In the past, entrepreneurs on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo could offer contributors a gift in exchange for cash. Then a year ago, they could begin offering them equity in their company.
Now, they can offer them the actual product.
Today the website that allows startups to raise money from small givers around the world is opening a new platform in what amounts to something of a strategic pivot for the portal.
Indiegogo will now sell products that are successfully crowdfunded — a move into online commerce that positions the company both against giants like Amazon and more selective shopping experiences like Etsy.
The site, which has gradually created more incentives beyond pure charity for donors to fund a particular project, is also taking another step that reflects a departure from its crowdfunding roots: Even projects that were not originally funded by Indiegogo contributors will be able to sell on the platform, which the company calls Marketplace.
“When the company originally launched, the original goal was just to make it easier for founders,” Dave Mandelbrot, the company’s CEO, told Recode. “Launching the marketplace is really the last step of that to ensure that — once they have a product — that is ready for purchase.”
The company expects that most of the products offered in Marketplace will be listed by founders who have the site to thank for their product even existing. A yearlong pilot project found that 70 percent of the offered products were originally funded through Indiegogo.
Yet for the projects that Indiegogo customers did not back, Mandelbrot promises vetting to produce “heavily curated” listings.
“You won’t find a lot of standard fare there. But you will find the latest electronic bicycle that’s trying to make transportation more efficient, or luggage that follows you around the airport,” he said, “not the average, everyday things you find on Amazon.”
Indiegogo will not be alone in this market — Amazon itself even is trying to appeal to the same type of makers through Amazon Launchpad, which backs emerging products. And e-commerce startups sometimes find that selling more niche products could butt heads with the need to grow quickly, which obviously their venture capitalist investors are demanding. Indiegogo will take around 10% or 15% of the sale price of the product.
Indiegogo may also find trouble attracting a large customer base — companies that are not known for selling products, such as Pinterest, have found it challenging to change their perception among users when they start to. Indiegogo’s brand is historically focused on merely fundraising.
But Indiegogo’s move does open up yet another way to distinguish itself from its closest competitor, Kickstarter. New federal rules last year allowed crowdfunding platforms to offer donors ownership stakes in exchange for their cash — allowing essentially anyone to play the role of venture capitalist.
Indiegogo, which in the past had only offer contributors “perks” like a t-shirt or tickets to a show, began to sell equity last November. Kickstarted hasn’t followed suit despite the rule change, nor can entrepreneurs sell their products through the site.
“We’re here to help bring creative projects to life. We measure our success as a company by how well we achieve that mission,” said Kickstarter spokesman David Gallagher, noting that his company does have partnerships with platforms like Amazon. “We also aim to make clear that Kickstarter is not a store — it’s a way to support the creation of something new.”
Indiegogo has raised $56.5 million since it was founded in 2008, but has not collected additional financing since 2014. Mandelbrot said he did not anticipate raising any more private funding.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.