Crowdfunding has been around since 2008 with the launch of indiegogo, followed by Kickstarter which launched in 2009.
The early crowdfunding websites offered users free perks, and goods in exchange for funding their business venture. Most of these start-ups fizzled out after a few months but some of these were widely successful. One of the most notable success stories is the virtual reality headset Oculus which raised over $2.4 million on Kickstarter in a campaign that also caught the attention of Mark Zuckerberg. Shortly thereafter Oculus was acquired by Facebook for $3B. This was a monumental acquisition for a start-up with a great vision and zero profits.
Unfortunately, while the Facebook acquisition of Oculus was life changing for the Oculus team, the early backers of the project on Kickstarter received nothing, as no equity was offered for their initial backing of this project.
In 2012 the JOBS Act passed which opened the doors to crowdfunding websites offering early investors equity. Now investors from all over the world have the opportunity to support start-ups who are too small to access traditional venture funding.
These equity crowdfunding websites serve an important purpose as they are directly responsible for nurturing entrepreneurs while offering investment opportunities to investors who are not based in Silicon Valley.
#1 – SeedInvest
SeedInvest differentiates themselves by focusing on only having handpicked start-ups in upcoming industries. If you want to invest in the future of tech this is one of your best options. The industries that are often featured include:
- Augmented Reality
- 3d Printing
- Artificial Intelligence
- Space Technologies
They’ve helped over 150 companies raise capital, and the team is great at filtering out most companies that apply, to offer investors a curated list of world class companies to invest in.
#2 – Microventures
This website is different than the rest of this list as they offer two different focuses and they target accredited investors only.
The main focus is on Late Stage companies. Some of the late stage companies which have been featured include:
- Honest Company
This offers the easiest possible route to investing in phenomenal late stage companies which are often only a few years away from going IPO. The minimum investment is often in the $5000 to $50000 range, with the minimum depending on the interest level and the company.
They also offer investment opportunities in Early Stage companies with minimum investments in the $3000 to $5000 range. These companies are often in Fintech, robotics, 3-D printing, etc. The quality of these Early-Stage companies is high and is also handpicked.
#3 – WeFunder
They were responsible for helping to write the JOBS Act, and are one of the oldest companies in the crowdfunding space. There’s been some huge success stories on this website.
In April 2013 Zenefits raised at a $9M valuation, and only 2 years later in May 2015 they raised an additional $500M and were valued at $4.5B. This means if you had invested $10000, you would have received a cool return of $500,000 in a 2 year period.
WeFunder came out of the Y Combinator accelerator program, which is the most famous and successful accelerator program in the world. Some success stories from here include AirBNB, DropBox, Stripe, coinbase, etc.
The reason this is important is that Y Combinator companies support each other in what is a giant ecosystem. Many of the start-ups on WeFunder are Y Combinator graduates (such as Zenefits).
#4 – Fundable
One of the oldest platforms on this list, Fundable launched on May 22, 2012. Since then they have been offering access to a notable list of companies in every industry that you can conceive of. I’ve seen everything from solar power fields to revolutionary 3D printed prosthetics.
Fundable is a crowdfunding website which offers an extensive live of companies to choose from.
#5 – StartEngine
Over 90M has been raised by 265+ companies. They even recently successfully raised a$10M STO for themselves.
While this is a great platform they are not as selective as the rest of the equity crowdfunding websites on this list, so you do have to be more careful and perform extreme due diligence in who you invest in. That being said there are some gems to be found. Hackernoon recently successfully completed a $1.07M raise. I do find that they have too many companies listed, which makes perusing the list a bit exhausting.
These are the top 5 crowdfunding websites which I believe offer investors the best access to investment opportunities. You should always perform proper due diligence, and understand that Early Stage investing is high risk, and that you are more likely than not to lose access to all of your capital. You should also expect that it takes 7 to 10 years to earn a return on any of these investments.
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SeedInvest Gaining Momentum
In a recently shared update, SeedInvest elaborated on a notable uptick in platform participation throughout 2020.
Best quarter on company record? Check. Investment volumes reaching new highs? Check. Massive investor signup, dwarfing multiple previous years combined? Check.
With people adjusting to the new world, it is clear that they are recognizing the benefits and efficiency afforded through crowdfunding. April, alone, saw roughly 25,000 new investor signups on the SeedInvest platform.
In their post, SeedInvest CEO, Ryan Feit, elaborated on how their platform differs from traditional means of raising capital.
