above the crowd

When Kalif Auditore spot­ted a DIS­CON­NECT in the way EN­TREPRENEURS were con­nect­ing with IN­VESTORS, he STRUCK GOLD. Here’s how.

Collective Hub - - / BUSINESS - WORDS RICHARD MILLER

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)

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