The EU tokenized real estate sector continues to see development as Smartlands announced a strategic partnership with the European Crowdfunding Network (ECN) recently. News of the membership first broke on June 13 after Smartlands executives were seen at the ECN CrowdCamp conference. The move signals a push for more blockchain integration across the traditional EU markets. It also signals major progress for Smartland’s growing platform’s capabilities.
Smartlands joined the ECN to further development on their alternative finance platform. Currently, the UK-based tokenization platform specializes in the real estate sector. The decision to team up with ECN helps the platform to expand into other traditional financial markets. The ECN has a diverse membership of industry leaders. Many of these firms are interested in developing blockchain-based systems for their industries.
Access to Smartlands Tech
Discussing the maneuver, ECN’s Executive Director, Oliver Gajda, spoke on the added security and lower costs associated with Smartlands blockchain technology. He explained how technology provides future clients with a more robust and innovative climate. Gajda also took a moment to praise Smartland’s accomplishments to date.
Additionally, Arnoldas Nauseda, Smartland’s CEO took a second to discuss the difficulties facing investors in the real economy. He described how this partnership can further Smartland’s reach globally. In turn, he explained how this strategy furthers large scale blockchain adoption in general in the EU sector.
Nauseda wasn’t the only Smartland’s executive to speak on the monumental decision to join the ECN. Smartland’s Head of Marketing, Yaroslava Tkalich, took a moment to shed some light on why the ECN benefits greatly from the arraignment. He described how his company’s vast blockchain experience will be available to all ECN members moving forward.
Smartlands is a UK-based Blockchain firm that specializes in securities backed by digital ownership of shares across multiple asset classes. The revolutionary network first came to light as one of the premier platforms to launch on the Stellar Lumens Network.
The Steller blockchain is a Gen 3 cryptocurrency due to the advancements made in its smart contract programmability. Stellar differs from Ethereum, the most popular token launch blockchain, in a number of ways. Primarily, Stellar can launch tokens and basic applications far easier than the Ethereum network.
The European CrowdFunding Network- ECN
The ECN is a Non-profit organization that entered the market with the goal of simplifying crowdfunding through innovation. The firm aims to increase understanding of the importance of crowdfunding and regulatory protections across multiple networks. Also, the ECN wants to help entrepreneurs take their concepts to the next level via access to global funding.
Smartlands Makes Smart Moves
The decision to join the ECN is a wise maneuver on the part of Smartlands. The firm’s proven blockchain strategies can be employed across multiple business sectors. Many industry leaders are members of this exclusive organization. Providing these members access to reliable blockchain technology at an affordable rate, increases both platforms positioning in the market. You can expect to see more developments from these firms as Smartlands continues its integration into the ECN.
Equity Crowdfunding in North America
Since roughly 2009, crowdfunding in North America has grown steadily. The continent, however, is a large place, with clear discrepancies in regulatory approaches between Canada and the United States. The result is that these variances have led to U.S. crowdfunding becoming a runaway market, relative to Canada.
What is it?
As the name implies, crowdfunding is a means of raising capital from a large pool of investors/donators, rather than select venture capitalists.
Crowdfunding started off simple enough – give a wider audience the chance to help young companies out of the gate. However, when first capturing the attention of many, securities laws prohibited issuers from compensating non-accredited investors/participants with equity in their companies; Meaning that participants weren’t really investors at all, but simply contributing to the growth of a company with the promise of potentially getting a product one day.
Fast forward to 2012, and a group of companies surrounding the industry successfully worked with regulatory bodies in the U.S. to amend existing laws. These efforts eventually resulted in the formation of, what is known as, the ‘Jumpstart Our Businesses Act’ (JOBs Act).
What the JOBs Act did was open the gates for the general public to gain exposure to true investment opportunities. Until it was enacted, securities were only able to be sold and distributed to accredited investors.
The goal of this was primarily to help young companies, as one of the largest obstacles a start-up will face is attaining funding (regardless of potential) for the development of their products and services.
