Tag Archives: Community

The State of Reg A Plus. What’s Next?


Blaine McLaughlin is the Chief Operating Officer of VIA Folio, an innovative IPO, private and alternative investment platform that makes it easy for online platforms, issuers, investors, brokers and advisors to engage with IPOs, private and alternative debt and equity offerings.

Parallels between ICO’s and the early days of Equity Crowdfunding

 Founder Raiseworth.

(Here is a post from 2015 when I started pushing for Crowdfunding to be moved to the Blockchain)

If I go back to 2008, in the very early days of Equity Crowdfunding, the ASSOB platform has already been operating for around four years. This meant there were plenty of learnings in place even before any other equity platforms had started.

There are parallels here with ICO’s as in the early days many people that approached us to raise capital on ASSOB had not much more than an idea or a sketch on paper. We learnt as the years went by that the existing regulatory structure was not detailed enough to protect investors so we put in place the ASSOB compliance framework. This stood the test of time as 300 odd raises later no evidence of fraud has emerged. This included an “offer document” not dissimilar to the “White Papers” that set out all aspects of the raise including:

  • OPPORTUNITY KEY DETAILS
  • KEY INVESTOR HIGHLIGHTS
  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  • ABOUT THE COMPANY
  • CORPORATE OBJECTIVES
  • COMPETITION & RISK
  • ABOUT THIS OFFER
  • HOW TO APPLY FOR SHARES
  • OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE
  • STRATEGIC GROWTH PLAN
  • USE OF FUNDS
  • DIRECTORS DECLARATION
  • DISCLAIMER
  • GLOSSARY OF TERMS

This was not prescribed anywhere in regulations for documents that weren’t disclosure documents but over a period of time things like quarterly reporting, annual accounts and other things were added to the mix to strengthen the self-regulated compliance framework.

With ICO’s I see the same effort by early adopters in their documents. There is an eagerness to be transparent and provide valuable and essential information for prospective funding providers. However as these are early days there is a widely disparate level of transparency and disclosure by ICO promoters. This is to be expected but just as equity crowdfunding evolved around the world as players engaged with regulators, so will the ICO area.

The main difficulty at ASSOB from 2004 to 2010 was that entities often had no turnover, maybe not a product and no track record. The question was how do you assess these companies as potential investments. This same question is front and centre for ICO’s.

We solved this at ASSOB by using “Fundability Circles” to assess opportunities. Since 2015 a lot has changed, including the emergence of ICO’s so I thought it would be good to update this and do an ICO version.

Here it is!

Here is how you use it!

When you look at an ICO opportunity the three circles equal the main areas to assess a raise. I’ve listed some factors to assist you but basically each of the areas should have a total of 10 points with the total being 30. Obviously if you get 30 out of 30 for an ICO raise you are good to go. What happens though is usually one area is much lower than the other two. Often you can have a great idea with a very technical team but nobody in marketing or legitimisation. Or at other times the marketing team is great but the people are not around to build it.

Most ICO “White Papers” usually include Story, Team and Legitimisation but often they are weighted differently in each white paper. If you are involved in an ICO, or you are promoting one, you should yearn to get balance in the document so the three areas are equally reflected. (Note the intersecting areas between each circle)

  1. The Team must be capable of implementing the story
  2. The Team must appear credible to the potential partners and investors
  3. The Story must be relevant to potential partners and investors

Trust this assists you with your ICO. After seeing 300 odd raises go through this process it is indeed a great way to get an early grip on the possibility of success or as it says in the middle … the “Fundability Potential”.

The Best industries for Regulation Crowdfunding

 

 

 

By: Sherwood Neiss and Jason Best, Principals Crowdfund Capital Advisors, LLC

Into the second year of Regulation Crowdfunding there are now over 475 companies that have filed offering documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to raise up to $1,070,000 from their customers, communities, friends and family. But in which industries are these investors most interested in deploying their capital? The good news for companies considering using Regulation Crowdfunding, is that these online investors have a diverse appetite. While software/gaming application companies receive the most commitments, breweries, entertainment companies, personal transportation vehicles, restaurants and personal services (i.e. fitness training, veterinary, grooming, etc) aren’t far behind. They key data points for potential issuers to understand are: 1) How much money do you need to raise for your business in relation to the average amount raised for your industry? 2) Where is the crowd is engaged in deals and dollars? Meaning is there enough interest in your business (industry) to crowdfund. And 3) what is the crowd’s average check size – to determine how much you can realistically raise from your network compared with what you need?

At Crowdfund Capital Advisors, we track all Regulation Crowdfunding offerings across the entire industry. Our team of analysts maps each company to Morningstar’s Global Equity Classification Structure©. There are 148 industries in Morningstar’s classification. Once the data from each offering is on-boarded and cleansed, each offering is tagged with this Morningstar classification so we can track not only the progress the offering is making towards its funding target but which industries are receiving the most interest, and ultimately, which offerings close successfully.

Now that the market is over a year old, we can begin to see signs of where the crowd has an appetite and hence where prospective Regulation Crowdfunding companies should be considering this an attractive funding mechanism for at least a portion of your capital needs. The following Tree Map visually displays all the data to date. Each leaf measures an industry the number of commitments and the number of backers. The larger the leaf the greater the number of commitments the darker the leaf the greater the number of backers.

