TED talks all around: Trigonis J. and Westcott V.

I’ve watched two interesting TED talks on crowdfunding that were brief, but nevertheless useful.

Crowdfunding today, tomorrow, together

trigonis1

John Trigonis is a movie maker and now also seen as somewhat of a crowdfunding expert. He says that engaging a crowd is an art. And I have to say from what I’ve heard and seen so far he is right.

“The pitch is the invitation, perks the incentives and promotion the interaction with your crowd.”
– John Trigonis

He tells that when you do a campaign video you should always tell the following to your crowd:

  • You should tell who you are
  • What your project is all about
  • Why your audience should fund you

You should speak to your audience like they are a friend. A very personal approach is needed to get your crowd enthused and willing to spend money on you and your project.

Crowdfunding 101

victoriawestcott

Victoria Westcott talks about crowdfunding in relation with her youth. She was a very entrepreneurial spirit and still is. Out of the experiences she had in her youth with selling all kinds of things, like lemonade in her street, she gives us 5 lessons. Five lessons to live by when you do a crowdfunding campaign.

  1. Make something awesome
  2. sell to your audience
  3. Don’t ask for charity
  4. Follow through
  5. They might just give you tips

In summary you should just make an awesome project that people want to be involved with. You need to grab them by the hair so to speak. You need to sell. Persuade them to buy the product from you. Let them see you want to improve something through the realisation of your project. Remember that it’s not charity that you do with your project. Stand behind it. Be persistent and be kind and be changeable in the way you present your product.

Conclusion

Two things that I see constantly with building a crowd and achieving your goal. Be persistent and be very personal in your approach. We tried this during our whole campaign and you can see the outcome of that: Success!

 

 

 

Quick check of a couple of social media tools!

Over the course of my internship I have had my focus on my internship which sometimes caused that I hadn’t had time to work on my thesis. But luckily I have made rich notes on most of the activities that we did throughout the course and the work needed to be done.

In the second month of my internship we began looking at the different activities that needed to be done if we want to have a successful crowdfunding campaign, which of course we do. Therefor we also needed the right tools to work as efficient and effective as possible. Some of these tools were very similar and therefor someone needed to look at what tools best to use for the crowdfunding campaign. I looked into a couple of different tools that we could use. Below you’ll find a small overview of the tools that I looked at and the ones that we actually choose to use in our crowdfunding campaign.

Mailchimp

mailchimp

Mailchimp is a mailing programme. Based around marketing purposes. Great to create and send out newsletters or other forms of. It is very easy to create a list of contacts various ways that you can actually achieve this. You can import google spreadsheets, put them in manually and many other ways. You can create stylish designs fairly easy, with preprogrammed grids or frameworks that you can use. You can also link the mail to your social media. The designs you have created you can also save and are therefor reusable. It’s a great tool for email campaigning. Some analytics on the open rate and click rate of your mail can be viewed to better your mailing.

Hootsuite

hootsuite-1

Hootsuite is a tool to manage your social media. With the free version you can have up to 3 social media that you can manage. You can schedule posts, look into some basic analytics of your social media, have a good overview of the newsfeed that are relevant for you and provides suggestions to post under one overarching theme. Hootsuite should be very reliable, they have partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Evernote, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tumble and Google+. Check out my detailed post on the usage of Hootsuite.

Nouncy

nouncylogo

This is a tool which you can use to let your social networks work for you. You can ask your network for help, which they can provide by writing a post for you that you can save up in Nouncy. When you need to cut through the noise on social networks you can let Nouncy send all the messages and posts you saved up in one blow for maximum attention. Could be very handy when we want some extra attention during the launch of our crowdfunding campaign.

Thunderclap

thunderclap

This tool has a couple of features that are very similar to what Nouncy does. But what thunderclap does differently than Nouncy is that they collect the messages from the crowd. People want to lend their voice to certain causes and this crowd is what Thunderclap uses to create a “social media explosion”.

Conclusion

There are two systems that we are definitely are going to use, which are Hootsuite and Mailchimp. These are very handy tools to use in our endeavours to create a crowd, interact with them and have a good overview of multiple social media. Thunderclap and Nouncy both could be useful, but only when we are further in the process of the crowdfunding campaign.

We fu*%@*ng did it!

