Oh, won't you fund my dream?

SINGAPORE - One student wanted people to fly his mother from India to join him in Singapore. Another self-professed "poorer than a student" national serviceman here asked strangers to pay for his meals. Then there are other Singaporeans who seek help to fund their education overseas.

These are just some of the projects that SundayLife! found after a quick search on popular crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Crowdfunding is the process in which the budget of a project is raised through contributions from the public, usually via an online campaign. Indiegogo was founded in 2008 and Kickstarter a year later.

The two websites list about 35 and 40 Singapore-based projects respectively, with at least 10 of them wanting help to fund non-entrepreneurial projects.

But some of these seem no more than disguised begging. After all, such projects are generally self-serving and there are either small or no tangible rewards for supporters. Instead, benefits usually come in the form of a thank-you e-mail, postcard, e-hug or an acknowledgement on social media.

Overseas, there has been much hype over such projects that simply call for donations - and succeed.

Take Mr Zack Brown's potato salad project on Kickstarter, for instance. In July, the American asked for US$10 (S$12.65) to make a potato salad and ended up securing 6,911 backers and raising US$55,492 within a month.

Those who pledged at least US$3 will get "a bite of potato salad", which is expected to be delivered in December. Those who pledged US$110 or more will get a potato salad recipe book, a shirt and a hat, along with a bite of the potato salad and a photo of Mr Brown making the salad.

Over on Indiegogo, a Canadian named Steve raised C$440,195 (S$507,557), exceeding his target of C$400,000, to build a sanctuary for his 227kg pet pig Esther. His project drew 7,459 funders in June.

So is there a problem with such self-serving projects? Associate Professor Hooi Den Huan, director of the Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Technopreneurship Center, thinks not.

"The crowdfunding concept can be used by anyone and be applied to any industry," he says.

"Ultimately, it is up to the community to decide whether to invest in the various projects and causes."

Indiegogo's spokesman says the website allows "anyone, anywhere" to "make their dreams a reality".

So whether the campaigns are entrepreneurial or not, they can be listed on the platform.

The spokesman adds that cause-related campaigns, such as "help me get a new tooth" or "help me have a baby" by sponsoring fertility treatments, have drawn growing support from Indiegogo's global community, which spans 224 countries and territories. Without revealing absolute figures, he says the number of such campaigns has been increasing by 50 per cent over the past year.

Kickstarter, whose mission is to help bring creative projects to life, operates differently from Indiegogo. According to its website, every Kickstarter project must follow three rules: It must create something to share with others; it must be honest and clearly presented; and it cannot promise to donate funds raised to a charity or cause.

SundayLife! contacted six Singaporeans who used such crowdfunding platforms as a means of securing money for personal reasons, whether it is to further their studies or to pay for their meals.

All either did not reply or declined to comment.

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