Christian Tech Startups - How to Fund Your Calling
As a Christian entrepreneur, you might be wondering how you should fund your next project. Do you find investors? Do you ask your dad for yet another small loan?
If you’re looking for some inspiration, keep reading. We’ll provide exciting stories of successful Christian-based products and detail four ways you can raise the much-needed capital to get started!
When you talk to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, the last thing you’d expect is to hear that they’re starting a company for the global Christian community. That’s probably because only 48% of San Francisco Metro dwellers would identify themselves as Christian.
But the number of individuals willing to admit their religious affiliation to their employer is drastically lower. In the Bay Area, it’s taboo to mention anything about your religion. So, people stay quiet to keep their well-paying jobs. But there is good news.
Today, the largest investments in Christian-focused apps are being backed by venture capitalists. In 2021, it was estimated that Venture Capitalists sunk $175 Million dollars into software products built for communities of faith. With 2.2 billion Christians in the world today, investors may want to pay attention to the possibilities that the next big app might bring.
So, let’s talk a bit about the numbers.
YouVersion’s Bible App, the leading Christian app, has 538,210,343 (and counting) unique downloads to date with zero investments from VCs.
Glorify – a subscription-based app for guided meditation, Christian music, and Bible readings – gathered $40 million in Series A funding in 2021. One of the investors was Kris Jenner, proving that even Hollywood celebrities are getting in on the action.
Hallow – a well-being subscription-based app built for the Catholic Church – received $40 million in Series B funding in 2021. It also reached 1.5 million downloads.
Ministry Brands – a company owning 25+ individual SaaS products for the Christian Church – supports 95,000 faith-based organizations to date.
In 2018, church organizations received $124.5 Billion dollars in donations.
If you visit any church’s career board, you have a 75% chance of seeing their only listing as “Software Engineer.” Churches around the world are hungry to build digital solutions to solve their problems.
Some say that the pandemic is the catalyst for the investments in digital products and services focused on spirituality and faith, others say it’s just a realization of a constant truth: people are searching for meaning.
Whatever the reason, it’s easy to see that there is a target audience open to trying new ways of experiencing faith, and they’ll pay good money for it.
So, you’re a Christian entrepreneur with a tech-heavy skill set looking to build the next big thing for the church. How do you find funding for your project?
Thankfully, the Christian community is resourceful and creative. Here is a list of four ways to get your product built or funded.
Get VC Funding
Of course, the way that most entrepreneurs wish to go is the path of venture capitalist funding. This is a route many entrepreneurs take if the main offering to users is CONTENT.
Content is king. If you’re building a product that primarily creates something that is provided to a user for a one-time or recurring fee, you’ll want to have a lot of content built to attract new customers and keep current customers coming back.
In order to do this, you’ll probably need a lot of capital up front. In order to sway investors, feel free to send them this article and detail out how much money is being spent in this area post-pandemic.
Investors will want a few things to win them over: a pitch deck laying out the target audience, the product’s purpose, how you’ll make money, how you’ll stay relevant, and how you’ll scale. Have your pitch deck ready?
Here is a (very) short list of the venture capitalist firms that are investing in tech products for religion and spirituality today:
Crowdfunding or Donations
Like we mentioned at the top of this page, the YouVersion Bible App is completely crowdfunded and has 538 million downloads. They have continued to expand their reach, adding new features and new languages, through the gathering of donations. They even employ 180 people and are still hiring - quite an impressive accomplishment for a product built by a small church team back in 2008.
Take another example…Have you heard of the Chosen series? It’s a completely crowd-funded video series with HBO-quality production that has taken the Christian community by storm.
Since its release in 2019, the series has put out two seasons and racked up 400 million views. They’re now funded through the third and into the fourth season.
Crowdfunding and donations are the church’s bread and butter, and it’s absolutely a plausible option for products being built for individual users and communities of faith.
Build a Passionate Team & Partnership Model
Are you tech-savvy yourself and have a team of passionate people that want to build a product for the Christian community? You may want to consider building an MVP (minimum viable product) and having friends and family test it as you develop.
This is the best way to have complete ownership of how the product is built and managed but might take longer than building it with a funded team. Though, with God anything is possible.
I would highly recommend starting this type of venture in earnest prayer, and then with some heavy-duty contract documentation.
Even though the partners you’ve chosen are most likely fine people, we do live in a fallen world. Make sure that roles and responsibilities, hours worked by all members, and the percentage of the pie is all documented before you start working.
Friends & Family Investment
If the options listed before don’t seem like a fit for the project you have in mind, you might want to ask for friends and family to fund your product’s development in phases. Of course, you must return those investments before pocketing any profit.
This might not be the easiest way to raise capital, but it has worked for many companies. John Houston is the owner of John Houston Homes, a construction company building residential homes.
He began his company through the generosity of friends and family. He has provided many resources for those entrepreneurs looking to build companies with the support of a close-knit community.
With the rise in investment in technology reaching communities of faith and spirituality, the time is now to strike and build that product you’ve been praying about. Or, if you’re an investor, today may be the right time to listen to pitches of business owners in the religion/faith space.