Crowdfunding and Angel Investing

My friend, Bill Carleton, posted a very thoughtful blog on Crowdfunding and angel investing: http://www.geekwire.com/2012/angels-crowds

Bill has teed up some excellent questions. See my response.

While you should definitely read the entire post, here is brief excerpt:

Crowding out angels from startup financings?

March 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm by William Carleton

As early as next week, we may know whether Congress will change US securities laws to permit startups to sell stock to the general public over the internet.

You know how, today, companies raise money on Kickstarter by offering products, t-shirts, and other bennies? Imagine those same companies selling stock to investors over a Kickstarter-like platform. If the law changes – and this is something that one chamber of Congress has already passed and that President Obama supports – entrepreneurs seeking capital will have one more alternative to angel investors and venture capital firms.

Sound too good to be true? There is a catch. The proposed law (known as a “crowdfunding exemption”) would apply only to offerings that place strict limits on how much money can be raised and how much an individual investor may invest. For example, the new crowdfunding exemption might say that the startup may raise no more than $1,000,000 in a given year. And that each investor may invest no more than $1,000 per deal. (Actual limits are still being debated in Congress.)

My reply to his blog:

Bill – as always, great and thoughtful post. The original intent of the Crowdfunding bill (as drafted by Scott Brown) was to help replace Friends & Family money that has dried up with real estate prices. (Gone are the days when an entrepreneur could take out a mortgage on their home!)

As every professional angel knows, angel investing is not for the faint of heart. Many deals (even ones that seem like a sure thing) go to zero. Some are successful, but take a very long time. Almost every deal will take multiple rounds. (There is a reason for the “accredited investor” rule!) I don’t think anyone believes that a company can be funded from inception to exit by Crowdfunding.

And, angels provide much more than capital – they provide knowledge and assistance.

One historical perspective: in the early days of angel investing, VCs often would not invest in angel deals. Less experienced angels (particularly those not in groups) would screw up the valuation and terms, so VCs wouldn’t want to take the time to fix them up. As you highlight, Crowdfunded deals might follow the same path – the terms might just not be right to incent angels to invest. And cleaning up the deal for angels to follow might be a great deal of work, especially at a time like this where there are a lot of deals vying for our attention.

This next year will tell a lot about how this will play out. It’s going to be interesting!

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