding is the most effective form of agency to help designers, creators, or initiators take their first step.
The Future of Crowdfunding in Huaren Design Circle
Lin is a longterm observer of global crowdfunding trends and related topics. He has observed that the use of crowdfunding within huaren design circles is already extremely mature compared to that within Taiwan’s new cultural and creative design teams. The standard of crowdfunding campaigns coming out of huaren design is high, and many have successfully raised funds on international platforms in recent years. Examples include the compact laser engraver Cubiio, and 3D printer FLUX Delta. Both of these design projects used crowdfunding to enter the international market.
Another trait of successful crowdfunding campaigns is an unusually strong awareness of a problem that needs to be resolved through design. Normally, these are problems that society is actively facing or something that a certain societal group is currently grappling with. Lin reasons, “it originates with the pain that users themselves have experienced [and which they are therefore able to sympathize with]”. Lin also indicates that among Taiwan’s most successfully crowdfunded products, there are few cases of teams launching second or third generation products. He hopes that in the future, more designers will emerge who use core technologies to develop more complete ecosystems.
Lin is considered as a forerunner in Taiwan’s crowdfunding industry. The path he has taken has been virtually one and the same as the development of crowdfunding in Taiwan. Lin believes that crowdfunding in Taiwan is currently at a critical juncture. In terms of traditional definitions, the development of crowdfunding is already quite complete, and this presents a bigger challenge for Backer-Founder.
“We have already set a number of precedents and developed many models. To a certain extent, we have set the standard. Crowdfunding is a very public and transparent social endeavor, because everyone can directly learn from existing success stories and methods,” says Lin. He believes that the challenge that crowdfunding will face, as it moves into its next stage, involves not merely following the existing methods and categories for development, but rather striving for larger constructs and deeper participation. He notes that, “changes to any industry come about through the emergence of landmark cases.” Through fundraising, Backer-Founder will continue to explore new directions.
About Tahan Lin
Since he began participating in the crowdfunding industry in 2011, Lin has been involved in over four hundred cases that have spanned the technological, design, social, creative, and public welfare sectors. In October 2014, he established the crowdfunding consultancy Backer-Founder. The company has provided comprehensive services in the areas of marketing, planning, and production for major brands involving both domestic and foreign fundraising, as well as for the 2017 Taipei Summer Universiade. Since its establishment four years ago, Backer-Founder has cumulatively raised over NT$900 million.