“Unlike venture capital firms, online fundraising platforms are perfectly situated to help startups in the current, post-COVID-19 world we are in. Online fundraising platforms are not dependent on capital from a handful of pensions and endowments, but rather a large, diverse network of investors (SeedInvest has had over 350,000 investors register for example).”
“…while the traditional venture capital investment process is highly dependent on in-person meetings (which is next to impossible in the current environment), the online fundraising and investing process is inherently digitally native. Furthermore, there are a number of pending improvements to U.S. securities laws (the most significant changes since the JOBS Act was signed into law), which will turbocharge online fundraising for entrepreneurs and investors alike.”
SeedInvest is not the only platform to see a recent boost in usage. Rival crowdfunding platform, StartEngine, has seen a similar uptick.
While this positive turn may be due, mainly, to venture capitalism drying up, due to the ongoing pandemic, there is no doubt that the SEC has also played a role.
While the SEC is often viewed as a regulatory body that simply punishes those breaking the rules, they also have a direct hand in crafting friendly environments for growth. Recognizing the potential harm of COVID, they recently relaxed regulations surrounding crowdfunding. The following are a few examples of this:
- Financial statement exemptions
- Broader eligibility
- Easier ‘early closing’
While no official announcements have been made, it has long been suspected that SeedInvest owner, Circle, intends to sell the crowdfunding platform.
Reports of a possible sale surfaced after Circle began streamlining their operation in 2019. Their efforts saw the sale of popular exchange, Poloniex, as well as the departure of multiple ‘C-level’ employees.
With the recent growth seen at SeedInvest, Circle has every reason to be happy. Either they keep SeedInvest under their umbrella, and benefit from their successes, or they sell the platform, and benefit from an increased market value.
Founded in 2011, SeedInvest is a crowdfunding platform, which operates out of New York. Above all, SeedInvest acts as a bridging platform, connecting vetted investment opportunities with eligible investors.
CEO, Ryan Feit, currently oversees company operations.
In Others News
For those interested in learning more about what Crowdfunding is, and how it can transform the way we invest, make sure to peruse the following article.
Andrew Adcock, CEO of Crowd for Angels – Interview Series
Andrew is the Chief Executive Officer at Crowd for Angels an equity crowdfunding platform. He often attends and speaks at events on Crowdfunding, Alternative Finance and Investment. Previously, he worked at NinetyTen, a web application developer and provider of Private Social Networks, whose clients included Nokia, Channel 4 and Shop Direct
You were one of the original Co-Founders of Crowd for Angels. Can you discuss the inspiration behind launching this business?
I was indeed one of the Founding team at Crowd for Angels, but the inspiration for launching the company comes from our Director Tony de Nazareth, who combined his decades of financial knowledge with the ‘social media’ approach. This was to get the community involved when funding and supporting a business, thereby creating brand advocates that not only financially supported the aspirations of a company but also became a voice and customer of the company.
How much do you involve yourself in the pitch decks and packaging the deals that are found on Crowd for Angels?
I am involved in most companies that seek to list on Crowd for Angels. I take a genuine fascination in the lives of start-ups and companies looking to expand. Each has its own story and passion, which I am enthused by. Having raised funds for my own company and invested in many others, I hope to provide insight for the company.
What type of due diligence is performed on the companies that are listed?
A lot! Crowd for Angels breaks due diligence down into 3 key areas, firstly, we conduct factual checks such as KYC, AML, PEP, Credit Checks on the directors, reviewing accounts produced by the company and verifying facts stated on their pitch. Secondly, we conduct market checks, for instance, is the product available and as described, is there an addressable market, is the valuation reasonable, what legal challenges the company might face and is it ethical. The final check is one of sanity, which is not only tested by Crowd for Angels, but also by our Angels, who will ask the company their own questions.
What are some of the main reasons behind companies being turned down for listing on the platform?
There can be a number of reasons but a few we find most common are as follows:
- The valuation is simply too high in comparison to the companies position
- The company does not provide documentation (business plan, management accounts, incorporation documents)
- The product is too early-stage or not yet developed
- The directors have no ‘Skin in the Game’
What are the biggest benefits of equity crowdfunding?
I personally believe the biggest benefit is the ability to create brand advocates, people who support your business financially and become active customers, drawing in others to check out your brand, whether that is through word of mouth or social media.
Could you give us a success story of a company that raised funds on the Crowd for Angels platform?
One of my favourites is a company called CNPPS. A young entrepreneur, who was studying engineering at university at the time had created a permeable pavement solution that used recycled aggregate. Now that might not sound as fascinating as an app, but our world is covered in roads and pavements. His solution, used 100% recycled aggregate and was carbon negative, furthermore, it allowed water to pass through. Working with the entrepreneur we were able to raise £100,000 for a phase of testing that has now led on to a commercial contract and further funding for the company.
