Would participatory financing, which could no longer be dispensed with if we want to get out of the traditional banking circuit, go against the capitalist principle, or would it only be the new avatar of it? Would these platforms, which are most often content with putting supply and demand together (like Uber or Airbnb), offering nothing but the interface and coaching, and helping themselves for free in the process, really allow for the financing of other types of projects, « outside the system »?
In 2010, Ombline le Lasseur launched KissKissBank with her husband Vincent Ricordeau and her cousin Adrien Aumont. Vincent Ricordeau, co-founder of the platform, founded and managed several companies before joining SportFive, a leader in sports marketing, and becoming its vice president. He is one of those who are now called « serial entrepreneurs », that is, the same as before but cooler, more casual, jeans and sneakers.
At the beginning, KissKissBankBank was aimed at musicians and allowed them to solicit Internet users in order to carry out their projects, but it quickly expanded to other fields. But to reassure the music industry and raise funds, the founder must find the words so that they understand that it will be business as usual: « My partners and I had to explain at length that KissKissBankBank was not a loss of revenue for the music industry, but that, on the contrary, this tool allowed artists to establish a more interesting and renewed relationship with their fans. Moreover, our platform allows to finance special projects, which are not those that labels are used to produce ».(1) This precautionary approach speaks volumes about the continuity of the crowdfunding model, and not about the need to break with the dominant model. Today, the company has reached over 133 million funds, managed 25,000 projects and has 2.6 million members.
Although the three founders« firmly believe that the peer-to-peer or individual-to-individual economy allows for the emergence of new modes of organization within our society », this will not prevent them from selling in July 2017 KissKissBankBank to the Postal Bank, making the platform one of the European leaders in participatory financing. How much did the lovebirds of participatory financing sell their box and under what conditions, knowing that they still sit in the management committee? « The amount of the transaction has not been disclosed, but it is likely to be around ten million euros, knowing that the last fundraising of KKBB, in 2016, had allowed the company to collect 5.3 million. Among the investors present at this latest round of financing, there was notably Orange ».(2) The company quickly became one of the main European sites of participative financing, and one of its founders, Adrien Aumont, is already dreaming of a new project that« already seduces big names in finance ».(3)
Crowdfunding does not get out of the financial logic of the reduction of actors and one can wonder if this concentration in a few big boxes does not go against the basic principles of a citizen financing, by putting them in a position to choose projects bankable and acceptable to the system in place. If at first one could think that these modern entrepreneurs would leave them free of censorship and select projects not only according to their probability of success but also according to their political acceptability, this is not the case. Behind their « responsibility and ethics », a catch-all phrase that can be found on the Total website as well as in a speech by the Ecolo party, they grant themselves the right to a verification by a « coach », who reserves the right to accept the project or to send suggestions for improvement within a maximum of 2 working days.
And we did the test.
We submitted our project on Friday, March 4, and only got a response on Wednesday, March 9, at 4:30 p.m. (i.e. out of time), after we sent a message via the contact form. See for yourself:
We kindly explained to the « coach » that we had not« created two projects on two platforms at the same time »:
The « coach » has « understood », but not really…
After this procrastination, the final decision is made:
And we told him what we thought.
This will result in the rejection of our project:
Yet the explanatory steps do not seem to even address the possibility of refusal:
We decided to solicit another platform, Ulule, which chose to play in the same court, although a little more frank, and the owl said out loud what KissKiss thought down. The most surprising thing is that we received the rejection message only 1.5 hours after submitting our project, while our counterparts and introductions were still in draft form. However, they considered that this was enough to refuse the project, on the pretext that one« could be involved in spreading inaccurate or misleading information, or presenting beliefs as facts ». It is surprising how effective Ulule is at detecting« inaccurate or misleading » information. My little finger tells me that it is rather a question of offence — not of face — but of name. Would Kairos have become the white wolf and the target to be shot…
The new capitalism, under the guise of doing something else, has just exploited new market shares and made people lose a little more autonomy. Like YouTube or Facebook, which privatize public speech, financial crowdfunding platforms have privatized participatory financing that should never have left the domain of collective management.