Crowdfunding and donation platforms are not a new concept and have been widely used to fund everything from new projects to surgery to even things like your honeymoon. Kickstarter or Indiegogo have become popular global platforms for many.

Airfunding is doing it decidedly different with their ‘keep-it-all’ platform, which seems to defy basic business sense, but has a strong mission behind it. Started by the team behind the successful Airtripp social media app, this Japanese company decided to launch a crowdfunding platform for those who need a bit of financial help to achieve their dreams.

This quickly took off through word-of-mouth and a savvy digital marketing campaign, with Southeast Asia becoming their main market. Currently they have over 30,000 projects from more than 140 countries, mostly from Southeast Asia.

We spoke to Ryosuke Abe, CEO of Co-Founder of Kiheitai, the parent group for Airfunding about their journey so far and the intentions behind the platform. He was kind enough to spare some of his time to explain a bit more.

The Airfunding team

Congratulations on reaching over 30,000 projects on your platform in under two years. How have you managed to grow it to that scale in such a short time?

Before launching Airfunding, we have been running a social media app called Airtripp since 2012.

At first we used Airtripp users base, the other service Kiheitai provides, to find people who wanted to create a crowdfunding project on Airfunding. Despite the small number, we were able to develop a track record and word-of-mouth effect.

After that, using Google Ads, we were able to reach people in need in more than 10 countries who wanted to raise funds through crowdfunding. Furthermore, we were able to spread the platform on social media, like Facebook and WhatsApp, by focusing on the project’s sharing functions.

I think that the reason why we were able to expand the platform in such a short period of time was the use of functional improvements and marketing experience that Kihetai has built up on Airtripp.

What was the reason for starting this business?

Our vision is to eliminate all the boundaries around the world and overcome the impossible. Before launching Airfunding we were already managing Airtripp, a communication app with over 10 million downloads, since 2012. While Airtripp’s concept itself is to allow individuals around the world to communicate and become friends, Airfunding also focuses on creating a mutually supportive relationship with people around the world.

Airtripp management has allowed us to build friendly relationships with users around the world. For example, there is an Indonesian college student who really loves Japan and whose dream is to study in Japan someday but, because of economic disparities, her dream turned out impossible to achieve. That made us to start realizing that there wasn’t a way for people in different countries to support each other with a small amount of money.

We started Airfunding believing that if a person could get some support from people around the world, friends and relatives through crowdfunding, there would be no need to give up dreams because of financial reasons.

As a ‘keep-it-all’ platform, how are you monetising your business?

We believe that even a small amount of money would be a real help to project owners. That’s why we decided to make a keep-it-all platform.
Our business model relies on tips from the supporter. It’s essentially just a commission but, when you support a project you can choose to tip a percentage of the amount.

The Airfunding platform

Southeast Asia seems to be a large market for you. Why is that?

Southeast Asia is our most important market because of these three reasons:

  1. The donation culture where people help and support each other is deeper than in other areas.
  2. Besides its economic development, it’s experiencing a remarkable growth rate of online e-commerce market (Airfunding is online donation).
  3. While the economy is growing, social and public insurance systems are often underdeveloped compared to developed countries. There is much room for our services to contribute as a safety net to those who are forced into difficult situations in life, for example, when a family’s mainstay becomes ill.

Can you share the popular industries or types of projects you see on your platform from the region?

In Singapore, the most popular categories are, in general, medical, business and education.

Last year, around 12 students of the Newcastle University in Singapore, opened projects in Airfunding to get some support to afford their expenses for an overseas immersion program. One of them started, and then the word spread and many more started to use the platform too, which proves how important is the word of mouth.

Our platform is conceived for small-scale projects. However, sometimes that goal is surpassed, like the project of Asyraf from Singapore, that got our attention because 37 people helped to collect more than $1,700 to help his medical expenses after an accident.

In the rest of Southeast Asia, medical is the most used category as well. This medical project that aims to raise funds for the hospital expenses of 2 conjoined twins from Philippines, has touched the hearts of a lot of people from many different countries around the world.

What has been the most successful project on your platform so far?

The project that has collected the most so far, and it is still ongoing, belongs to Wahyu from Indonesia. He has collected already more than $5,000 for his cranial surgery, thanks to people from all around the world. It has been supported already 168 times.

As Airfunding is a global crowdfunding platform that allows people from any country, not only to open projects, but also to donate, all Wahyu’s international friends have been able to support him easily. We hope he can collect even more support!

What is next for Airfunding?

We would like to keep expanding Airfunding in emerging areas such as Southeast Asia and South America and make it a service that can be a safety net for society.

In emerging countries, the knowledge on donation-type crowdfunding mechanism itself is not high yet. To that end, in 2020 we will focus on promotion in emerging countries, to raise awareness of Airfunding.

Also, in Southeast Asia, online payment methods such as E-wallet are currently growing rapidly, but every country uses a different type. That’s why Airfunding will introduce E-wallets used in each country to create a seamless online donation experience for anyone in any place.