By Mark Sanchez The emergence of crowdfunding provides not only a new mechanism for startups to solicit funding, but an opportunity for entrepreneurs to serve a new and growing market.
And with that, a handful of portals are in the works.
Among them, equityli.st is an equity-based platform now in beta testing that aggregates prospective investment opportunities.
Another crowdfunding platform is crowdrise.com, a Royal Oak-based fundraising site for charities and causes. A May story by Forbes.com ranked crowdrise.com, which launched in late 2009, among the top 10 crowdfunding sites. Actor Edward Norton is one of the founders of the site.
In Kalamazoo, Thell Woods plans to create localized crowdfunding platforms for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations to seek funding from local investors or donors. He’ll start with a local site in Kalamazoo and branch into other markets, Grand Rapids and Detroit included, using the website c3funding.com.
A former securities broker who now works as a commercial real estate agent, Woods is principal of Crowdfunding Services LLC.
He sees his crowdfunding platforms as enabling small businesses — from manufacturers to retailers such as a bakery or restaurant — to raise capital to finance an expansion or capital purchase.
In the Upper Peninsula, Houghton-based Michigan Technological University operates Superiorideas.org, a platform for university-based researchers, whether students or professors, to seek support for a research project.
Launched in October 2012, Superior Ideas has so far listed 32 projects that collectively raised $73,000. Four projects have been fully funded at a combined $51,000, said Natasha Chopp, research development and marketing managing at Michigan Tech.
Superior Ideas is open for use by any university researcher around the U.S. who is seeking funding for a research project, Chopp said.
As crowdfunding emerges, it already has seen a few starts and stops in Michigan.
Detroit-based Fundington.com, which launched in 2012, is on hold, said Birmingham attorney Michael Melfi, who co-founded the site and served as general counsel for the platform’s organizers.
Another platform, Royal Oak-based eRaise.com, “is currently in a private beta while we polish the system,” states a message on the site.
In Grand Rapids, an equity-based crowdfunding platform, relayfund.com, envisioned by Jeff Lambert, principal in the investor and public relations firm Lambert Edwards & Associates Inc., altered course after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the fall proposed rules for equity crowdfunding.
Lambert, like many in the crowdfunding movement, views the SEC rules as onerous and too restrictive. He altered his business plan to focus relayfund.com on providing services to the crowdfunding industry, such as promoting or developing a marketing campaign for a company’s solicitation.
“We’re going to be making the picks and shovels for the crowdfunding industry on the equity side,” Lambert said.