Previously, to attain said funding, regulators required that a detailed prospectus be filed and approved for the sale of any asset deemed a security. This is a cost prohibitive, and time consuming, undertaking – meaning it is most likely not feasible for a small start-up. While this undertaking may be inconsequential for a company raising millions upon millions of dollars, start-ups looking for modest amounts may find it a steeper hill to climb.
Naturally, this new act came with restrictions. In an effort to maintain appropriate levels of investor protection, safeguards were put into place. The following are only a few examples of these:
- Capital generation events must be moderated by registered broker/dealers
- Net-worth based investment limits
- Generation caps on crowdfunding hosts
While this may sound restrictive, what this did was open the doors, ushering in a time where investment opportunities were no longer restricted to those that were already wealthy.
That brings us to the United States’ northern counterpart – Canada. While crowdfunding exists in Canada, the flexibility and freedom for issuers/investors is simply not the same as it is in the U.S – despite being years removed from the advent of modern crowdfunding.
The main issue is the fact that there is no nationwide ‘rulebook’, similar to the JOBs Act, in Canada. Each of the various provinces and territories may vary slightly in the structuring of their regulations, making it difficult to comply with all at once.
This segregation among Canadian regulators, means that issuers are often limited in their investor pool, as they are not necessarily eligible to host their offering in all regions – somewhat defeating the purpose of crowdfunding to begin with.
However, with the moves taken by the U.S. government over the past decade widely viewed as a success, the Canadian government has indeed taken notice. It was announced in early 2019 that they would be reviewing their policies; the goal of which is to eliminate the current segregation among regulators, by creating their own variant of the JOBs Act.
With the Supreme Court of Canada opening the door to the potential national securities regulator in 2018, and plans to develop a national crowdfunding rulebook announced in 2019, the great white north looks primed to play catch-up.
With all of this talk about crowdfunding, many in the U.S. may be wondering where access to such investment opportunities are offered. In an effort to answer these questions, securities.io’s very own, Antoine Tardif, recently penned an opinion article discussing his favourite portals offering equity based opportunities.
For those in Canada interested in equity crowdfunding, the following are a few of the more notable portals active today.
In Other News
Always striving to adapt and improve with the times, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently announced a proposal which would see access to more traditional investment opportunities become even easier for investors.
This proposal is based upon the restructuring of what defines an accredited investor. With the vast majority of investment opportunities restricted to those fitting the bill, broadening the definition, to reflect the modern world, will ideally democratize investing to an extent.
WeFunder Brings Total Raised to over $15 Million with Latest Round
WeFunder, one of the most popular crowdfunding platforms around, has recently raised another $5,128,679. This event, which took place between Dec. 18 and Dec. 13, saw a total of 16 accredited investors participate.
This funding came through the issuance of equity based securities, which were sold to investors. The amount marks roughly 58% of the shares made available, as sold.
Cumulatively, WeFunder has raised roughly $15 million, to date, through participation from >850 investors.
While, at this time, it is unclear what these funds are earmarked for, WeFunder clearly outlines the company’s greater mission and goals. The following are, simply, a few of what WeFunder lists as their commitments:
- Democratize access to high-growth start-ups
- Educate investors
- Help communities fund local businesses
- Modernize laws surrounding investors and crowdfunding
For anyone curious if WeFunder has been successful in their endeavours thus far, rest assured that the answer is ‘yes.’ The company provides the following figures on their website, demonstrating the scope of their influence and reach within crowdfunding:
- >324 start-ups
- >320,000 investors
- >$115 million raised
- VCs have invested gone on to invest >$2 billion in WeFunder start-ups
With WeFunder referring to themselves as ‘Kickstarter for investing’, it should come as no surprise that the opportunities that they afford investors vary wildly. That is part of the beauty in this type of platform – start-ups of any ilk have a chance to shine. With that in mind, WeFunder elaborated on a few of the industries they have become involved in, in the following video.