Great news! We reached our goal! We started out on the 6th of October with our launch. Especially in the beginning there were still some things we didn’t account for such as the time the CF platform needed to revise and check the campaign we wanted to launch. Check my post on the launch of the crowdfunding campaign.

DELITELABS Crowdfunding campaign target acquired

We set our goal at €3000 and already in the first day of the launch we got our 25% of the target amount. This was a great milestone and we were very happy with that amount. The days after that were pretty hard to watch because the money was coming in at a very slow pace after the first day. Although we already knew that because of the research we had done. The first days and the last days are the days that you get the most amount of money in your account. See the post about Steve Vick about this.

Already in the beginning we made it very clear that we had different sorts of donators that wanted to spend money on DELITELABS students. Small donators who would give not more  than a few euros and not more than 10. The middle class which would give us from 10 euros to 100 euros and then you had the bigger fish that would give anything above hundred euros.

utsign

Luckily we had an arrangement with the UT to collaborate. See here the first meeting we had with a couple of members of the UT. Not so long ago, just before the beginning of the last course we negotiated with them to run a prototyping week for our students in the 4th week of the course at the UT. I had responsibility within this project to arrange the connections between DELITELABS, the UT and some of the Student Unions of the UT. See my preparations for this event in this post.

We could stay there for a week and on the fourth day of our visit, Thursday, we could have our students do a pitch for a large crowd. The crowd didn’t only consist of members of the University of Twente, but all kinds of investors and other entrepreneurs that were linked to Designlab, a faculty of the University of Twente that stimulates entrepreneurship among students.

The big donation at the Pitchnight

So also a big opportunity for our students to actually give a pitch for a great crowd. Great practise for the last pitch event that would be the week after on Wednesday. I was pretty nervous for our students. Especially a couple of students were working hard, but the pitch didn’t quite come out yet. Too much unnecessary details put in, to plain in the way they spoke of their projects, too little showmanship. We helped them all day with the preparations for this and with success. I was so proud of those guys. They pulled it off, they did it. At the end of the pitches people were so enthused that the board of Designlab decided to support our students with €2000! The money we needed because at that point we had already €1200 in our crowdfunding campaign. A couple of days later the money was in our Crowdfunding campaign in One%club and we had made it!!

Conclusion

Sometimes it’s better to have multiple clients and not only focus on the people who you think will do most of the lifting. This time we have shown that one big fish, Designlab, can be just what you need to reach your goal.

Privileged I felt and still feel to be a part of this. Making the lives of our students a bit better!

– Bas

The crowdfunding video: Chaos!

One of the things that I’ve noticed during my time at DL and working on the crowdfunding campaign. If you think you prepared well enough, think again.

Change of Launch Date

We prepared to launch for our company, Delitelabs, Which was to be launched at October the 19th. This because then we would have time to prepare our networks, create a crowd and create contact lists to call when the time has come. A little over two weeks ago another idea arisen. The idea that we would have two crowdfunding campaigns running at the same time. One starting in the second week of the course, this week. And the other at the set date that we had set previously, the 19th.

This would be no problem for me. In my head this would mean that we could also use the crowdfunding campaign of the participants as a experimental CFC, and we could advise them to best implement it, but that was not what happened. In the first week of the course there has made a decision that we run the crowdfunding campaign with the participants. They would have a large roll in this and could use their networks to spread the message. I think a pretty good move, but this also meant that the video has to be made in one day, because the launch was planned on that day, yesterday.

How not to create a video

The video would have been made without a team, without expertise, without a plan, a budget, a script or even the right equipment to film the video. I’ve said that I would do my best, but that the quality of the movie would be very questionable at best. At the day before I’ve asked some advice from a friend of mine in the movie business, Bob van Schaik, about what to best do. He also advice very much against it, but if we should go through with it we should have a decent camera and audio equipment.

In the morning I stretched the importance of the equipment and the lack of all the things above. But that is off course not in the entrepreneurial spirit. Go, Go, GO! I’ve tried to do it on my own, but I don’t like the outcome of the movie. It is just of too poor quality. I feel like I’ve put people down and that just sucks. This morning we have decided that we are going to do it differently. Waisted a minimum of 9 hours creating something I’m not proud of. One of the first things I’m really frustrated with since I’ve joined DL. The lack of planning and budget when you work in a startup.

