The Crowdsourceress, Alex Daly
Known as ‘The Crowdsourceress’, Alex Daly changed the digital crowd-sourcing landscape by founding her own company Vann Alexandra. From their cozy offices in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Alex and her team work to fund diverse original projects with creative entrepreneurs. Alex talks to us about the Neil Young project that led her to found her own company at the age of 26, and the valuable lessons she has learned in the process.
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST WEEK IN NEW YORK?
I think my first week in New York was actually visiting with my parents when I was really young. We stayed in midtown, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was so excited about being here; I would wake up really early in the morning to see the city. I ran to the window, opened it really wide and said to my mom and dad “this is the sound of New York!” My dad said “no, that is the sound of construction.”
That first week we did Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty … it seemed so magical, it was unlike anything else. I grew up in Miami, which is warm, sprawling and very different culturally.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO COME BACK AND LIVE HERE?
I think inherently I always knew I was going to be here. I somehow always picked New York for my summer internships, and then after I graduated it was like “of course I’ll go back to New York to keep working.” I can’t think of any other place that has so much opportunity work wise.
Right after college I went into journalism, I was a paid intern at New York Magazine, and then I went to work at the Wall Street Journal as a fact checker. I couldn’t imagine any other city where I could try so many different things.
I always wanted to be in media, and this is the mecca of that.
WHAT DID YOU STUDY AT UNIVERSITY?
I did a double major in Spanish and philosophy, and I minored in film. I did my thesis on “An existential reading of drug cinema”. Basically I studied drug films, and found existentialism in them.
WOW. YOU ALSO WORKED IN FILM?
Well, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. Then I realized I didn’t, which I guess is sort of what you do … experiment. A friend suggested that since I loved movies, I should try documentary. It is a combination of film and journalism.
So I became a production manager at a boutique company. I was managing a bunch of different documentaries at the same time. I wasn’t a director, but ended up doing more of the fundraising for the films. More like a producer.
At the time I was doing it through grant writing, I wrote so many grants. One day a guy in the office wanted to run a Kickstarter campaign for his project and he asked me to do it. That’s how I started with Kickstarter. Afterwards I did the same thing for another film, and then people started calling me for their projects because I was becoming very successful in running Kickstarter campaigns.
CAN WE TALK A BIT ABOUT KICKSTARTER? I DON'T REALLY KNOW HOW IT WORKS.
Basically somebody has an idea; a film, a book, a tech product, a restaurant. Anything. It can be so many things. You bring this project to the platform of Kickstarter. You make a video for it, you set up some rewards and you open it up to the public to donate. The donations then fund the project.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE THIS COULD BE A FULL-TIME BUSINESS, AND IN DOING SO CREATING VANN ALEXANDRA?
When I did my first couple of campaigns, I was written about in a local blog and they called me the ‘crowdsourceress’. People kept telling me that I needed to make a business out of this. But I didn’t know how to do that. I was working as a production manager and producer. I kind of wanted to stay in film, but nobody was doing this.
Running a crowdfunding campaign is a full time job. You have to do the PR, social media, production, copywriting, strategy, day-to-day emails. So it would make sense that you might need a third party to run it for you.
I was doing all these campaigns while also working at the production company. I would work on them at night, on the weekends, in the mornings. Then this time last year I had just finished a campaign for an Oscar nominated film director, so I got to work with some top caliber filmmakers.
After that the Neil Young project happened. It was so incredibly massive. It was such an opportunity; I couldn’t not take advantage of it. I needed to make it a full time thing, so that’s what I did.