Civic crowdfunding pioneer, Spacehive, closes new funding as confidence grows in £200bn “future cities” marketplace | Big Society Capital

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Civic crowdfunding pioneer, Spacehive, closes new funding as confidence grows in £200bn “future cities” marketplace

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Spacehive, the world’s first civic crowdfunding platform, has today announced the completion of a £1.3m funding round led by a mix of institutional investors and angels.

The website aims to democratise the way we shape our towns and cities by allowing anyone to create and fund civic projects online. Previous successes include range from playgrounds and parks to free public wi-fi networks.

The startup hopes to play a major role in the UK’s bid to lead a new global industry of services aimed at improving the efficiency and livability of cities. It’s a sector which could be worth more than £200bn, according to new research by Arup, the consultancy and Future Cities Catapult, the government-backed think tank.

Spacehive’s £1.3m finance raise was led by the Belgian SI² Fund, one of growing array of alternative investors targeting social – as well as financial - returns. Big Society Capital, the financial institution set up to boost investment in British social ventures, also backed Spacehive, alongside a number of individual angel investors.

Since being set up in 2012, Spacehive has helped to fund 55 projects across the UK worth £1.8m. Popular success stories have included public wi-fi covering the town of Mansfield, an urban farm created from the grounds of an abandoned school in North London, a plan to convert a motorway flyover in central Liverpool into a “sky park”, and a giant waterslide installed in the middle of a high street in Bristol for a day. 

Pledges of funding for Spacehive projects come from a mix of ordinary people, businesses, and councils, which are only charged if the fundraise is successful and the project goes ahead. 

Backers had included Kevin McCloud, the Grand Designs presenter, Danny

Boyle, the film director, David Bailey, the photographer and Suggs, the Madness singer, cricket legend Sir Ian Botha and firms like Tesco, John Lewis along with mayors of Hackney, Bristol, and Liverpool.

Match funding is provided by Spacehive’s partners, who include Experian, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and local authorities like the Mayor of London.

The concept of civic crowdfunding is now catching on around the world, as cities reach for more effective ways of sourcing funding and ideas for improvements that boost quality of life and the local economy.

The £1.3m investment in Spacehive will help to bring civic crowdfunding to scale in the UK, with the aim of facilitating thousands of projects and providing a turnkey solution for councils and corporates wishing to help communities shape their local civic environment. 

Spacehive, founded by former Sunday Times architectural correspondent Chris Gourlay, aims to generate positive social impact not simply by unlocking cash for oft-needed improvements, but by giving ordinary people a powerful tool to shape their local area. 

Chris Gourlay, founder of Spacehive, said:

“The first part of our journey – to prove civic crowdfunding works – is complete. Up and down the country everyone from local people to councils and corporates have used Spacehive to create 55 wonderful projects in the last 2 years.

“But we’ve only taken the first step towards a more democratic way of shaping our towns and cities that harnesses the latent creativity and wealth of their people and businesses. 

“From high street water slides to free public Wi-Fi networks, sports facilities and major new parks, the possibilities afforded by civic crowdfunding are enormous. 

“I’m hugely excited about this investment, which will enable us to bring our model to scale and deliver a real impact in communities.” 

Fried Roggen, Fund Manager at SI2 Fund, said:

“We’re thrilled with our investment in Spacehive, whose model has the potential to open up badly needed sources of investment and innovation in communities at a time of acute need. 

“The bigger picture is clear: funding for parks, playgrounds and community festivals is under greater pressure than ever because of the squeeze on council budgets. Communities that are the worst off could fall further behind. And at the same time people yearn for a model that genuinely puts local communities in the driving seat of change – not just big developers and councils.

“It’s a model that has the potential not only to improve lives and strengthen local economies, but to empower a new generation of citizen change-makers.” 

Nick O’Donohoe, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital, said:

“Big Society Capital is delighted to be backing Spacehive on its mission to empower local social entrepreneurs to transform the fabric of communities across the UK. Spacehive’s model has already shown how it can open up new sources of capital for people with great project ideas and catalyse institutional backing. At scale, we believe Spacehive’s ability to unlock early-stage capital for Britain’s budding social entrepreneurs means it will play and an important role in growing the social investment marketplace.”

Last updated | 
12 November 2014