What made it interesting was the ethical approach the company had took to change an old industry, the tenacity the entrepreneur showed never giving up and that a business can truly be grown from the ground up, out of university none-the-less. So far in a 2 year period, the company’s valuation has increased 4 fold, delivering a solid return for the Angels involved.
Crowd for Angels is one of the few crowdfunding platforms that accept bitcoin. How many investors use bitcoin, and where do most of these investors originate from?
Yes, we have been accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment for investment since early 2016. At that time, we integrated this payment option to allow foreign investors to invest in UK companies without the costs and time associated with international bank transfers. Initially, we saw a number of Australians, Chinese and mainly Asian investors utilise this form of payment. However, as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies gained in popularity, we did see growth in European investors utilising cryptocurrency. Partly this is due to the gains they might have experienced and I believe the convenience cryptos offered. Now, we have over 14,000 members registered with a cryptocurrency wallet on our platform, with many of them in Europe.
A few years ago, the ANGEL token was released. What are the use cases for this token?
The ANGEL token was released to drive down the user acquisition cost of investors whilst rewarding stakeholders for interacting with our platform. It is hoped that when users interact and share content in the network, say an investment they had just made in a fledgeling company, that they would be rewarded with ANGEL. Crowd for Angels has then committed to buy back and burn ANGEL linked to the revenue generated from our pitches, thus creating a virtuous circle. We hope in the future, our Angels will also be able to use the ANGEL token as a method of payment towards an investment.
Crowdfunding utilises technology to allow the masses to invest small amounts into pitches, but the shares are usually held with a nominee and should you wish to sell them or give them to someone else, it is difficult. Therefore, the integration of digitalised assets should be a no brainer, because it potentially gives the control of the asset back to the investor and follows a set of rules, that can’t be broken. In a utopian world, you would allow investors to purchase, hold and trade any assets that they wish. With the blockchain, you benefit from an immutable ledger that would record these transactions, giving you efficiency and transparency. I believe we are only a stones throw away from some big changes.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Crowd for Angels?
We are always open to ideas, a conversation can go a long way.
Republic Acquires Fig, As Crowdfunding in Gaming Grows
Fig is also a crowdfunding platform, however, with a specific niche – gaming. Gaming has never been bigger, and represents a perfect avenue in which developers and investors, alike, can benefit from such methods of capital generation.
While Fig has, indeed, been acquired by Republic, the companies have noted that the status quo will remain for now. Each entity will continue to operate as they have been, with a merger between platforms being a gradual process, over time.
What separates both, Fig and Republic, from the competition, is their approach to crowdfunding. Due to cost, complexity, compliance measures, and a myriad of other reasons, traditional crowdfunding platforms do not reward investors with equity/dividends from listed companies. Rather, they typically provide investors the promise of a product, or future access to a service.
What about those that believe in the potential of gaming, and associated financial windfalls, but are not gamers themselves? How can they contribute and still receive something in return? The answer is increasingly common – equity/dividends. Check out the following article to learn more about this form of crowdfunding, and the benefits associated with it.
Upon announcing the acquisition, representatives from each, Republic and Fig, took the time to comment.
Justin Bailey, Founder of Fig, stated,
“Joining Republic means more investors, more ambitious games, greater exposure, and the opportunity for higher returns. I’m ecstatic Republic contacted me and excited about how this acquisition will further aid us in our mission to empower independent developers”
Chuck Pettid, CEO of Republic’s Funding Portal, stated,
“When I first talked to Justin I was blown away by his industry knowledge and connections to the best game developers in the world. It’s no wonder Fig has been so successful.”
Founded in 2016, Republic is an equity crowdfunding platform, which operates out of New York, New York. The company has noted that their overarching goal is to provide investors, of any ilk, access to quality opportunities – essentially ‘democratizing investing’.
CEO, Kendrick Nguyen, currently oversees company operations.
Founded in 2015, Fig is a crowdfunding platform operating out of San Francisco. The company maintains a unique and focused approach towards the development and funding of video games.
CEO, Justin Bailey, currently oversees company operations.
On the Rise
In a time when capital is notoriously hard to generate, equity crowdfunding has garnered the attention of many. This is no more obvious than another recent partnership, developed between StartEngine and Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful). While Kickstarter and Indiegogo may be the most notable names when discussing crowdfunding, StartEngine is a much closer rival to Republic. This is due to the focus of each platform on equity based offerings.
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