Royal Designer for Industry Terence Woodgate has turned to equity crowdfunding to expand his new lighting brand. However, this isn’t just another Kickstarter campaign. In contrast to projects of that type – where supporters pay in advance for products, therefore giving the maker financial backing to set up production – Woodgate is asking for investment in return for shares in his business. Though a fairly unusual idea in the design industry, it is a more democratic one, he says.
“This is different to the Kickstarters and Indiegogos, because when the companies become more successful, the people who initially put in the seed capital get nothing. They’ve got the original product but they don’t share in the success of the company. I think that’s unfair.”
The collection launched as an exhibition at the Libby Sellers Gallery. Woodgate displayed the designs for Solid – a sophisticated range of simple pendant lights in marble, oak and walnut, lit using the latest LED technology – and invited retailers to come and have a look. “They all came, and they all purchased,” he says. Buyers reportedly included Heal’s, Nest, SCP, Viaduct and The Conran Shop.
“I had thought we’d grow it organically, selling and then putting the money into growth, but the response seemed more deserving that that, so I thought maybe we should ramp it up.”
Woodgate looked to Crowdcube, an online platform for launching equity crowdfunding campaigns where supporters can invest from £10. “First I was a bit uncomfortable. Asking for money in the design world seems a bit vulgar, but we can’t grow without it.” As opposed to having a few wealthy investors, crowdfunding, he says, is more inclusive. “I was a socialist in my student days, but I like this. It’s capitalism 2.0. It gives everyone a chance to have shares in a company. It’s an endorsement, an act of trust.”
Woodgate says LED technology allows for more design freedom. For the Solid range, tiny Megaman LEDs hide away neatly, allowing the classic materials to take centre stage. They provide a warm light equivalent to a 60W bulb but at just 3W, are suitable for use with wood. The elements can also be controlled via a Bluetooth or IP chip, so they can be dimmed, grouped or programmed using a smart phone, and last between 25,000 – 50,000 hours.
“I’ve been designing lighting for 25 years and this is the most exciting time. From cave times we’ve lit our spaces by fire; an incandescent light is a filament burning in gas. An LED chip is different. It emits photons. It is more akin to the Hadron Collider than our cave fire.”
Visit Terence Woodgate’s Crowdcube page to invest.
Update 15 December 2014: Woodgate has exceeded his target, securing over £158,000 investment after 36 days on Crowdcube.