We didn’t finish it, because it was just not good enough and lacked audio but here it is…

We saw that it was a mistake to create a movie on such short notice. Especially with the long list of things we needed and didn’t have. So hopefully next time we’ll chose another path to create a movie, with a little of a lot more preparation.

See the followup post on how the creation of the movie went after this.

Hope you did also enjoy my whining once in a while.

– Bas

Steve Vick: Let an expert do the talking

Steve Vick is de founder van non profitally. This is a company that helps building a non profit from the ground on up. They take you through the whole process. One of the subjects also discussed on the site in deeply, luckily, is how to successfully run a crowdfunding campaign. There are a couple of videos on this and one of them gives a very good overview of what a crowdfunding campaign in essence always needs, unregarded on what type of project you want to start a crowdfunding campaign for.

stevevick

This is him, Steve Vick. In the Youtube video: How to start a crowdfunding campaign? He lays out a couple of ground rules if you really want to launch a crowdfunding campaign. There is actually a whole lot more prep work than I initially thought. Not only man hours have to be put in to execute the things that needs to get done, but a lot more strategically think work that you need to get your head around before executing. Here are a couple of things to ponder on, that I will get into later:

  • The team
  • Set period of CFcampaign and target amount
  • The story
  • PR/marketing
  • Sollicitation
  • CF-video
  • Webpage

These are the subjects he touched upon and where very helpful to have an overview of the activities that we have to spend time and maybe money on to make it a success. So I’ll go over them step by step. First of…

The Team

Because there is so many activities to get done you really have to get a team. If you don’t find one. Defining the roles of the team is an essential part. If you define the roles and responsibilities beforehand the activities that need to get done will be so much more efficient and effective, so very important to divide the roles that need to get done. Roles that need to be divided are: Content creation, phone calls that needs to be made, managing and enlarging your network (making a crowd), the creation and maintenance of the webpage, devising a story (and creating perks and incentives). All these things have to be done and handled by the team and if you don’t have your roles and responsibilities well organised the effect will be a lot less than it can be.

Set a period for the CF-campaign and target amount

This is another essential part of running a crowdfunding campaign. The donator wants a couple of things. Before he donates any amount of money he wants to know if the campaign is for a good cause, if the amount will be reached (or if it is likely to be reached) and there has to be an urgency.

The urgency that we, as the creators of the CF-campaign, need the money ASAP. You can say we’ll run the CF-campaign for 5 months, than we’ll have plenty of time to get funded, but the research has shown that the results of this strategy is counter-intuitive. The incentive or urgency for the funding is out of the window. Most successful CF-campaigns run a period of 7 to 9 weeks.

Some people will answer to the question: “For how much would you like to get funded?”. “As much as possible”. But normally this is a bad incentive for the donator. You have to show them why you need that kind of money. You can do this with a couple of things. The most successful CF-campaigns they also have the most interesting and beautiful videos. They show you quality, beauty and most of the time the credentials that back up the quality that they already shown. Tell your audience who is going to benefit from the money that they give, most campaigns on Kickstarter have perks that they give away for a pittance price for example. So also think about how it will help the donator. Will it only make them feel good by contributing or like the projects on Kickstarter let them also buy an interesting new innovative product? So make your target amount reasonable and feasible.

PR and Marketing

There are many things that you have to and can do when it comes to PR and marketing of your CF campaign. But if we get to deep in the matter it will be gibberish for your so I thought to myself how can we make this a bit easier. To do this here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself that will keep you starting with the PR and marketing the same as we have done. Guided by this video and a couple of others. Here are the questions that you should ask yourself when you’re working on the marketing:

  • How much pre-made content has been made for every (social) media output that you are going to use? (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Phonecalls, mailing)
  • What content should you spread and how should it be structured? Check this link to learn this.
  • Which tools are you going to use to systemise your media output so that you can be more efficient and effective? (think about the social media named above, but also tools like Thunderclap, Mailchimp, Hootsuite, Heroes&Friends, Nouncy, etc. Check this link if you want to know what these tools can bring.)
  • Who are we as a company, what is our mission and how are we going to convey this message?
  • When are the milestones of your campaign and how are you going to let your crowd know when these have been reached?
  • Have you written a Pitch text that is inspiring for people to listen? (max. 500 to 800 words long)
  • Which platform are you going to use?