Source: Crowdfund Capital Advisors, LLC

By Number of Campaigns
Digging into the data, Application Software (i.e. Electronic Gaming and Software) had the most number of offerings (n=94). This was followed by Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries (n=29), Entertainment companies (i.e. movie studios, theatre, music, sports league, entertainment parks, n=29), Personal Service companies (i.e. spas, barber, kids activities, photographers, clubs, pet services, rideshare, wedding services, n=28), Restaurants (n=28), Consumer Electronics (n=25), Personal Transportation Vehicles (i.e. electric bicycles, cars, boating, etc., n=23), Apparel (n=21), Consumer Packaged Goods (n=19) and Retail (n=18).

However, when we filter for only those campaigns that hit their Minimum Funding Target and hence were successful, we see an interesting outcome. Electronic Gaming and Software drops to 40, a 43% success rate; Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries companies falls off but not as much to 23, a 79% success rate), Restaurants (n=18 or 64% success), Personal Service companies (n=17 or 61% success rate), Personal Transportation Vehicles (n=15 or 65% success rate), Entertainment companies (n=14 or 48% success rate), and Apparel (n=12 or 57% success rate). So, while the Gaming industry had the most offerings, the greatest success was with Brewers, Wineries & Distilleries who enjoyed 79% success followed by Personal Transportation Vehicles, 65%, Education 63%, Personal Services 61% and Restaurants with a 61% success.

By Dollars Committed

Table 1: Committed Dollars by Industry

Source: Crowdfund Capital Advisors, LLC

Where is investor money going? When we filter by total amount of capital committed (table to the right) we see that Software and Gaming companies received the most commitments. (Keep in mind, until a campaign closes and is funded those dollars are just pledges and not actual investments). This is followed by Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries and Personal Transportation Vehicles. These Top 10 industries received 71% of all the capital committed to Regulation Crowdfunding campaigns.
By Dollars Funded

Table 2: Funded Dollars by Industry

Source: Crowdfund Capital Advisors, LLC

However, Committed Dollars don’t mean much unless a campaign hits its Minimum Funding Target. So, we again filter for campaigns that did so and hence were “Funded.” The table at the right shows that nine of the Top 10 industries that received the most commitments also received the most Funded dollars – Computer Hardware fell off the list and Medical Devices was added. Pay close attention to the conversion rate of Committed dollars to Funded dollars. The higher the conversion means that if you are in any of these industries your chances of receiving the money that is pledged is greater than some of the other industries. It will be interesting to see if this trend holds over the next few months.

By Total Investors

Table 3: # of Investors per Industry

Source: Crowdfund Capital Advisors, LLC

Finally, we answer the question, what industries are driving the most investor interest? The table at the right answers this. Again, Software and Gaming had the most backers, followed by Entertainment, Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries and Personal Transportation. The Top 10 here represented 74% of all the individual backers. So if you aren’t in one of these industries it doesn’t mean you won’t attract the crowd, it just might be more challenging.
Source: Crowdfund Capital Advisors, LLC

But perhaps most important is what’s the average check size for industries where campaigns are funded? Here are the current results: Entertainment $2,448, Personal Transportation, $2,375, Personal Services, $1,292, Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries, $1,231, Software and Gaming: $1,196, Apparel $979, Computer Hardware $857, Restaurants $598. This seems to indicate that that so far, crowd investors are willing to more money individually into things that benefit them or they consume directly. Seems they are investing in brands, experiences, and people they trust.

Conclusion

While we talked extensively about the “Top 10’s” as we analyzed the data, it is very important to understand that there have now been successful campaigns in 56 of the 148 industries in the Morningstar classification system, and the geographic distribution of campaigns is also expanding (now at 44 states). Investors are deploying capital across a significant and growing number of industries across the country. They are especially investing in companies that deliver a direct benefit/relationship with the product, in addition to the desire for long term appreciation of their capital. We estimate that over $100M will be committed to Regulation Crowdfunding campaigns by the end of 2017. All from a standing start 18 months prior. This is a strong early signal of the long-term success of this funding channel.

Into the second year of Regulation Crowdfunding there are now over 475 companies that have filed offering documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to raise up to $1,070,000 from their customers, communities, friends, and family. But in which industries are these investors most interested in deploying their capital? The good news for companies considering using Regulation Crowdfunding, is that these online investors have a diverse appetite. While software/gaming application companies receive the most commitments, breweries, entertainment companies, personal transportation vehicles, restaurants and personal services (i.e. fitness training, veterinary, grooming, etc) aren’t far behind. The key data points for potential issues to understand are: 1) How much money do you need to raise for your business in relation to the average amount raised for your industry?  2) Where is the crowd is engaged in deals and dollars? Meaning is there enough interest in your business (industry) to crowdfund. And 3) what is the crowd’s average check size – to determine how much you can realistically raise from your network compared with what you need?

At Crowdfund Capital Advisors, we track all Regulation Crowdfunding offerings across the entire industry. Our team of analysts maps each company to Morningstar’s Global Equity Classification Structure©. There are 148 industries in Morningstar’s classification. Once the data from each offering is on-boarded and cleansed, each offering is tagged with this Morningstar classification so we can track not only the progress the offering is making towards its funding target but which industries are receiving the most interest, and ultimately, which offerings close successfully.

Now that the market is over a year old, we can begin to see signs of where the crowd has an appetite and hence where prospective Regulation Crowdfunding companies should be considering this an attractive funding mechanism for at least a portion of your capital needs. The following Tree Map visually displays all the data to date. Each leaf measures an industry the number of commitments and the number of backers. The larger the leaf the greater the number of commitments the darker the leaf the greater the number of backers.

