Luminopolis launches Neighbor.ly to crowdfund civic projects
Jase Wilson founded Luminopolis, which recently launched Neighbor.ly to help find funding for civic projects.
Strengthening communities, no matter the method, is what lies at the core of Kansas City, Mo.-based startup Luminopolis.
Founded in late 2003 by Jase Wilson, Luminopolis set out to improve communities by helping them design, develop and maintain online solutions. Since then, Luminopolis has worked with more than 100 clients, including the City of Kansas City, Missouri, the Kansas City Chiefs and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Aside from working with existing clients — Luminopolis isn't currently taking on new accounts — the company's main project is Neighbor.ly, a civic crowdfunding platform. The service launched last month and, according to Wilson, aspires to "help people invest in places and civic projects they care about, help cities greenlight tough projects and save money on capital."
Neighbor.ly takes the current trend of crowdfunding — think Kickstarter — and applies it to community-centric projects. It also provides additional services, like playing a role in the campaigning and fulfillment of fundraising efforts and assisting with the listing and definition of projects.
One project currently listed on Neighbor.ly is BikeShareKC, an effort to raise money for a new public bike sharing system downtown. Coming soon are projects such as a push for awareness of an ultra-fast wireless network in the Crossroads District, and an effort called KC Cloud Commons, a cheaper alternative for high-performance infrastructure for KC tech startups.
"Due to the efforts of Neighbor.ly, people from the surrounding metropolitan area, from places like Lee's Summit, Leawood, and Liberty, can get involved in civic projects that either have a non-direct effect on their day-to-day life or are not directly taxed on them," said Shaul Jolles, the co-founder of OfficePort, where Wilson and company base their operations. "For example, citizens can now easily be active and productive with their valued participation in civic activities such as bike share programs or urban transit projects."
The KC Streetcar project
In addition to BikeShareKC, Neighbor.ly is currently attempting to crowdfund a huge project — the KC Streetcar Starter Line.
The KC Streetcar will be the biggest project Neighbor.ly has tackled yet. Per the description on its crowdsourcing project page, the purpose of the campaign for the streetcar is to "Transform the streetcar's funding from an obligation affecting a few Kansas Citians into an opportunity open to anyone in the world."
The first phase of the streetcar project runs until the end of August and, when all is said and done, is attempting to raise $10 million. "Doing so would save the city roughly $15 to $18 million in the long run, as this is money that won't need to be borrowed and repaid at interest." Wilson said. He said this first phase of the streetcar funding would be "laying the groundwork for much larger stages to come."
Competition and future growth
Other crowdfunding platforms with civic aims include Patronhood, which hasn't launched yet, and Citizenvestor. Wilson cites SpaceHive, based in London, as the company that most closely mirrors Neighbor.ly's mission. "They're extraordinary and were a huge part of the inspiration that led to Neighbor.ly," Wilson said of SpaceHive. "They are focused on U.K. projects, and we hope to become their U.S. ally."
Neighbor.ly plans to earn revenue with a model similar to other crowdfunding services, charging project owners a five-percent fee of funds raised.
Neighbor.ly operates under the umbrella of Luminopolis, which is run by Wilson and his business partner, Briston Davidge. Neighbor.ly has six employees in addition to Wilson and Davidge, and Wilson to more than double that number in 2013.
What else is on the horizon for Neighbor.ly? "Constantly improve the platform through continuous integration," Wilson said. "Line up 10 projects in 2012, 100 in 2013. Focus on user experience, rewards for early adopters and referrers. Continue to develop relationships with the hard-working folks doing big things in cities across the nation."
For an introduction to the KC Streetcar Starter Line, a project listed on Neighbor.ly, see the video below.
Credit: Photo of Wilson by Annie Sorensen.