Credibles is a unique crowdfunding platform designed to fund local food businesses. When you invest in a producer, you receive ‘edible credits’.
These days there is no shortage of crowdfunding sites on the Web. Initially, pioneering sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo were open to all kinds of projects but more recently, crowdfunding sites are increasingly targeting niche markets. Watsi for instance is dedicated to non-profit projects, while SeedVo and Fundable, are designed to back small businesses. New on the scene is Credibles, a crowdfunding service for food businesses. Like all sectors, the food industry has its own specificities that call for an appropriate financing model – different from other crowdfunding sites. Credibles co-founders Arno Hesse and Guillaume Lebleu have been focusing their efforts on building a crowdfunding model that actually serves local producers, while giving strong incentives for people to invest. In a nutshell, Credibles offers a crowd-funding model where the return on investment is measured in apples, cheese and organic kale.
Pre-paying food products online
Backers can invest money in any producer or restaurant that is part of the Credibles network. In exchange, you receive ‘edible credits’ that can be redeemed in-store or deducted from a restaurant bill. For instance, if a user invests $100 into a local cheese maker, she will receive edible credits to a slightly higher value, say $110 worth of Credibles. In other words, backers pre-pay their food and get rewarded with extra credit. With the online site, users can browse through local farmers or restaurants, invest in the ones they like and manage their accounts online. Next time they walk into a restaurant or producer they invested in, they can simply ask to pay in “Credibles.” Paying with virtual Credits make a smooth experience – a major aspect of the “Credibles experience” the co-founders argue. Another attribute is the quality of food business that are part of the Credibles network: the team carefully curates every single project that would like to join the platform. They go from “sustainable sushi to hand made yogurt, fresh fruit juice, and organic restaurants,” explains Credibles co-founder Guillaume Lebleu.
Rethinking investment models
Many entrepreneurs have tried to enter the food business scene. As Guillaume Lebleu puts it, “food challenges are now becoming tech challenges.” Community-Supported Agriculture initiatives (CSAs) and startups like Good Eggs for instance chose to use the web as a “new” distribution channel for local producers. Users typically order and pay online, and get delivered right on their doorstep. But most of the time, customers don’t really get to pick their products, and they often end up wasting part of the food, if for some reason they didn’t have the time to cook it all one week. Credibles, however, was built as a way for food producers and restaurant owners to finance their working capital, and cement customer loyalty. Which is why its owners are making a different bet: funding existing businesses, selling food products in advance and “using businesses’ existing distribution channels” Guillaume Lebleu explains. Customers have to go to the seller’s existing point of sale to make their purchase. At the same time, “[this system] allows customers to remain flexible and buy products they like, whenever they want” Guillaume Lebleu says. "Basically, it is a new investment model" he concludes.