It’s no secret that, in the last twenty years, crowdfunding has evolved from a small personal fundraising platform – it was first used to finance a reunion tour for British rock band, Marillion, in 1997 – to a comprehensive validation tool for startups, corporates, and nonprofits.

Indeed, in 2016, equity raised from crowdfunding passed VC funding for the first time, and, by 2025, the World Bank Report estimates that global investment through crowdfunding will reach $93 billion. No wonder established business owners and fledgling entrepreneurs alike are keen to secure a slice of this explosive industry.

If you, too, think crowdfunding might benefit your business – big or small – in 2017, here are some key trends to take note of this year:

1. Rise of niche platforms

With crowdfunding becoming increasingly accessible to all, we are likely to see a proliferation in the popularity of niche platforms in 2017. Thanks to our greater collective understanding of the benefits of crowdfunding – the ability to test the desirability of, and appetite for, your offering, as well as the opportunity to raise equity – campaigners are moving away from mass market platforms to those which draw a specific crowd. Niches like gaming, education, music, sport, and not-for-profit, as well as location-based projects, are all forming their own platforms to better serve both those crowdfunding and those investing.

Look out for platforms such as Crowdemand – a retail revolution which allows fashion designers to test the popularity of their designs and pre-sell them to an audience (thus securing funding for their completion), and RealtyMogul – a site which offers real estate investment opportunities to all, not just very wealthy institutions and individuals. And don’t forget to check out Crowdfund Campus, either: a platform designed specifically to back the projects and businesses that come out of universities.

2. Rise of smart investors

With fears that another recession may be on the horizon, sponsors are no longer prepared to throw spare change at a project simply because their nephew’s daughter’s best friend is behind it. What’s more, with crowdfunding offering millions of ordinary people the chance to invest (and not simply restricting investment to VCs), entrepreneurs should be prepared to spend time educating this new class of investors about the benefits of pledging equity to their campaign.

For some, utilising the services of a specialist agency who can manage and market their campaign might be worthwhile. For others, directing potential backers to sites like Shareholder Academy may help instill confidence in the first-time investor. But for all, ensuring proactive promotion of a project – and reinforcing the reciprocal relationship of crowdfunding investment: that product promised equals product delivered – will be absolutely vital in capturing a cautious audience’s attention.

3. Rise of corporate crowdfunding

In its infancy, crowdfunding allowed individuals to raise small amounts of money for personal projects. However, in the last few years we have seen large corporate companies leveraging crowdfunding as a research and validation method. In doing so, major world companies are not only conducting market research on their services and products, but also gaining public support and pre-orders before they go mainstream. As Duncan McCann, researcher at the New Economics Foundation, comments, “It is about understanding the market very quickly, which is a real benefit. It also brings a guarantee of a certain number of purchases and it generates loyalty.”

In 2017, we expect to see a boom in blue chip crowdfunding as the large corporates continue to learn what startups have long understood: that crowdfunding is the best medium for authenticating ideas, garnering support, and determining demand with very little risk.

If you are a university student with a budding business idea, or a lecturer looking to introduce enterprise education into your classroom, Crowdfund Campus can help. From our simulated Sandpit to our live crowdfunding marketplace, we have all the tools you need to make 2017 your most successful year yet. Contact us today to learn more and book your free demonstration.