Crowdfund Capital Advisors (CCA) delivers strategic insights to government agencies, financial institutions, regulators and multilateral organizations seeking to both create and implement innovative strategies to utilize crowdfund investing (CFI) technologies to drive innovation, job creation and entrepreneurship. We also study and invest in the emerging ecosystem of crowdfunding and the new solutions being created that will impact the broader private capital markets. We are passionate about creating innovation, entrepreneurship, and jobs through the use of crowdfunding.  CCA delivers strategic services and implementation programs that create, proprietary deal flow for professional investors, better access to capital for businesses and policy and regulatory innovation for governments.

 

 

 

CF Laws, Rules, Regulations & Compliance

Watch: Jonathan Frutkin, Sara Hanks, Mark Roderick, Brian Korn @ Crowdfunding USA  More Videos:

Crowdfunding and Cryptocurrencies

By Mark Roderick CrowdFunding Beat  Sr. contributing editor and crowdfunding attorney with Flaster/Greenberg PC.

Cryptocurrencies are hot. And often the sale of cryptocurrencies is referred to as Crowdfunding. Unfortunately, the use of “cryptocurrencies” and “Crowdfunding” together creates confusion about both, along with some pretty serious legal risks.

We use “Crowdfunding” to mean raising money for a business or other venture online. We say “donation-based Crowdfunding” when we’re talking about Kickstarter, where people ask for donations. We say “equity-based Crowdfunding” when we’re talking about raising money from investors, who receive a stock certificate or some other security.

A cryptocurrency is, well, hard to pin down. It’s a transaction registered in a distributed, secure database. Because it exists in limited quantities and is secure, it has value. Like anything of value, it can be used as a currency. For purposes of this post, the key feature of a true cryptocurrency is that is has value of itself, like a nugget of gold.

You use Crowdfunding to sell shares of stock. Obviously, the paper certificates representing the shares of stock have no value by themselves, they have value only to evidence ownership in the business that issued the certificates or, more exactly, in the cash flow the business is expected to generate. So it wouldn’t make sense to say “I’m selling nuggets of gold using Crowdfunding.” The nuggets of gold have an intrinsic value without reference to the cash flow of anything else, or at least you hope they do. I can go shopping with a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum, just as I can shop with US dollars or, historically, with gold.

This is where things get tricky and words matter. The blockchain – the technology underlying all cryptocurrencies – can be used for a lot of things other than cryptocurrencies. As it happens, one of the things the blockchain can be used for is to keep track of stock certificates. In fact, the blockchain works so well keeping track of stock certificates that it will undoubtedly be used by (or replace) all public stock transfer agents within the next five years.

What’s happening today is that companies are selling what they call “cryptocurrencies” that are really just interests in the future operations of a business, i.e., really just hi-tech stock certificates. Cool, they’re using blockchain technology to keep track of who owns the company! But that doesn’t mean what you’re buying is really a cryptocurrency and that you’re going to get rich like the early buyers of Ethereum.

Words are powerful, and the confusion around cryptocurrencies is deepened by the nomenclature. Sales of cryptocurrencies are often referred to as “initial coin offerings,” or ICOs, which implies a similarity to “initial public offerings,” or IPOs. Yet if we’re being careful, the two have nothing in common. In an IPO a company sells its own securities, which have value only based on the success of the company. In an ICO somebody sells a product that has intrinsic value of itself.

Ignoring the difference is going to land someone in hot water, probably sooner rather than later. A company that sells something it calls a cryptocurrency but is really just a share of stock is selling a security, even if that company has an address near Palo Alto. And a company that sells a security is subject to all those pesky laws from the 1930s. If you sell a cryptocurrency that is really just a hi-tech stock certificate, then not only do you risk penalties from the SEC and state securities regulators, you’ll also face lawsuits from your investors if things don’t go as planned.

How to know whether you’re selling a true cryptocurrency or a hi-tech stock certificate? Here are some tips:

  • If the value of the cryptocurrency depends on the success of the business, it’s a security.
  • If the value of the cryptocurrency depends on, or is backed by, real estate or other property, it’s a security.
  • If the cryptocurrency is marketed as an investment, it’s probably a security.
  • If the value of the cryptocurrency depends what the buyer does with it, rather than the success of the business, it’s probably not a security.
  • If the cryptocurrency merely gives the holder the right to participate in a group effort (g., the development of software), it’s probably not a security.
  • If you’re selling the cryptocurrency in lieu of issuing stock, it’s probably a security.

Paradise Ridge Hydrocarbons, Inc. (OTC Pink: PRGE) Jumps 50% After Acquiring Equity Crowdfunding Platform, StackCap.com

Crowdfund Beat News Wire,

Paradise Ridge Hydrocarbons, Inc. (OTC Pink: PRGE) is primarily engaged in the re-entry and re-working of existing oil & gas properties. Shares of the energy company are surging 50% on Monday, May 1, 2017. Over the past month, Paradise Ridge Hydrocarbons, Inc. saw average daily volume of 95,129 shares. However, volume of 205,639 shares or dollar volume of $129,552, has already exchanged hands on Monday.

