Crowdfunding is a term used for business funding meaning exactly what it sounds like: funding your business through a large number of people. The word has been adopted to mean different things, depending on the industry. To save confusion, however, we’ll stick to its meaning strictly for new businesses and startup funding.
Crowdfunding is mostly done online, makes this specific form of funding a newer development. We’ll start by going through models.
Kickstarter, perhaps the most well known, is a site that rewards people for “donating” to your business. If you’re selling a product, usually you’ll promise that product to your customers. If your selling something less-tangible – like a dating app or a service – companies will usually promise funders some sort of “swag” or benefits. Whether it be t-shirts or branded koozies, those who give you money often expect something in return, the same way an investor or venture capitalist would, but on a smaller scale. In order to raise funds on Kickstarter, you MUST deliver something to your funders, and you MUST meet your goal, or else you don’t get any of the cash you raise.
Other crowdfunding sites, like Indiegogo, don’t require you to give swag or meet your goal in order to cash out. This can be good for a content creator, but for an actual business, sometimes providing an incentive (like a product) motivates people to give you money. However, these options can be more convenient and cheaper than a Kickstarter campaign, and if you already have a grassroots supporting, they’re likely to get help with funding.
The most recent development in crowdfunding is called equity crowdfunding, and it’s similar to an actual investment-model of funding. Through it, accredited and non-accredited individuals/investors can invest small amounts in your company in exchange for equity, or small bits of ownership. This is especially popular for hyper-local efforts, like breweries or coffee shops. It gives community members a way to invest in their community and its well-being.
After the recession in 2008, the government realized the new businesses were being virtually wiped out by their inability to get credit and funding. So in 2012, they passed the JOBS Act, which allowed non-accredited investors to legally invest in private companies. Non-accredited investors are individuals who have a net worth of less than $ 1 million OR who earn less than $200,000 annually. That’s it. So now, pretty much anyone who wants to invest in a business through equity crowdfunding is able to.
In 2015, the government furthered equity crowdfunding de-regulation by allowing businesses to raise up to $1,070,000 per year and required that all transactions be done through an SEC-registered intermediary, either a broker-dealer or a funding portal (like a website).
With equity crowdfunding, there are a few things you should be aware of. First, state laws regulate it. Depending on where you are in the country, the amount of money and types of investors could be significantly different. For example, in North Carolina, the 2017 PACES Act extends the amount of money that can be received from crowdfunding to $2 million and specifically allows for a non-accredited investor to give up to $5,000 per year via equity crowdfunding.
These regulations vary widely by state, so it’s important you be aware of the rules for your state before you decide to do an equity crowdfunding campaign. Like pledge crowdfunding, these are also done through online portals.
What Are the Risks of Crowdfunding?
Pledge-model crowdfunding runs a greater risk of failure than say, venture capital. Most sites often don’t require that the business have a solid business plan, and that can run the risk of fraud ruining the reputation of websites (like GoFundMe, for example).
There’s also no real advising available when you sign up for Kickstarter or Indiegogo, which doesn’t really set entrepreneurs up for success. VCs and angel funds usually provide council. However, equity platforms authorized by the state you reside in often have more realistic models of setting up business owners for success. For a fee, you get counsel when you sign up for the platform. You also often have to provide a solid, fool-proof business plan. This way, there’s less room for error, and your company has a better chance of success.
With crowdfunding, there’s always going to be the chance you don’t get the money you need. Like rallying investors, it’s a hard process and can take ages. If you’re in need of more immediate, tangible funding, you might want to look into business loans or lines of credit. If that’s the case, FaaSfunds is here to help. Reach out to us today to get matched with the lender and loan that’s best for your business, and to receive professional financial advice.