above the crowd
When Kalif Auditore spotted a DISCONNECT in the way ENTREPRENEURS were connecting with INVESTORS, he STRUCK GOLD. Here’s how.
What happened to me is something I can’t cancel, I can’t change, it’s always going to be there,” says Kalif Auditore. “But I can try to inspire people to understand. When you think you’ve had a bad day, when you think something bad is happening – bad can be worse. You have to be a fighter. The only reason I survived that hell was I was a fighter. I didn’t want to give up.”
Kalif Auditore, co-founder of emerging crowdfunding platform Joey Crowd, knows first-hand the difference between bad and worse. As a young boy, his family moved from Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in West Africa, to Ivory Coast where his parents, who were searching for a better life for their children, instead found themselves in a nightmare scenario. Without legal papers, they were easy prey for exploitative employers who put them to work in a plantation. Clean water and food were in short supply, medical care and wages non-existent. Tragically, Kalif ’s parents died; two more deaths in a sea of hopelessness and slavery.
“[In that plantation] you’re like a number. You die, no one cares,” says Kalif. “I saw so many kids die in front of me.”
After their parents’ deaths, Kalif and his younger sister were taken in by nuns at a local hospital. Eventually, they were adopted and moved to Italy with their new family.
“I lost everything, but an act of love and understanding gave me an amazing belief in life and in the power of love,” says Kalif.
Recognising his restless mind, Kalif’s adoptive mother – an academic and philosopher – fed him an endless banquet of books and took him and his sister travelling with her.
“She always wanted us to learn more and more… I was lucky to grow up in that environment,” he says. “She knew I wouldn’t sit in a room; she always had me doing things, challenging myself.”
Kalif moved to Australia to study at the University of Adelaide, and in 2010, an idea began to circle in the back of his mind. He had been continually approaching banks and investment companies about projects he was working on, including an entertainment company, and was rejected over and over, which led him to notice a strange disconnect.
“[The banks] were always saying, ‘No, no, no’. But when I was talking to the end customer, the end customer was extremely happy… I thought, ‘I don’t need the banks if the end user wants to buy what I want to do.’”
Realising the need for a way for entrepreneurs to connect directly with both investors and customers – in short,
When you think you’ve had a BAD DAY, when you think something bad is happening – bad can be WORSE. You have to be a FIGHTER.
crowdfunding – Kalif teamed up with Nick Boniciolli after the pair met at a university business plan competition. Joey Crowd’s third co-founder and CTO, developer Joshua White, came on board in 2014.
Over five years, the trio ripped their idea apart and put it back together on the advice of their mentors. Even so, Kalif, Joshua and Nick, who was appointed COO, struggled to sell it to an Australian market where, in 2014, there was still a lack of recognition of crowdfunding being its own market.
“I was obsessed, night and day,” says Kalif. “We were testing and trying to sell the concept. Everyone [we approached] thought, ‘Too crazy, it’s not going to work.’ Way encouraging! So we went to America. We were innocent guys, [saying], ‘We want to do this. You are the experts in the industry, what do you guys think?’”
They eventually struck gold. “[Our investors] said, ‘You think you need $14,000? We think you need more than that!’ So they gave us this money and we built a prototype.”
Flying home with AU$50,000 from a Texan investor, Joey Crowd finally had the funding needed to actually design and build a website. But they now had a new challenge: in a crowdfunding market that’s increasingly, well, crowded, how do you poke your head above the pack? >
JOEY CROWD CO-FOUNDERS (L-R) KALIF AUDITORE (CEO), NICK BONICIOLLI (COO) & JOSHUA WHITE (CTO)