Shares of Paradise Ridge Hydrocarbons, Inc. are jumping today, after the company announced it has diversified its business operations through the acquisition of StackCap.com, an equity crowdfunding platform. Furthermore, the company says it will utilize STACKCAP, Inc. to conduct further debt and equity financing services and platforms. Ultimately, the acquisition is scheduled to close on May 31, 2017. Here is the full press release detailing of the acquisition:

Paradise Ridge Hydrocarbons, Inc. Press Release:

AUSTIN, Texas, May 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ –Paradise Ridge Hydrocarbons, Inc. (OTC Pink: PRGE) today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire equity crowdfunding platform stackcap.com owned by STACKCAP, INC.

Equity crowdfunding fuels innovation and growth by providing access to capital that can take businesses from ideas to viable products and real jobs. PRGE will utilize STACKCAP, INC. to provide debt and equity financing for a wide range of business opportunities which currently lack access to needed capital. “Under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 the US government has helped by lowering the barrier to entry, and now we will do our part. Under the Trump administration, we believe this will continue to spur a small business revolution, empower more women and minorities and revive the American dream,” stated President Gordon Johnson.

The acquisition is scheduled to close prior to May 31, 2017. The terms of the transaction include the issuance of restricted Rule 144 PRGE common stock.

Forward Looking Statements:

This press release contains forward-looking statements that involve numerous risks and uncertainties. Actual results, performance or achievements could differ materially from those anticipated in such forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, including those set forth in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

NextGen Announces Finalists for Crowdfunding Video Awards

Crowdfund Beat News Wire,

NextGen Announces Finalists for Crowdfunding Video Awards Season Finale, Recognizing the Year’s Most Creative Campaign Videos

NextGen Crowdfunding® – the leading company that helps people explore new types of crowdfunding – announces the finalists for the season finale of the Crowdfunding Video Awards (CVAs). The CVAs is a new online series from NextGen showcasing videos from both rewards-based and investment crowdfunding campaigns featured on Indiegogo, Kickstarter and other leading rewards-based and investment crowdfunding platforms. This innovative show provides entrepreneurs with new ways to promote their companies to supporters and investors.

 

 

The first season of the CVAs included six preliminary awards shows and will culminate in a final seasonal awards showon Wednesday highlighting the first-place winners from all six rounds of voting. These six campaigns will go head to head to be recognized as one of the top three campaigns from this season and win:

  • First place: $10,000
  • Second place: $5,000
  • Third place: $2,500

 

The finalists include:

  • Limitless Phone Case by Mous (Round One): Will protect your phone from breaking
  • Noria by Noria Home (Round Two): First window air conditioner designed with you in mind
  • FireFlies Audio (Round Three): Truly wireless earbuds
  • Farm from a Box (Round Four): Complete off-grid toolkit for tech-powered agriculture
  • Purple Pillow (Round Five): World’s first no-pressure pillow
  • MuConnect (Round Six): World’s first fast charging magnetic adapter

 

Viewers can log on to NextGenCrowdfunding.com to watch the season finale on Wednesday, May 3 at 3 PM PT / 6 PM ET.

 

We proudly invite you to 4th Annual Crowdfunding USA on May 4-5, 2017 National Press Club Washington, DC.

Crowdfund Beat Media Presents: 
 
The Important gathering will discuss what’s new on State of Investing and Risk Mitigation through evolving Internet finance space under the label “2017 the Year of 2.0 Equity & SME Finance-Online Lending or Investing- Crowdfunding “Jobs Act” under new congress & President Trump administration”

 See Conference website & Full Agenda Speakers 

 
For Promotional Opportunities, Group Discount, Sponsorship, and how to become a panelist call 1-888-580-6610 or email to info@crowdfundingusa.com

CF USA AGENDA’s  SNAPSHOT

SEC – JOBS ACT – Early Investing
Family Offices – IRA Trust
Rules and Regulations Consideration
Rule 506(c) – Title II Tittle III REG D REG CF
Definition of accredited investor?
Liquidity for the private securities space
Redefining Securities Distribution through Crowdfunding

Real Estate Crowdfunding

Why Hot Real Estate CrowdFunding Is The Next  New Frontier?
Impact of crowdfunding on real estate finance and deal-making
Is Real Estate Crowdfunding Offers An Attractive Alternative For Secure Investments?
The Impact of Technology and Internet on Real Estate Crowdfunding

Trump to Lift Community Bank Regulations (and what that means for house flippers)

Shadow Banking
Dodd-Frank: A Republican Congress
will likely be looking for ways to scale back time and money on business regulation.
Real Estate Crowdfunding and Community Development

Pros & Cons of Internet finance and lending 

2017 State of CrowdFunding

Business of Crowdfunding & Reaching the Goal – How to Make It Happen

Multiple Faces of Crowdfunding on Equity

Future of EB-5 Business Finance & Crowdfunding
Disruption of Equity Crowdfunding on VC’s – Angel Investors
Is Online Lending & Fintech industry here to stay?

Exploring Title II
Why it dominates and will continue to dominate crowdfunding
What initiatives are being pursued to create secondary markets or other means
Effect of IPO window

Regulation A+ Mini IPO
Many of the Reg A deals got pulled this last year.
Is this offering type holding up to investor interest.
Need research on Reg CF, Reg A+ and other offerings.
How much was raised, and how have they performed.
Aftermarket performance of Reg A+ deals

After hours Networking 

Round table discussion

 

Political Crowdfunding: Building a Community Instead of a Campaign

By Anum Yoon, Crowdfund Beat Media Guest Editor,

Throughout the past few years, crowdfunding has become a source of fundraising for charities, life-saving surgeries, new products, individual travel goals, research projects and more. With crowdfunding platforms and social media, it’s easier than ever to set up a page where friends and family can donate to whatever it is you’re passionate about or need money for. But does this new fundraising fad have a place in politics?

