Monthly Archives: April 2014

Crowdfunding lets ‘regular people’ invest

The securities world will see many changes as crowdfunding becomes more well-known and popular, according to a crowdfunding expert who spoke in Salt Lake City recently.

Devin Thorpe detailed several elements of crowdfunding laws and in several cases hailed crowdfunding — raising small amounts of money from a large number of people to fund a project or venture — as a way to get “regular people” involved in private securities investment.

Among provisions of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which provided a legal infrastructure for issuing securities through a crowdfunding approach, is one allowing projects to take money from anyone — up to 5 percent of someone’s income or assets if they have income/assets under $100,000, and 10 percent if it is above that level.

Thorpe — an author, advisor, consultant, Forbes contributor, former entrepreneur and executive — described that as “a huge departure from the traditional securities laws that have largely prohibited people who are not accredited investors from even participating in private securities.”

He noted another regulation designed to allow for simplified public offerings, up to $50 million. Capital markets now rarely see initial public offerings and typically they are not for large businesses. Because of that, “regular folks” could not participate in the creation of value at Facebook, which had a $100 billion market capitalization, he said.

“I think what Congress has recognized is that depriving ordinary citizens of the opportunity to participate in that growth is a travesty” addressed by that regulation, he said.

“It re-ignites me in hope for the days of the 1980s when entrepreneurs all wanted to go public. Entrepreneurs are trained now, right, to never want to be public. It’s the worst thing in the world that can happen to you, right? But in the olden days, we used to all want to go public. Why? Because you could have your cake and eat it, too. You could sell part of your company, put a bunch of money in your pocket and still run the company. It could be yours. It was magical.”

Several entrepreneurs built their companies that way, he said. “And that, I think, should be inspiring to entrepreneurs.”

A major change regarding securities sales will be advertising to the general public, something Thorpe described as “a mind-warping change in securities laws.” Prior law prohibited such advertising.

“Now, of course, most people aren’t, but you can do anything you want in terms of opening your mouth to generally solicit securities under this new provision. … You can advertize to everyone in the world, you can advertise to 6-year-olds, you can advertise to poor people, you can advertise to anyone you want, [but] you can only take money from accredited investors,” Thorpe said.

He also spoke about another regulation that involves a “private issuers/public raising” model making it “much more reasonable” for people to participate in the private securities market.

“I think we will see this become a huge part of the securities industry as we will begin to all get familiar with offering language as we’ll start to see advertisements in a variety of forms for securities, which we haven’t seen in the past,” he said.

Thorpe also said crowdfunding likely will mean more funding opportunities for women and minority investors, who are often do not get venture capital money because of VC’s traditional screening methods.

“One of the things about crowdfunding is that all the data that’s coming in demonstrates that women and minorities are getting their fair share of crowdfunding dollars, so the same bias that exists in the venture capital world does not exist in crowdfunding. So this really is reshaping entrepreneurship in the United States and around the world.”

Thorpe was one of the keynote speakers at the first-ever MountainWest Capital Network Business Camp, designed to provide basic training for entrepreneurs and officials of emerging companies of different sizes.