CF Video

The crowdfunding video is also a crucial part of the campaign. This is your opportunity to shine and persuade your costumers to actually incest in your product. Here are a couple of tips on a interesting CFvideo. To really know how to make a great video I’ve compared 10 very successful Crowdfunding campaigns of Kickstarter in one of my articles. I’ve also visited a couple of events that get a little more into storytelling. Check my visit at the Campus Party, my evening on storytelling or my visit at the Filmschool Amsterdam.

CF Platform

Before you go into the platform here are also many things to consider before you choose the right one. Ponder on the following questions so that you can make a better decision on what the best platform would be for your campaign.

  • Does the platform allow multimedia (video, pictures, integrated social media functionalities, etc)
  • How much effort (amount of clicks) does a potential donator has to do before he can actually donate? This really is a huge factor in how well your campaign will go.
  • Can you import a mailing list in the platform?
  • What are the fees that are being asked? (AKA how much money keeps the owner of the platform in what situation, success or fail?)
  • Can you keep the money even if your campaign does not reaches its goal?
  • Can you place updates (e.g. about milestones) on the platform?
  • Is the page customisable?
  • Is it also a customisable url?
  • 30% of the platforms needs an approval process. How long is this process?

I hope this was a good read for you guys! If you have any questions, remarks or suggestions just let me know!

Keep you posted!

Conclusion

This was a very interesting talk. I got a way better idea how much work is in the creation of a successful crowdfunding campaign now and that frightens me a bit, because it is so much work and we are only with a small team. On the other hand, we know now that it is a lot of work so we can be better prepared for this. see here how we went about social media, here what we did to create a good story and here is the actual campaign we launched and created success.

Examination Crowdfunding platforms

Another part of the research I’ve been doing is what type of crowdfunding platform we are going to choose for our CF campaign. I didn’t know this before but there are actually quite a lot out there, even in a small country like the Netherlands there are whole bunch. I first started my investigation overall. So, I looked at a couple of comparison websites, like top10crowdfund.nl/. This website gave the overview of crowdfunding websites that are active in the Netherlands. The website estimates that there are 92 crowdfunding platforms operating in the Netherlands.

cfplatforms

What should we choose?

There are very many different crowdfunding platforms to choose from. Some very specific to a certain topic or a specific way of funding (e.g. just by lending instead of donations and rewards) and some are more generic like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I’ve looked into most of the popular ones, but most of them looked like a saturated pool to me.

The two golden questions and a bit of myself

It was nice to have an expert, which I interviewed before this research,to give me advice on this subject. Eric Heesen, the founder of Crowdfundy, told me two golden questions I should ask myself before chosing a crowdfunding platform. First “Wat was the topic our crowdfunding would be about?”. The second question was “What type of financing system did we want to have?”. In crowdfunding there are four different kinds of funding: equity, loan, rewards and donations.

What I also saw on many crowdfunding platform that there is a certain fee that you have to pay beforehand or afterwards. These fees depend on wether or not you have successfully achieved your goal and how big your goal was. This is called “placement fee” and “success or failure fee”. I’ve put these also in the description for a more detailed overview.

Our answers

The answer that our team had answered to these questions was that: “We were a social enterprise and worked with refugees and inspired enterpreneurship.”. So three topics I could search for when looking into the “right” crowdfunding platform.

And the second answer was that we didn’t want any lending crowdfunding campaign, nor do we want convertible lends (loans that can be converted into shares). We want to go for the rewards and / or donations. Ideally a mix between the two.

So I set my two parameters to these conditions and out of these came four platforms that we are going to discuss at large on the first of September, which is this Thursday. A quick note, I’ve put the financial details of the platforms at the bottom so it is easier to compare.

The Platforms

  • OnePlanetCrowd
  • 1%club
  • Chuffed
  • Crowdaboutnow

OnePlanetCrowd

oneplanetcrowd

OnePlanetCrowd is a platform that is stationed in Amsterdam. Their main topic is social sustainable impact. So, it is ideal for our organisation to take into account, because our organisation is similarily concerned about the same topic. Their main target group is social entrepreneurs, which we also are. Further than that, everything that falls into this category is allowed. OnePlanet has a few criteria that we would have to take into account.

