One of the first crowdfunding events to hit the headlines as long ago as 1997 was when fans of a British rock band called Marillion underwrote the costs of a US tour by raising $60,000 in an Internet campaign. Since then crowdfundng has spread, particularly in the charity and non-profit area to become a noticeable alternative way to get lots of people in theory to give a little to reach a common goal.

But more recently crowdfunding has emerged as a way to raise money for businesses looking for cash to get going or to grow as part of their strategic planning process. The idea is the very similar in that money is committed by anyone who sees a valid opportunity, in exchange for equity in the business. A quick look shows that the list of crowdsourcing sites is getting longer although many seem to be offering peer-to-peer borrowing facilities.

In the UK we have out own clutch of sites including crowdcube which seems to be the most commercial and which runs out of The Innovation Centre at the University of Exeter, crowdfunder which seems to focus on more creative and ‘inspirational ideas and a number of others.

The interesting part is that on all of them, funding success is evident. On Crowdcube, for instance, Red Advertising Ltd were looking to raise £125,000 for 11% of their business at the end of 2011 and they did so with 64 investors – all of whom are listed on the site. The Rushmore Group Ltd journey took a year but they raised £1m from 143 investors for 10%. The Crowdcube business model is one of a 5% commission on funds raised.

So is this just a rekindled fad or could it be the solution for lots of small businesses with great ideas looking for small investors? Whatever you think, be quick because Darlington Football Club is already 39% invested (March 5th!). Now 40% on March 7th!