Election-Money

Politicians who are starting campaigns or building platforms need money, and it’s a fairly new possibility that this money could come from small individual donations from people on crowdfunding websites instead of the wealthy upper class. Here’s everything there is to know about crowdfunding in the political arena.

Traditional Political Fundraising

In the past and even currently, campaigns have been funded by the appropriate political party the candidate is running for. Additionally, wealthy donors throw large amounts of money into the politician’s bank account and, more often than not, cash in the donation for a favor later on down the road.

With this system, the upper class and politicians are completely running the show. Campaigns are based on who got money from the top dogs, and elections are based on those campaigns. So, it’s not hard to see how the average person isn’t exactly included in the political process.

Changes Being Made

In 2008, Barack Obama, who would be elected president that year, changed the game of fundraising in politics. He was the first candidate who collected funds for his campaign from the average working class family.

Obama successfully built a campaign that got American families interested and invested in him – literally. He asked for donations on his website in order to fund his campaign and raised millions of dollars from small donors who simply donated what they could afford, even if that was only a dollar.

Obama’s strategy worked, obviously. Since then, politicians at the local and federal level have used similar campaign strategies. Bernie Sanders, who ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race, prided himself on not accepting money from billionaires. Instead, he wanted to be funded only by the average American. It was easy for his supporters to support him because donating was just a few clicks away thanks to the ease of electronic payments.

He would often send out emails to his supporters asking for just $3 before midnight to send a message to Washington that Americans are tired of billionaires buying elections. The average campaign donation was $27.

On the surface, it seems like Sanders’ strategy did not pay off, since he did not win the nomination. However, Bernie Sanders made quite a name for himself in just a few short months and was a serious contender for the nomination, running on only small donations through crowdfunding efforts. His effort is a look into what could be the future of political fundraising.

Building a Community

The idea behind crowdfunding is to build a community. Crowdfunding started with individual stories. People who wanted to travel and do philanthropic work. Somebody who needed a surgery their family couldn’t afford. An entrepreneur with a great business idea. A young girl who wanted to go to Disney World.

The stories behind each crowdfunding page are what drives people to donate money. People tell their story in the hopes of touching others and convincing them to donate to their cause.

For this reason, crowdfunding in the political arena could be a great thing. Imagine politicians building their campaign not around the nitty gritty of politics, but around a story that touches the American people — a story of hope and resilience. Campaigns and politics in general could become so much more personalized, and Americans could really play a part in the government.

Of course, there are always some things that could go wrong. Politicians could somehow corrupt this system. There will always be billionaires to buy out politicians in their own best interest. There are holes in every system, but it’s also possible to patch up those holes. Since crowdfunding is such a new idea, there is much to be said and discovered about how the system would actually work when utilized by many politicians.

So, crowdfunding in politics could be great, it could be terrible or it could be somewhere in the middle. Only time will tell how politicians will use crowdfunding for their campaigns and how people will react to this new way of fundraising.

 

 

 

 

2017 Real Estate Crowdfunding: Surveying the Landscape

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“Copyright” By Jonathan B. Wilson CrowdFund Beat Sr. Guest Editor, Partner, Taylor English Duma LLP

The impact of crowdfunding on real estate finance and deal-making has been one of the hottest topics of the past year.[1]  With the advent of crowdfunding, real estate developers and investors have multiple pathways to finance their projects and even to plot their exits.  But in many ways the impact of crowdfunding has not yet arrived.  Crowdfunding for real estate is still in the early stages and may take several detours along the way to its final destination.

What is Crowdfunding?

The idea of “crowdfunding” has been in the news a great deal but investors have only just begun to realize its potential for the industry.  Crowdfunding is the idea that a large number of people, with no particular expertise, can accurately predict the likely success or failure of a venture by combining their own observations and communicating with each other.  James Surowiecki‎, in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds[2], recounts dozens of examples where a large group of people who were able to collect and share information were able to make more accurate guesses about the success of a project than the best guess of any individual expert in the topic.  The Internet, with its ability to collect a large number of people quickly and easily, makes it possible to collect a “crowd” to evaluate an idea better than was ever possible before.

Crowdfunding applies this idea to the process of evaluating investment opportunities, allowing members of the crowd to put money behind their predictions and preferences.  Proponents believe that by allowing a crowd of potential investors to share their opinions about the investment and the information they collect that crowd will be better able to predict the success of the investment than individual investment experts.  Sydney Armani, the publisher of CrowdFundBeat, says, “People get excited when they engage with a new product that arouses their passions.  Those passions take on even greater intensity when they can invest in that new product.” [3]

Crowdfunding can take several forms.  Popular crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo let project sponsors describe their projects to the public and ask for donations.  In an “affinity” campaign, supports of a project pledge funds for a project because they like it and support it.  Their affinity for the project is their only reward.  In a “rewards-based” campaign, project sponsors offer rewards for cash contributions.  Rewards may range from recognition on a website or on a wall, to t-shirts, products samples and more.

Securities-Based Crowdfunding

Securities-based crowdfunding is possible through several recent changes in U.S. securities laws, most of which are derived from the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (or “JOBS Act”).  In particular, the JOBS Act created three types of crowdfunding: (a) crowdfunding to “accredited investors” under Rule 506(c), (b) crowdfunding for up to $50 million each year under new Regulation A+ and (c) crowdfunding to both accredited and non-accredited investors in small offerings under Title III.

