Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Donald Trump Launches FundAnything, a Kickstarter Clone Meant to Bring Crowdfunding to the Masses

Crowdfunding now has a celebrity mogul endorsement.

A new site called FundAnything from Learning Annex founder Bill Zanker launches today with help from loudmouth businessman Donald Trump.


Bill Zanker and Donald Trump

Trump’s approach will be to effectively trump the crowd by fully funding some FundAnything projects himself. He also committed to tweet new projects on a weekly basis — alongside his regular patter of political commentary, “Celebrity Apprentice” promotion and skirmishes with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart.

Trump said in a phone interview yesterday, “So many people need help, and this is a good way of doing it by helping very specific problems.”

He said his interest in crowdfunding came from this specificity. “It’s something different that it could be pinpointed.”

Yes, FundAnything looks just like a ripoff of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and Zanker is unapologetic about that.

“Crowdfunding got traction with creatives and tech, but you go anywhere but the coasts and they don’t get it yet,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is bring crowdfunding away from the Brooklyn hipsters and bring it to the masses.”

Look familiar? You must be a Brooklyn hipster.

Look familiar? You must be a Brooklyn hipster.

At a launch event this morning at Trump Tower in New York, Trump plans to give away suitcases full of cash to someone who is raising money for her husband’s double lung transplant ($40,000), a children’s party business wanting to hold a weekend for kids impacted by Hurricane Sandy ($15,000), and a singer-songwriter from Nashville making an album and music videos ($25,000).

The event was supposed to be livestreamed, but I’ve just been told that technical difficulties will prevent that.

Trump described the fundings as his response to people feeling “bullied by the economy.”

Trump added that he had a long-standing relationship with Zanker after making speeches for the Learning Annex that drew crowds of 80,000 people. The two wrote a book called “Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.” “We really have had great success together,” Trump said.

But the whole notion of crowdfunding is about peer-to-peer distribution of resources … right?

Zanker, who bootstrapped FundAnything with about $1 million, said that the startup wasn’t trying to be an elite site.

Non-Trump users will be encouraged to donate only to friends and family that they know until they feel comfortable, and will be promised a guarantee of up to $100 if a campaign turns out to be a fraud.

FundAnything will charge campaigns a 5 percent administration fee, or 9 percent if a campaign doesn’t meet its goal.

“We want to make it so we are the brand that everybody knows,” said Zanker. “There’s a wonderful way to pass the hat online, and nobody knows about it.”

For crowdfunding to become a multibillion-dollar industry, it needs more attention, he argued. “Bringing a concept to the masses takes star power.”

Asked what the Donald Trump brand stands for in this case, Zanker said, “It stands for money and it stands for luxury, for first class, for being proper. From ‘The Celebrity Apprentice,’ it’s about charity and it’s about building businesses.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work