Crowdwatch: Could Crowdfunding Save The U.S. Economy?

crowdwatchIn its purest form, crowdfunding creates options for companies and organizations looking for ways to raise capital — a significant variable in an economy with close to 8 percent unemployment and slow GDP growth. According to the Mass Solution Crowdfunding Industry Report, these campaigns raised $2.7 billion last year, an amount expected to double this year. That’s an 81 percent increase from 2011. Furthermore, crowdfunding loans doubled from $555 million last year to $1.17 billion this year, and crowdfunding-for-rewards grew from $62 million to $383 million and are expected to quadruple this year.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner appears to be bullish on crowdfunding platforms in general, bringing up the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act and the power of crowdfunding. “As we come now to the JOBS Act, I think we have the potential – I say this if I was restarting on the business side – being around crowdfunding could be as transformative as the beginning of the VC industry, the beginning of the angel industries, if we get it right,” he said. And he knows what of he speaks. Before entering politics, Warner made his fortune in the tech sector as a venture capitalist.
Last week marked the first anniversary of the passing of the JOBS Act. So what’s taking it so long to get set in motion? The SEC dropped the ball on proposing rules on how it is to be implemented. Considering the fragile state of the US economy, this non-action is quite astonishing. The importance of having regulations in place directly relates to the possibility of the crowdfunding industry providing the economy a robust uplift. As it stands now, the industry is merely a fraction of the potentially huge economic powerhouse it could become and is operating under exemptions in securities laws that predate the passing of the JOBS Act.
Thus, the promising future of crowdfunding remains in bureaucratic limbo. According to the North American Securities Administration, as of November 30, 2012, there were 8,800 web domain names within crowdfunding. Imagine how many additional endeavors, across various verticals and particularly on the equity side, would exist if there were an effective “crowdfunding police” presence in place. “We hear that the rules have been written by the staff and are just sitting in the in-box of the commissioners,” said Sara Hanks, a former SEC attorney and current chief executive of CrowdCheck. Her company plans to provide due diligence on companies raising money by crowdfunding. (Those plans, however, are also in limbo, on hold until the Senate can confirm Mary Jo White, President Obama’s nominee to head the SEC.)
Even if crowdfunding doesn’t ultimately “save” the U.S. economy, it will certainly be a major economic factor going forward. In just one of the many impressive examples of the power of crowdfunding comes the story of The WU School 2.0, which just raised all of its funding on Indiegogo. The WU School, which operates at the intersect of technology, high school education and hip-hop, matched the $25,000 funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It’s interesting to see that crowdfunding platforms appear to be an ideal place for matching funds from philanthropies.
Even with governmental stagnation all around, the industry continues to grow. “Meanwhile, the LinkedIn group ‘CrowdSourcing and CrowdFunding’ has over 19,000 members and is brimming with minute-by-minute activity, eclipsing the roughly 1,400 members of the ‘IPO’ group,” wrote Deborah Jacobs in Forbes. “It is impressive that a concept barely in the investor lexicon two years ago has captured the imagination and attention of so many.”
And this goes beyond the U.S. economy too, and into the global one. The U.S. leads the world in crowdfunding platforms, but other countries are taking notice and joining in, too. It’s an international phenomenon that trends ever more eastwardly. Singapore has emerged as something of a crowdfunding power. The United States Senate should keep these international developments in mind and do all it can to push the industry forward.

Source: Business2Community – By Ron Mwangaguhunga

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