Conditions

  • The project has to have an positive impact on man or nature
  • There is a concrete, urgent and clear communicable spending target
  • The financial needs must be between the 1.000 and the 1.000.000 euro’s
  • The campaign has to be totally led by the one who started the campaign.
  • If you don’t get your goal, every penny is send back to the investors

Another thing to take in account is that the platform is mostly based on projects in Germany and The Netherlands.

One%Club

1%club

This is also a crowdfunding platform that is stationed in Amsterdam, but other than the previous platform, the one%club is internationally oriented. It spreads the message that the projects that are being put on the platform all do ‘something good’. This can mean anything, but is in the realm of social projects. For example there are projects in Zambia that fund a new sustainable school, support refugee employees in Greece or support a sailing school just in the Netherlands.

Conditions

  • The target amount must be between the 250,- and 1.000.000,-
  • Successful or not, you will always get your money with this platform

Chuffed

chuffed

Chuffed is an Australian platform that is internationally oriented. And it was actually interesting to see that this page was one of the few, that had a tab especially for refugees. And since our core business is helping refugees, I was compelled to look into this one. The more I read the more I liked it. To quote Chuffed:

“We only crowdfunds non-profit and social enterprise projects. That’s it. That means we know what works for social causes, and our community is only interested in projects like yours.”

The website is very suitable with a lot of information on how to promote your own campaign. Luckily One%club has the same policy, but the afore mentioned onePlanetCrowd does not have that at all. What makes it a more difficult choice is that this is the only platform that is not stationed in the Netherlands.

CrowdAboutNow

crowdaboutnow

This platform is different from the rest because it is the only platform that is completely Dutch oriented and is stationed in Utrecht. It is all about social entrepreneurship. They assume you are one, of course, and they stretch the importance of the network that you already have. They say they offer much support during the campaign. I called this company as well and they advised me to check what kind of finance system we want. If we want to go on to (convertible) loans we should look at a platform like OnePlanetCrowd. When we want to do it more based on rewards and donations it’s better to choose a platform like us, more peer-to-peer based.

Financial situation

OnePlanetCrowd

Placement campaign: €200 + 1% target amount
Transaction costs: €0.50 (only paid if campaign was a success)
Succesfee: 7%

1%club

Placement campaign: free
Succesfee: 7%
Failurefee: 5%

Chuffed

Placement campaign: –
Transaction costs: €0.50 + 2.9%
Succesfee: –

CrowdAboutNow

Placement campaign: 1% target amount
Succesfee: 6%

Conclusion

Based on these examples I have chosen 1%club. Especially since we get started sooner than expected. With one%club you get your money, either way. One%club is also Dutch, and is centered in Amsterdam. It has the same overarching mission as we do, “doing something good”. Since this is our first campaign as a company ever, and we still have a lot to learn about how to do a good crowdfunding campaign, one%club is a logical option to take. This needs only to be discussed with the team.

Keep you posted on this.

– Bas

An interview with the German entrepreneur I met on a ferry

The day was a couple of months back. I had a long day of work behind me and I just got back from a course on storytelling. The course indeed was pretty interesting, given by a man called Eldridge. Me and Michaela Krömer, one of my supervisors, went there to learn more on how to present and tell a good story. I think we both walked away a bit wiser on this topic.

Two flies in one hit

Excuse me for my bad Dutch translation there. But to begin… It was already 10AM when Eldridge finished and luckily I had arranged that I could stay at a friends’ house in Amsterdam. Me and Michaela walked together towards central station where it went wrong, but I’m glad it did. I had taken the wrong fairy, which took me like an hour more to reach my friend. But in that time I’d met a very interesting person. Chris Mueller, an German entrepreneur and the owner of Creatando.com, was working with software that creates apps. One of the most interesting people I’ve met in person. A very creative person with an even more pragmatic mindset. Thinking in effective and efficient solutions that could be provided through the internet. I was flabbergasted and exchanged numbers, in the first place so he could give a lecture at Delitelabs. Later I heard that we were already completely booked till the beginning of September. I found this a pity, to wait for so long for a person who clearly had an interesting perspective on doing business. So not long after this I contacted him and requested if I could have an interview with him. He accepted and so started a very fruitful and intriguing dialogue.