Investing Under Rule 506(c)

First, a sponsor could offer debt or equity securities to “accredited investors” under Rule 506(c).  The JOBS Act changed some of the rules affecting private offerings under Rule 506 so that sponsors could publicly-advertise their offerings.  Before this change in the law, public solicitations of private offerings were strictly prohibited.  Under new Rule 506(c) however a promoter that wants to advertise publicly must take various steps to ensure that every investor who participates in the offering is “accredited”, which is defined as having a net worth of over $1 million (excluding the investor’s principal residence) or having an income of more than $200,000 for two consecutive years ($300,000 is the investor is married and files tax returns jointly with a spouse).

Crowdfunding under Rule 506(c) has been feasible for more than a year and several websites, have had some success hosting real estate crowdfunding campaigns that have included securities under Rule 506(c).  Most of the popular real estate crowdfunding sites included in our survey, however, require accredited investors to create a membership on the site before they can view any live offerings.  As a result, the offerings made available to members are intended as a private offering, and not a general solicitation.  Because there is no general solicitation, those websites take the position that their offerings are private offerings under Rule 506(b) rather than publicized general solicitations under Rule 506(c).

Investing Under Regulation A

Another legal change that came from the JOBS Act was a change to Regulation A, an SEC rule that allows a private company to qualify its securities (which may be equity or debt) through filing a formal prospectus with the SEC.  The SEC reviews the prospectus to ensure that it adequately describes all of the risks of the business and the risks to investors.  Once the issuer’s prospectus is approved by the SEC (at which point it is said to be “effective”) the sponsor may sell the securities to both accredited and non-accredited investors.

Before the JOBS Act, offerings under Regulation A were limited to not more than $5 million.  Under the new provisions of Regulation A (sometimes called “Regulation A+”) an issuer of securities may raise up to $50 million in any 12-month period.

One of the advantages of a Regulation A offering is that the company will be able to solicit investments from both accredited and non-accredited investors, thereby widening the scope of interest in the project.  The SEC’s rules, implementing these changes to Regulation A, however, have only been effective since October 2015.  As a result, there have been relatively few offerings that have completed the new process and it is harder to tell how these new offerings will be accepted by investors.

Regulation CF

The third possible route for crowdfunding is often called “Title III” because it arises under Title III of the JOBS Act.  Although the JOBS Act became law in 2012, the SEC only released its rules implementing this new law in October 2015 and those rules didn’t take effect until May 2016.  Under those roles, a promoter may issue securities, in an amount up to $1 million in any 12-month period, to both accredited and non-accredited investors.  But, soliciting for investors may only take place through licensed crowdfunding portals that have received a license from the Financial Institutions Regulation Authority (“FINRA”).

Under Regulation CF (the name used for the SEC’s Title III regulations), issuers do not file a prospectus with the SEC but do need to include certain disclosures about the company in their offering memorandum.  The funding portal will also be liable for making sure that all of the prospective investors receive certain notices about the process and for ensuring that each investor does not invest more than a certain maximum that is derived from the investor’s taxable income.  While a Regulation CF offering can “go national” by accepting investments from people across the country (whether they are accredited or not) the $1 million limit and the requirement that all solicitations take place online through the licensed portal make this approach a challenge for many new ventures.

Because of the $1 million annual cap on fundraising under Regulation CF, however, this approach is usually not a good fit for real estate projects that often require more than this maximum amount.

Surveying the Landscape

The following websites have used one or more of these regulatory pathways to create a marketplace for crowdfunding real estate projects.  By surveying some of the more popular websites I have tried to provide an overview for how industry players are using these now crowdfunding regulations to make deal flow and investment opportunities possible.  This list is not an endorsement of any of these sites and a site’s omission from this list is not intended as a criticism or a suggestion that the site is not worthwhile or valuable.

Peer Street

PeerStreet specializes mostly in residential debt investments (with a smattering of multifamily and commercial). PeerStreet utilizes Rule 506(b) to solicit accredited investors to participate in loans that are secured by real estate.[4]  They have one of the lowest minimums in the top 10 ($1K versus $10K average), and a healthy volume of new transactions.

Virtually every site in the industry claims that they have superior due diligence. PeerStreet, however, supports its claim with concrete proof.  PeerStreet allows investors to review the performance of every past investment. PeerStreet’s site claims that, since 2014, the site has offered more than 200  notes but without any foreclosures or unremedied defaults.

Unlike many other real estate crowdfunding sites, however, PeerStreet does not originate its loans.  Rather, project sponsors introduce opportunities to the site and then earn a fee based on successfully closing the investments.  As a consequence, investors that participate in deals on PeerStreet pay slightly higher total fees than some other sites.  Because of the relatively high performance that PeerStreet’s deals have produced,[5] however, these fees so far have not kept investors away.

Real Crowd

Real Crowd acts as a syndication platform for real estate development companies and real estate funds.  The development companies and funds pay a fee to Real Crowd to have their offerings listed on the site.  Viewing the offerings is possible only for accredited investors who have created a free membership account on the site.  Most of the opportunities on Real Crowd involve commercial real properties or multi-family properties.  Some of the investments are funds in which the fund manager will be investing in the proceeds in a targeted type of property while others are syndicating take-out financing for existing properties.

