Harvard Business Professors on the promises and problems with Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding promises to democratize funding of startups. But is that necessarily a good thing? Entrepreneurial finance experts Josh Lerner, Ramana Nanda, and Michael J. Roberts on the promises and problems with the newest method for funding small businesses.

When Congress passed President Obama’s JOBS Act in March 2012, one of the most intriguing provisions would enable crowdfunding—the ability for large groups of anonymous investors to fund startups. More than a year after the law was passed, however, the provision remains tied up in red tape waiting for the Securities and Exchange Commission to pass rules that would allow for crowdfunding investment on a large scale.

Already, companies have dipped their toes into crowdfunding through websites such as KickstarterIndiegogo, and AngelList, with an anticipated $5 million to be raised this year, nearly double the amount in 2012. That’s nothing compared to the bonanza expected when the SEC opens up the floodgates for nonaccredited individual investors to directly acquire equity in private companies—and for companies to directly solicit the public without having to jump through the hurdles usually required in a venture capital presentation.


As enticing as crowdfunding is as a concept, it may ultimately have little power to shake up the investing world, even as it fills a valuable niche, say three Harvard Business School professors who specialize in entrepreneurial finance.


Before understanding what crowdfunding can do, it’s helpful to understand what it is. In a sense, says Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking Josh Lerner, crowdfunding isn’t new—after all, soliciting funds from large groups of people is exactly what nonprofits and political campaigns have been doing for more than a century. In today’s world, though, the Internet has dramatically altered the ability for companies and independent entrepreneurs to get their ideas in front of large numbers of strangers with money to invest.

Associate Professor Ramana Nanda further differentiates between crowdfunding through donations or lending and equity crowdfunding. In the case of donations, which is currently much more common, funders expect little if any direct return. In its most pure form, this is where donations to organizations such as World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children fit in. Those contributing money are driven first and foremost by an affinity with the idea, rather than by any individual reward they might receive. Some websites such as Kiva have pushed this concept further to allow microloans through the crowd to lesser-known microfinance borrowers in developing countries.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Mountain XpressFaces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initativesMountain XpressON THE SPOT: The scenes in Luke & Jo will be shot chronologically, which will allow for more improvisation in the dialogue, according to the feature film's crowdfunding page. Andie Morgenlander and E [...]

AZCentral.comTiny companies lure investors under Arizona crowdfunding lawAZCentral.comInvestors who make bets under the state's one-year-old crowdfunding law certainly have the potential to get in on the ground floor, but they must be patient and might not receive any returns. Th [...]

BloombergCouples Desperate For Children Turn to Crowdfunding FertilityBloombergCrowdfunding has become a popular mechanism for many couples who can't afford the high costs of IVF, or adoption and surrogacy. “It's not an easy thing to share publicly,” says Crystal Barrett, 33 [...]

MarketWatchWhy a crowdfunding site is giving out $10000 scholarshipsMarketWatchCrowdfunding site GoFundMe announced Thursday that it will award $10,000 to 10 students with pages on their site that fundraise for education. The award is part of a contest the site held throughout Septemb [...]

Huffington PostReal Estate Crowdfunding's Pathway of ChangeHuffington Post“Crowdfunding is just the Internet,” stated Attorney Mark Roderick as he opened last month's RealCap Chicago. RealCap is an annual conference that joins crowdfunding leaders and innovators to propel th [...]

BBC NewsNHS trust 'relies' on crowdfunding to equip wardBBC NewsAn NHS trust has launched a crowdfunding appeal to buy equipment for a new hospital unit because "it cannot get started without donations". The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore, n [...]

MottoIVF: More Couples Crowdfunding to Pay for Procedure - MottoMottoMore and more couples are turning to crowdfunding to fund costly in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, Bloomberg reports.More Couples Who Can't Afford IVF Are Turning To Crowdfunding For HelpRomperCouples des [...]

EntrepreneurIs Crowdfunding Right for You? Answer These 7 Questions to Find Out.EntrepreneurCrowdfunding is a popular and increasingly accessible way to put your prospective product or business in front of millions of people. And, thanks to the visibility of massive success stories, t [...]

Boing BoingCrowdfunding a bike-lock that squirts vomit-inducing antipersonnel gas when cutBoing BoingThe Skunklock is a $109 crowdfunded gadget that contains pressurized vomit-inducing gas the creators call "Formula D_1," and which is intended to induce immediate vomiting wh [...]

WestwordProgressive-Rock Band Marillion Pioneered CrowdfundingWestwordThat was the beginning of crowdfunding for us — and for every band, really.” When it came time for the recording and release of the followup to the 1999 marillion.com record, Kelly and the band realized that one of [...]

CFB Finance

Press Release

Live Crowdfunding .tv

What's Next Step in Regulation A+ JOBS ACTS Title IIII :L Interview : Steve Cinelli with Brian Korn Securities and Crowdfunding/Peer-to-Peer Lending Lawyer, Watch more video library | Conference | Interview | Campaign Showcase | Research | Education |