Many familiar with the successes and well-publicized launches of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo have asked about opportunities to fund their new startups through similar websites. Yet despite much excitement around these new enterprises, we have yet to see widescale adoption of crowdfunding for early-stage equity securities financings.
In 2012’s JOBS Act, Congress authorized the SEC to implement regulations governing and implementing a new era of true crowdfunding through the sale of equity securities over web-based platforms. Yet companies seeking to use the newly-legitimized crowdfunding process will need to do so through a licensed, registered securities broker or through a “funding portal”, pursuant to the new regulations, whose guidance these new portals are still awaiting.The new funding portals will have to become FINRA member firms, like the broker-dealers.
Several new platforms have jumped the gun – with some degree of SEC blessing. Startup funding platform FundersClub received confirmation from the SEC that it would not be seek to halt its new funding platform. Similarly, well-known early-stage investing resource AngelList received assurance from the SEC of no action to pursue enforcement against AngelList’s platform, AngelList Invest, which was launched with startegic support from existing secondary trading platform Second Market. Similarly, startup startup-funding platform WeFunder launched, with some assurance that its model, launched as proposed, would not be challenged.
All these new platforms currently limit their opportunities to those individuals who satisfy the requirements to be “accredited investors”, and it is unlikely when we will see them or other entrants in the crowdfunding marketplace open up opportunities to individual investors whose income and net worth does not satisfy the accredited investor tests. At least not until the new regulations are issued. [UPDATE: new regulations were finally released in late 2015.]