What questions to ask an expert?

I had made a whole list of questions I wanted to ask him. Part on crowdfunding, but for the larger part questions about internet marketing, in the broadest sense possible. I wanted to accumulate as much as I could from the man. Therefor it could be that I could have been a bit more effective the next time if I demarcate better when I look back at the way I’ve done the interview. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting talk where I learn very much from. We started talking about his business, what he does, how he came about it and why he found the internet business so interesting in the first place, which was money. Later on it became abundantly clear that this was not the case, at least if you don’t have the right strategy.

He devised a piece of software together with a few other software engineers that can actually create an app in a few minutes or less. Really extraordinary software and I immediately saw the immense benefits of the the type of working. Software as it supposed to be. Quick, easy to use and for everybody beneficial. The creator of software, the user of the app and the buyer of the app. During this conversation he also handed me a couple of websites he uses himself to optimize and automate certain necessities as in content, posting, doing research and finding customers.

Useful Websites for internet marketing

archive.org is a website that is being used to look for the layout and content of a website a year or more ago, even before it existed. With this tool you can easily see when the owners have made changes and hereby you can estimate how the business is doing and if it is for example a potential client.

Another is buzzsumo.com. An awesome site, if you have the money for it, that can provide you with content that is about to go viral. You can search for the content by category, theme or keyword. You can imagine the interesting things you can do with services like this when you have an internet marketing company.

buffer.com is another awesome website, which is a bit similar to Hootsuite, which I describe in another post right here. Buffer.com provides you with a social media control panel. You can load your social media in here and can create, design and schedule your posts to be send to a broad audience. Hootsuite has the same functionalities only is a bit limited on the designing of your content, which is as basic as the social media you are already using.

A couple of questions on entrepreneurship

Do you see a difference between the entrepreneurs a couple of years back and now?

“Well the new entrepreneurs are working less for money. Most of the entrepreneurs that I encounter only are involved in projects that they actually like. I have the idea that ten years and more back there were actually more entrepreneurs who were doing it mostly for the money they thought they could earn when making it big. Many entrepreneurs nowadays have more heart for the projects and outcomes that they can achieve by setting up these projects. Also there is way more sharing in ideas then there was in the past. In the past people were way more secretive about there ideas. Now they really want to share and with a good reason. Most of them see the benefit of constantly grinding and remoulding their ideas, so they can evolve into better ones. “

What would your advise be to new entrepreneurs who are now starting to search of create new businesses?

The most valuable or important things to keep in mind are I think two. First of all you have to do the opposite of what everybody else is doing. That’s is how you divide yourself from the saturated crowd. Secondly, you have to have a very specific skillset and match the very specific topic or theme your are very interested in. When you mix this skill with a very specific topic or theme you’ll be able to provide very unique product and therefor you’ve created a very specific niche market for yourself. This way you have more enjoyment in the work you do and you will have way less competition. 

A couple of things on crowdfunding

We also talked on the subject of crowdfunding. A few things I already had read or heard myself, but Chris was able to provide me with a nice overview on a couple of ‘rules’ or guidelines on what to do with a crowdfunding campaign.

  • Have a website with a landing page and a video
  • Contact bloggers to write about your crowdfunding campaign and your product or service
  • collect as many email addresses as you possibly can so you can use these when you start a crowdfunding campaign.
  • the first three days a successful crowdfunding campaign will accumulate 20% of its goal amount
  • Use as many contacts as needed, in as many media needed to achieve your goal, which is most of the time a financial goal

As a conclusion

To revise myself already a bit, the interview I did was exhilerating, fun, very interesting and I have learned so much of it. To take in account for the next interview is to demarcate as a said the topics that I want to talk about and the topics I don’t want to talk about. When I do that I can have a better outcome of the interview probably. This interview was a great interview as I look at it through the perspective of personal growth and the understanding of marketing, but was pretty poor on the specific subject, crowdfunding. Next time I’ll try to prepare myself more in the spirit of crowdfunding.

The things I want to implement that I have learned from this interview are for example:

  1. If we have the CFvideo, post it on our landing page to attract attention.
  2. Contact more bloggers and other journalistical professions to write about us.
  3. Collect as many mail addresses as you can to spread the word of our campaign.

Thanks for reading!

– Bas