"IMD really put us in a business development state of mind"
EMBA Alumni 2009 launch Cofundit
Designed to support exchanges between investors, entrepreneurs and experts, there's a new online platform capable of changing the way businesses seek funding.
The web marketplace, Cofundit, recently launched in June of 2010, is the innovation of IMD EMBA alumni (2009), William Blanco-Bose and Hervé Flutto. The two founders seek to revolutionize and better facilitate the way investing is done.
"In dealing with banks and equity, there's currently a funding gap that often makes it difficult for companies seeking financing," Blanco-Bose said. "We allow investors to put smaller amounts on the table and through crowd funding, entrepreneurs are capable to obtain the capital they need without signing over equity in their businesses."
"Cofundit is also more cost-efficient than traditional financing," Flutto adds. "There's less bureaucracy and no credit approvals or processing fees.
"Cofundit's business model originates from the concept of crowd funding, a collective way people can pool money to support predefined efforts, in this case small business funding. And, the idea to use crowd funding came about through IMD.
Where partnerships flourish
For the founders of Cofundit, IMD has proven to be much more than a business school.
Working in similar fields, Blanco-Bose and Flutto created a bond during the IMD Discovery Expedition in Silicon Valley that would develop into becoming business partners.
"IMD really put us in a business development state of mind," Blanco-Bose recalled. "We got a little consumed with the whole idea of creating a business and started talking about making that a reality."
Using Blanco-Bose's knowledge of public support for innovation development in small businesses, and Flutto's experience in private financing, the two decided to form a consultancy dedicating to serving companies seeking funding from both sectors. Open to further innovating on this initial idea, the advice of IMD Professor David Robertson, motivated them into changing direction.
"Applying the crowd-sourcing concept to early stage venture funding is brilliant. If Cofundit achieves even a small part of what it's trying to do, it could open up great opportunities for both investors and entrepreneurs," Robertson said.
Testing the water
With their idea taking a new direction, the two alumni moved into execution stage by erecting an online platform, the alpha test model for Cofundit. And, who better to conduct the test, than their colleagues at IMD.
"The great thing about IMD is the quality of the participants," Blanco-Bose said of the testing Cofundit performed with the MBA class and participants of the Program for Executive Development (PED). "No one holds back in expressing their opinions and thoughts, which makes for really good, candid feedback."
A new age of investing
From the outside, Cofundit is an investing tool, but once inside the site an entire marketplace comes alive.
"We have the benefit of creating a network of like-minded people interested in growing companies and sharing ideas," Flutto said.
And, thanks to the nature of crowd funding, Cofundit engages new types of investors to the financing of small businesses: many who may come from traditional investment mediums such as online trading platforms.
"Cofundit gives people a chance to really know what they are investing in. They can connect with products and ideas they believe in on a personal level and support them through investment," Blanco-Bose said. "This is a tool that has never existed before.
"Other than fund seekers and investors, Cofundit provides an outlet for experts to give constructive feedback on business concepts.
"You don't need a funding request to be on the platform. Cofundit is open to anyone who wants to be a member and comment," Blanco-Bose said. "Experts looking for exposure are welcome, and an expert can be anyone with a deep knowledge in a field; the Entrepreneurs with Business concepts on our platform are looking for this kind of feedback."
On and off the web
For the time being, Cofundit is open worldwide to investors and experts. Entrepreneurs with new ideas must be developing a company in Switzerland.
Offline, Cofundit hosts monthly networking events throughout Switzerland that add a critical personal element to the virtual platform, acting as a key building block for the community.
Cofundit welcomes those interested in this new sphere for investing to attend, as Flutto underscores the importance of networking in advice for IMD participants.
"With everything is going on in your professional lives, don't forget that the relationships you make are often what counts."