In their industry, Wefunder views themselves as giants (and rightfully so). Not only are they responsible for having a hand in the creation of the industry itself, but they indicate that their investment volume equates to more than their top 3 competitors – combined. Impressive indeed.
We recently took a brief look at a few of their competitors, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
For more information on these competitors, make sure to peruse the following article. Here, Securities.io CEO, Antoine Tardif, discusses his favourite crowdfunding sites.
On the Wefunder site, a quote is provided by CEO, Nick Tommarello. Here, he touches on his mindset, which led to the creation of this company. He states,
“I started Wefunder because I wanted to invest in my friends – to help them dream bigger, be the best versions of themselves, and reach their ambition. Seven years later, we do that for the rest of America. So much raw talent is being wasted. The purpose of my life is to fix that, to help tens of thousands “take their shot”.
Operating out of San Francisco, WeFunder is a crowdfunding platform, which was established in 2011. After successfully aiding in the creation and implementation of the JOBS Act, WeFunder has gone on to be wildly popular within the world of crowdfunding, helping start-ups raise in excess of $115 million to date.
CEO, Nick Tommarello, currently oversees company operations.
In Other News
Whether operating a crowdfunding platform, providing tokenization services, etc., there have been various recent successful raises completed by promising companies. The following articles are just a few examples of this:
Openfinance Seeks to Raise $50 Million
The popular security token exchange, Openfinance filed a Form D with the SEC this week. The company seeks to raise $50 million to further development of its secondary trading platform and security token ecosystem. The news demonstrates growing interests in the security token sector, specifically, exchanges that add liquidity to the market.
According to the SEC filing, Openfinance seeks to secure around $50 million to accomplish its new strategy. Interestingly, the company already raised $8.6 million successfully according to executives. Notably, this initial funding came from a variety of international investors. In total, 19 different investors participated in the first stage of the crowdfunding event so far.
The Openfinance exchange is no stranger to headlines. The platform became one of the first regulated security token exchanges in operation back in August 2018. Since that time, the platform continued to develop its tokenization capabilities. Recently, the company saw heavy coverage for its tokenization of the media firm, Current Media.
Openfinance is the dba of Decentralized Securities Depository, LLC. The firm provides a regulated secondary trading market for digital securities. As such, the platform has an alternative trading system (ATS) license. This license allows the platform to service both individual and institutional investors.
As part of Openfinance’s strategy, the firm partnered with some of the largest tokenization platforms in the market. According to executives, the company has strategic agreements in place with Securitize, Harbor, and Polymath.
In addition to its valuable partnerships, Openfinance opens and operates a licensed broker-dealer named Sageworks. The company also provides enterprise-level financial analysis and risk management software.
Liquidity is King
While the advantages of security tokens are immediately visible, there are still some concerns that the market lacks liquidity. Platforms such as Openfinance provide the additional liquidity needed to further the development of the sector. Both traditional and non-traditional markets benefit from this newfound liquidity.
For example, Openfinance provides investors with 24-hour trading. Comparingly, traditional securities investors must trade between the regular market hours of 9:30 am and 4:00 pm. While these investors can still match with buyers in the after-hours markets, the entire process is cluttered and leaves investors without many options. Tokenized securities are able to transfer and process at any time, including holidays.
Additionally, the platform’s tokenization capabilities allow for the creation of new market opportunities. For example, tokenization allows firms to add liquidity to traditionally nonliquidable assets such as debt-equity. Also, tokenization allows for more streamlined crowdfunding campaigns.
On top of the added features, the platform is available to both US and EU investors. Developers seek to expand the platform’s reach in the coming months. This strategy makes sense when you consider how the EU market continues to show strong security token development.
Openfinance – Moving Forward
It’s easy to see a scenario in which Openfinance becomes one of the most dominate exchanges globally. The firm provides smooth integration between brokers, custodians, transfer agents, and investors. As such, Openfinance plays a critical role in security token adoption.
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