Office Hours: I’m the first woman to raise over $1M through Crowdfunding & Secure Token Offerings. I'm Dawn Dickson, founder of PopCom.Featured

Hello everyone! I’m the CEO and Founder of PopCom – we provide software to make kiosks and vending machines intelligent through data and analytics at the point of purchase. We also have our own proprietary hardware called the PopShop. To build my startup, I raised over $2.3M for my company from venture capital, angels, accelerators, and from winning pitch competitions. In 2019 raised $1.07M through crowdfunding on Start Engine and became the first female founder in history to raise more than $1M in a Reg CF and Secure Token Offering (STO). I took the crowdfunding approach to give accredited and non accredited investors an equal opportunity to invest in private equity. I believe in group economics and understand the power of investing in early stage companies so I believe it is important to level the playing field in investing. Here's a blog post I wrote about my ICO/STO journey if you'd like to learn more.I have 20 years of experience in marketing and business development, I am a 4X founder, and have been featured in Forbes, Black Enterprise, Fortune, Venture Beat, Huffington Post and Essence Magazine, among others. Prior to launching PopCom, I founded Flat Out Heels. I received my B.A. in Journalism from The Ohio State University and I attended DeVry University to study Information Technology. In addition to being a tech CEO, I am also the co-founder of a plant based vegan restaurant in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I am very passionate about health, wellness and self-care as necessary ingredients to success as an entrepreneur and life in general.Ask me about fundraising, startups, my vegan restaurant, or anything else!
Thanks so much for joining us, Dawn!Hi everyone – Please reply in the comments with your comments for Dawn before this Thursday. She may not have time to answer every question, so please emoji upvote the ones you'd most like her to answer.
Thanks for having me!
Hi Dawn, Congrats on your powerful fundraising story and building the STO momentum! I am working on a use case for a token issue for investors who can earn a 6% type return by on lending working capital to social enterprises in emerging markets ( I was planning to delay my token raise till I have proof of concept/ my first few enterprises which will be in 2021/early 2022. My question is: 1) Given the cost of the STO, how did you evaluate the right time to make that offering? and also I am trying to eventually leverage the STO as the ability to provide liquidity to impact investors. 2) Did you perceive value in offering secondary trading on your tokens and what's your perspective on that market/evolution? Thank you for your time.
Hi Dawn, what you have done is truly amazing! I have so many questions. My name is Maria Lopez. I have a BA in communications and a masters in public health. I am currently helping a friend in Rio de Janeiro, who just launched his social enterprise called Trocca. Trocca gives employment opportunities to people from disadvantaged conditions. He recently launched his first crowdfunding campaign and since you are an expert in this, would you have any advice?
Hello Maria, all of my advice is on my blog -
Liquidity for investors was my initial motivation. The rules around STOs have changed since I did my offering, initially we thought that the SEC would approve Start Engine and other platforms to be able to trade the tokens through a secondary exchange, those laws have not passed yet. I believe equity crowdfunding is the best path forward and not the STO as there is uncertainty when the investors can gain liquidity. The rules change all the time.
Dawn, CONGRATS!! Nothing makes me happier than seeing the words 'WOMAN" AND "$1M IN CROWDFUNDING" because this is news! 94% of the highest-grossing rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns are by male creators in gaming, consumer tech, and film, so seeing this kind of success for a women-led business is encouraging. I run a rewards-based CF platform, so it's different than equity crowdfunding - it's rewards/cash, but the act of crowdfunding is largely the same. Here's my question: Were you solely responsible for making your video and marketing your campaign? Do you know all of your funders or did you get randoms?
Hello Karen! Thank you so much. I have a team so we worked together to create the marketing content, we also used Facebook advertising and launched our own PR campaign managed in house. I was interviewed on several major national publications and radio shows which helped us to gain a strong momentum. We had over 2200 people in our round so there were many people I did not know personally.
Dawn, Your journey gave me goosebumps. What an inspiration! I am the Co-Founder and CEO of ZORA, a vertically integrated chocolate company focusing on ethical sourcing from West African farms. My team and I, are the first to start a complete bean to bar manufacturing company within farming communities in Ghana, integrated within the farmland area, encouraging women of the communities to participate, thereby doubling the income for individual farming families (moving them up the poverty line). We are preparing to launch a kickstart in a month and after seeing your success on Start Engine. Is there a particular reason you chose Start Engine and favored it to other crowdfunding platforms? Thank you very much!Fatima-Zohra Hakam
Congratulations! I go into detail on how I vetted the crowdfunding platforms on my blog, however I chose Start Engine because of the fee structure and the team - here is a talk I did about my experience with Start Engine -
Hello Dawn, what an impressive journey and thank you for sharing it here! It is very inspiring and encouraging!A few months ago, at the age of 45, I quit my corporate career and founded Foodom, a bootstrap managed marketplace for in-home cooking services. I run a pilot and have great traction with paying customers. I identifed a great potential team and now need to raise funds to be able to hire them. My question is where would you recommend to raise the first seed funds for someone not experienced in that? There are so many options and not enough hours in the day to explore all the options and I am looking to figure out how to crack this fundraising nut. Thank you!