From the investor’s point of view, Real Crowd has successfully recruited a large number of property developers and fund managers, so there are many investment opportunities to consider.  Most investments, however, require a minimum investment of at least $25 to $50,000, so the platform is not friendly to small retail investors who want to dip their toes in the water.   In addition, most of the investment opportunities are equity securities, so there is a higher risk of principal loss than is generally the case with debt-oriented platforms.

Realty Mogul

Realty Mogul is one of the largest real estate crowdfunding sites and it uses several different approaches based upon the needs of the project sponsor and the class of investor involved.  Accredited investors may invest in either debt or equity securities.  Accredited equity investors invest in syndicated private placements of special purpose limited liability companies that exist to finance equity investments in particular properties.  The equity investment has the higher potential return associated with equity as well as the potential downside risk of loss.

Accredited investors may also invest in debt securities called “Platform Notes”.  Each Platform Note is a debt security issued by a Realty Mogul special purpose vehicle which uses the proceeds of the Platform Notes to make a loan to particular sponsored investment.  By issuing the note from its special purpose vehicle, Realty Mogul is able to take on the management function of managing the underlying loan (reviewing financials, monitoring loan covenants, working out any defaults, and so on) without involving the passive investors who have purchased the Platform Notes.

For non-accredited investors, Realty Mogul has sponsored its own non-traded real estate investment trust.  Although the REIT (called Mogul REIT I) is not traded on any stock exchanges, its shares were qualified with the SEC through a Regulation A prospectus.[6]  According to the prospectus (which went effective in August, 2016) the REIT plans to hold:

“(1) at least 55% of the total value of our assets in commercial mortgage-related instruments that are closely tied to one or more underlying commercial real estate projects, such as mortgage loans, subordinated mortgage loans, mezzanine debt and participations (also referred to as B-Notes) that meet certain criteria set by the staff of the SEC; and (2) at least 80% of the total value of our assets in the types of assets described above plus in “real estate-related assets” that are related to one or more underlying commercial real estate projects, these “real estate-related assets” may include assets such as equity or preferred equity interests in companies whose primary business is to own and operate one or more specified commercial real estate projects, debt securities whose payments are tied to a pool of commercial real estate projects (such as commercial mortgage-backed securities, or CMBS, and collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs), or interests in publicly traded REITs.  We intend to qualify as a real estate investment trust, or REIT, for U.S. federal income tax purposes beginning with our taxable year ending December 31, 2016.”

Because Realty Mogul facilitates both equity and debt investments for accredited investors as well as equity investments for non-accredited investors through MogulREIT I, Realty Mogul is ideally-situated to generate substantial deal flow and relatively rapid underwriting for projects that apply for funding.  As a platform for providing funding for sponsored-projects as well as a platform for creating investment opportunities, Realty Mogul has one of the best head starts of all the available real estate websites.

Those advantages, however, come at a cost.  Realty Mogul has a large staff operation (which is required for its extensive underwriting duties) and that cost is borne by investors through the 1-2% fees they pay to participate in investments on the site.  While the site has tremendous deal flow, however, a student of the industry might ask, “is this really crowdfunding?”  Because Realty Mogul takes such an active role in performing due diligence on its projects and in structuring the investment opportunities on its site, the overall experience is more structured than most crowdfunding sites and there is less opportunity for the collectively give-and-take than crowdfunding was originally thought to represent.

Realty Shares

Realty Shares facilitates both debt and equity investments into both commercial and residential real estate.  The site claims that it has funded over $300 million to 550 projects that have returned more than $59 million to the site’s more than 92,000 registered accredited investors.[7]   Project sponsors must submit to underwriting through Realty Shares and only projects that have exceeded the site’s standards can be offered to the site’s members.  Fees range from 1 to 2% of the investment amount, but investment minimums are as low as $5,000.

As with most of the other real estate crowdfunding sites, investments are made through private placements under rule 506(b).

Residential Real Property Sites

There are several websites that focus primarily on residential real estate.  Because of the similarity of their focus and approach, they can be surveyed as a group:

LendingHome

Lending Home describes itself as the “largest hard money lender” [providing] “fix and flip loans up to 90% LTC and 80% LTV.”[8]  Unlike many of the other sites that aim their value proposition at investors, Lending Home addresses itself primarily to homeowners how are looking for loans and are willing to pay “hard money” rates of interest to get cash.  Accredited investors can participate in Lending Home in increments as low as $5,000.[9]

Roofstock

Roofstock’s tagline is “Property Investing Like the Pros.”[10]  Like Lending Home, Roofstock focuses only on single family residential properties.  Differently, however, Roofstock allows accredited investors to invest directly through loan participations as well as through small funds that focus on particular regions or particular rates of return.  Roofstock also emphasizes, through its underwriting and its messaging, the underlying quality of the properties and their surrounding communities, school systems and the like.  Browsing through loan opportunities on Roofstock feels more like browsing through listings on Zillow than looking for investments.

Patch of Land

Patch of Land is one of the largest and most heavily-trafficked real estate crowdfunding sites.  The site claims to have originated more than 400 loans for over $245 million in loans, returning over $61 million to investors.[11]  Although Patch of Land has made investments in multi-family and commercial real estate, more than 70% by value of its investments have been made in single family real estate.

Fund That Flip

Fund that Flip is a site that proudly advertises its role in financing single family residential rehab and resale projects.[12]  The site claims that the sponsors underwrite individual deals, requiring borrowers to put at least ten percent in the property’s value in equity.[13]  The site also tries to entice investors, claiming average returns between 10 and 14%.

