With transportation and electricity slowly coming back online, small businesses throughout the East Coast of the U.S. are hurrying to reopen stores and recoup lost revenues in Sandy’s wake. But for those businesses with physical damage, recovery will be a longer process — and will require working capital that’s likely already stretched thin to make the repairs necessary to open the doors again. Crowd-funding service Lucky Ant wants to help.
The Manhattan-based company has waived its fee, allowing any business (in New York or elsewhere) to raise funds for recovery free of charge. Here’s how it works: businesses post a goal on the site with various incentives — say 15% off of all weekday purchases or a free meal at the chef’s table — and members of the community pledge whatever they can afford (like they would on Kickstarter). The pledges are only charged if and when the business reaches its targeted amount.
There is no cap on the amount business can raise through the platform, but most should aim to raise somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000, Jonathan Moyal, Lucky Ant’s co-founder told Street Fight Wednesday. Moyal says that the company will work with businesses individually to make building a campaign as seamless as possible.
“I was working on Lucky Ant when [Hurricane] Irene hit and I remember feeling so helpless by the fact that we did not have a site up yet to help,” says Moyal. “[With Sandy] It quickly became very clear that it was going to be necessary.”
Lucky Ant’s decision comes as The New York Times and Washington Post chose to take down their paywalls in advance of the storm, and other local plays like Uber were forced to modify their pricing model after an outcry by New York’s burgeoning technology community.
Sandy has been a showcase of sorts for the “crowd” (and citizen journalism) with the Twitter community in particular demonstrating an innate ability to surface relevant, and truthful content. While crowdfunding remains much younger in its development cycle than content, it offers some unique opportunities to organize capital quickly during calamitous events.
“I think in these situations a lot of donations come in from around the globe, but sometimes the little guys get left by the wayside — small businesses aren’t going to be getting assistance from the Red Cross,” says Moyal. “The beauty of crowdfunding is that it will allow people to give right to those who need.”
Like many technology companies in New York, LuckyAnt has suffered in its own right in Sandy’s wake. The storm flooded the company’s servers, taking its site offline until early this morning. (The site is live again, but if problems persist business owners can email requests to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Steven Jacobs is deputy editor at Street Fight.