This brief history includes rewards, donation, debt, and equity crowdfunding platforms in the USA, going all the way back to 2003.
Crowdfunding is a method of collecting many small contributions, by means of an online funding platform, to finance or capitalize a popular enterprise. Crowdfunding gained traction in the United States when Brian Camelio, a Boston musician and computer programmer, launched ArtistShare in 2003.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was signed into law in March 2012. Title III of the act, which legalized equity crowdfunding, could not launch until the SEC issued final rules for the operation of funding portals.Meanwhile, some states decided to get their own jumpstart going. Relying on the intrastate exemption from SEC registration, at least 24 states—led by Kansas and Georgia—have enacted legislation or promulgated regulations that allow unlimited numbers of non-accredited investors (everyone) to participate in small private securities offerings.
Two kinds of intermediaries may conduct Title III equity crowdfunding offerings and transactions: (1) funding portals that are not registered broker-dealers, and (2) offering platforms that are registered broker-dealers. Both kinds must be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Angels often provide the first round of “outside” capital—that is, outside of the founders’ employees, family, and friends (the three Fs). Angel capital may be in the form of straight debt, convertible debt, or equity
After you identify an offering that you feel optimistic about, review the terms of the deal that really matter—including price, equity percent, valuation, use of proceeds, liquidation preferences, conversion rights, etc.—and be sure they make sense. Then conduct due diligence, perhaps collaborating with or relying on other smart investors or a professional adviser.
Monitor your equity crowdfunding investments and, every 12 months, perhaps adjust your allocation and budget for the coming year. Over the years, stay alert to opportunities for an exit (acquisition or IPO), later-round investing, redemption, liquidation, or sale of shares on secondary markets.
Remind yourself once more that angel investing is risky, and private securities can be illiquid for several years. Then, if you’re sure, click on “Invest Now,” and send money to an escrow account. If the issuer meets its funding goal, the deal closes and (congratulations) you’re an owner; if not, you’ll get a refund from escrow.
Based on your preferences for industries, kinds of securities, and minimum investment, pick from a list or directory of funding portals and broker-dealer platforms that list suitable offerings. Review the intermediaries’ selection criteria and track records before registering.
When you start looking for offerings to invest in, look first in the industries where you have knowledge or experience; or look for consumer products and services that you are familiar with. Later you can consider offerings in certain other industries for diversity. Make sure you understand the basics of private securities: stock, LLC shares, and convertible debt.
Spread out your crowdfunding investments, ideally 10 to 15 deals, over three to five years. Develop an equity crowdfunding budget for the coming 12 months. Be patient and select offerings that are most likely to result in strong ROI.
The first rule of investing is: diversify. The benefits of diversification—spreading the risk—apply not only to your overall investment portfolio (on a macro level), but to each asset class (on a micro level) as well.