The Future of Real Estate Crowdfunding

Real estate crowdfunding has definitely arrived.  Through the dozens of existing sites claiming to offer some kind of real estate crowdfunding, investors have invested more than a billion dollars through thousands of investments in just a few short years.  While this method of investing is still very small (in contrast to retail investments in mutual funds and the stock market) it fills a market need that shows no sign of disappearing.

For real estate crowdfunding to achieve a wider degree of acceptance, platform owners will need to continue to facilitate high quality investment opportunities while improving transparency.  Wider acceptance will require a level of information sharing that does not yet exist in the industry.  Even the most popular sites today have varying levels of information available to potential investors.  These inconsistent levels of disclosure can undermine the trust that is necessary to grow crowdfunding as a method of investing.  Real estate crowdfunding sites that facilitate exempt transactions under Rule 506(b) are not regulated, and that is probably a good thing.  But the lack of regulation also permits a wide diversity in style and approach that can make comparing the platforms difficult.

If the leading crowdfunding platforms could collaborate on a standardized “scorecard” that pulled together standard metrics on transactions, investment amounts and rates of return, the result would make it possible for both investors and project sponsors to compare platforms on a level playing field.  The investor confidence that might come from such a development would encourage new investors to come into the market.  Platforms that did not adopt the scorecard at first would experience market pressure to begin reporting results in the scorecard format.  Adopting a standardized scorecard for recording would, in a sense, demonstrate the power that crowdfunding was supposed to represent, by making it possible for the market to adjust itself to the information needs of the investing community.

[1]           http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/the-evolution-of-real-estate-15259/

 

[2]           Surowiecki, James, The Wisdom of Crowds, Anchor Books (2005).

 

[3]           Wilson, Jonathan B., Follow the Crowd: What the Future of Crowdfunding Holds for Startup Restaurant Owners, Restaurant Owner Startup & Growth Magazine, 18 (Feb. 2016).

 

[4]           www.peerstreet.com.

 

[5]           PeerStreet claims that its loans have generally yielded between 6 and 12%.  See PeerStreet FAQs, available at https://info.peerstreet.com/faqs/how-do-peerstreet-returns-compare-to-other-debt-investments/ (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

[6]           MogulREIT I, LLC SEC File, available at https://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompany&CIK=0001669664&owner=exclude&count=40&hidefilings=0 (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

[7]           Realty Shares website available at https://www.realtyshares.com/  (last visited January 29, 2017)

 

[8]           Lending Home website available at www.lendinghome.com (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

[9]           https://www.lendinghome.com/how-it-works/#individual-investors.

 

[10]          Roofstock website available at www.roofstock.com (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

[11]          Path of Land website available at https://patchofland.com/statistics/ (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

[12]          Fund that Flip website available at www.fundthatflip.com (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

[13]          Fund that Flip website available at https://www.fundthatflip.com/lender (last visited January 29, 2017).

 

Setting Up an Efficient Crowdfunding Platform

BY Rachael Everly ,CrowdFund Beat Guest Post,

Crowdfunding platforms are a product of technological advancement. However at the end of the day they are a financial solution and their success is dependent on the economic situation at a given time. Many businesses prosper when the economy is booming and all is good. Crowdfunding on the other hand has always prospered when the economy is not doing well, and even during the worst recessions.

During the last recession of 2008, there was a great lack of confidence among banks. This led to a drying up of sources of finance for the small business owner and for individuals who were just starting out. Either their loan applications were outright rejected or they were given such high interest rate offers that they were forced to decline. But with the advent of digitalization came the much flexible option of crowdfunding that led smaller business achieving the necessary finances much cheaply and much easily.

crowdfunding concept. Chart with keywords and icons
crowdfunding concept. Chart with keywords and icons

 

Setting up a crowdfunding platform is an excellent business idea for it is something that the entrepreneurs need. However to be successful it has to meet the finance needs of people successfully.

 

 

  1. Initial set-up

Crowdfunding platforms are a place where investors and people looking for finance gather. So you need to be sure about how you are going to attract investors in your starting days. Your whole business is dependent on them.

You also have to ensure that you offer a “deal” that is both acceptable to investors and the people looking to borrow. The system has to be set up in a transparent way in order to induce trust from all the involved parties. In order to achieve this you will have to focus on a marketing strategy that delivers the maximum information. Information about how you operate, the charges for the borrowers and how are you going to handle the funds at your disposal. You will especially have to convince people that your platform is a secure place to invest. You will need to figure out your marketing channels. The most basic will be your own company blog and possibly even your own in-house developed app (which could be done via crowdfunding).

  1. Developing a brand

Once the crowdfunding concept was new and there were hardly any platforms on the scene. Now competition is arriving and the first mover advantage is long gone. You will have to differentiate yourself from your competition. In the simplest way, it could be by the way of focusing on the aesthetics on your website that is the logo and theme and the usability.

Secondly you should match the features being offered by the competition and where possible streamline your processes even more. You will have to communicate your “differences” via email marketing and company blog. The best way to do this is to provide content that is actually useful for the reader and yet brings your platform to attention.

  1. The technical expertise

At the end of the day customers prefer businesses that provide them with a superb quality service or product. Crowdfunding is essentially a fintech product and thus technology is its backbone. Your crowdfunding platform must not only be user friendly, but it also must be secure and have features that help you make better decisions. For example, Zopa has its own algorithm for deciding which borrowers are more likely to stick to repayment schedules.

In order to succeed it is very important that you analyze your existing competition and see what features you have to match in order to attract customers and what you can do better than them.