Successful crowdfunding campaigns typically start with a carefully coordinated promotional campaign. But those can be costly.

Just ask CrowdfundX, an ad agency at the forefront of the budding online equity crowdfunding industry.

“When you are talking about raising millions of dollars from the crowd, it is not easy and it is not cheap,” said Darren Marble, the firm’s chief executive. “You’re not going to be successful raising $10 million on a shoestring budget.”

The West L.A. ad agency spends an average of $250,000 per crowdfunding effort on advertising campaigns and pitching journalists on the allure of a client’s online stock offering. The firm takes a cut of that amount as part or all of its fee, said Marble, though he declined to disclose the percentage.

CrowdfundX has run marketing for more than 100 crowdfunding campaigns over the last three years, including 12 equity crowdfunding efforts in the past 12 months. Most notably, the company marketed the campaign of Phoenix automotive startup Elio Motors, which raised $17 million in the largest equity crowdfunding campaign to date.

Though some online fundraising efforts fail, use of an agency has become an indispensable and growing factor, said Vincent Bradley, chief executive of online crowdfunding platform FlashFunders of Santa Monica.

“There are three things that are important for the success of a crowdfunding campaign: The first most important thing is the quality of the product; second is quality of the crowdfunding agency; and then the quality of the platform,” he said. “Agencies are pivotal to the success of a crowdfunding campaign.”

CrowdfundX stumbled into its niche in 2013, said Marble, after the firm’s first iteration as a social networking and distribution portal for filmmakers didn’t pan out.

“We failed into this business,” he said. “At the suggestion of an investor, we pivoted into an agency.”

The company initially ran marketing campaigns for rewards-based crowdfunding efforts on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The firm switched its focus when the Securities and Exchange Commission approved Title IV of the Jobs Act last year, which opened the door to unaccredited investors.

The 15-employee firm has raised $300,000 in capital from angel investors such as James Ackerman, former chief executive of Documentary Channel, and Steve Johnson, ex-chief investment officer of Apple Inc.’s asset management fund Braeburn Capital. The company is seeking an undisclosed amount of outside financing to speed up growth, said Marble, noting the agency is profitable, with revenue of $1 million last year. He projected that number to double or triple this year.


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