Congratulations! I am looking for someone to come cook food for me right now so I wish your services were in Columbus, Ohio. I recommend raising your first round from friends, family, customers and supporters - people who are using the product or who need it. Industry experts who can give more than money, what you need at this stage is guidance and support.
Thank you so much Dawn! I wish I had cooks close to you now and I could help you. I will let you know when we expand to Columbus, Ohio. Thank you for your advice, that is my gut feeling and so helpful to validate with you!How did you choose and find your first advisers when you started? I am on the search for startup and managed marketplace advisers to help me as I grow in this new area after 18 years in corporate America and Israel. Although I learned a lot during this time, it feels like starting all over again.
Hey Dawn!I’ve been rooting for you ever since you were on that pitch podcast. It was The Pitch, right?I myself was the first woman to work as a coder in cryptocurrency in Chile.I feel the investors on the Pitch are very bias and the Australian guy always asks impossible questions.l (especially to women and even more so minority women). Like he was asking you for data on your market that didn’t even exist yet because it’s a new market.I’m so glad you didn’t call it quits and that you seem to have a really strong team around you to support you.I liked that you were brave enough to travel to the Middle East to try and raise for an ICO.I am a combat veteran and that is really brave to walk into a totally new situation in a totally new culture and have to negotiate on your behalf.Well, gosh I fan-girled more than expected.As for real questions...maybe they’re better one on one.Maybe I’ll drop you a line directly because I’d like to offer my support to your team.
:) Thank you for listening to The Pitch and for your support. Yes we attracted a lot of investors for our ICO however due to SEC changing the rules we did the STO and I am glad we did. Now the rules are changing and our next round will be straight equity.
Hi Dawn, what you have done is truly amazing! I have so many questions. My name is Maria Lopez. I have a BA in communications and a masters in public health. I am currently helping a friend in Rio de Janeiro, who just launched his social enterprise called Trocca. Trocca gives employment opportunities to people from disadvantaged conditions. He recently launched his first crowdfunding campaign and since you are an expert in this, would you have any advice?
I posted a response above but I recommend your friend read my blog
Hi Dawn, Which books were helpful to you on your path?happy Chinese new year to everyone.
A few of my favorite books in no order are:Four Hour Work Week; Think and Grow Rich; The Vortex; The Four Agreements; The Hard Thing About Hard Things; Venture Deals; The Power of Your Subconscious Mind; The Go-Giver; The Answer; The Kybalion
Crazy impressive! Question: if my goal is to build a SaaS platform to help patients improve their surgical outcomes, am I stupid for continuing to build a website with information for patients that they can use to improve their outcomes until my tech component is built? Or, am I , “giving away the farm?” Thanks!
I think it is smart to build a community of potential customers and supporters. My motto is 'give first' so you giving them free information does not hurt at all - once your product is ready I am sure many will subscribe.
Hey Dawn,It gladdens my heart to read your story. I appreciate the path you took to transition from journalism to tech startup founder by pursuing further education. I did the same myself but in the reverse order (engineering -> business). I’m a social entrepreneur and one of my verticals is women empowerment (the other vertical is the environment/slow climate change). Would you be willing to share some tips for other women looking to transition from one career to another? How you overcame obstacles? Inspiration is always a plus. I’m the startup founder of Oui Finds here in San Francisco. Thank you for your time!
Congrats on your start up and transition. I have personally never transitioned from one career to another exactly, Journalism and communication skills are transferable, I have always used what I learned as a writer in everything I have done. I started my first tech company in 2001, I have been leading tech and tech-enabled companies since then. I don't see obstacles, I see opportunities. I also trust myself, trust my gut, and walk by faith.
Hi @dawndickson, what inspired you to being a tech CEO and a co-founder of a plant-based vegan restaurant? Would you see anything plant-base is an investor theme? Thanks!
I have been a tech CEO for almost 20 years, I went to school for IT and started my first company in 2001. I have been vegan/plant based since 2007, I started the restaurant with a group of friends/investors because there was a void in our neighborhood/downtown for plant based food. I am a problem solver and serial entrepreneur, I have 2 other companies that I started and three companies I have invested in. I just focus on promising opportunities.
Dawn your fire and motivation inspire me. I first discovered you by watching an interview on Power 105.1 and I was floored first by your accomplishments and then by the fact that you spoke so eloquently about collective economics, especially for our community. Thank you for being so daring to show up for your life and inspiring others to do the same🙌🏿
Thank you :)
Hi @dawndickson! Just wanted to say hi! We spoke at the Metropolitan Business League’s “Women who mean business” event. Glad to see you on here. Love seeing your progress.
Thanks Amber!!
Dawn - super impressed with how you've raised money - would be great to chat and brainstorm with you. Best, Denise
Thank you!! I shared my entire fundraising journey on my blog, I do not offer personal consultations due to my busy schedule however I shared all of my knowledge on
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your expertise, Dawn! Office Hours are now over.