CircleUp Raises $22M To Invest In Consumer Brands On Its Crowdfunding Platform

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TechCrunch by Ingrid Lunden | July 13, 2015

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As crowdfunding sites like Tilt and GoFundMe and lending site Funding Circle raise large rounds to take their businesses to the next level, a startup that sits in the same area of web-based fundraising is trying a new approach. CircleUp, a crowdfunding platform for consumer brands to raise money from accredited investors, has closed a $22 million fund of its own to back a range of brands on the platform.

The Consumer Growth Fund, as it is called, will match investments made on its platform by others — not take the lead on funding itself, in order to avoid conflict with other investors.

Related: SeedUps Canada is Self-Crowdfunding as Market Heats Up Around the World

The size of the fund nearly matches the amount CircleUp has raised for its own business. To date the company has picked up over $23 million from investors that include Canaan Partners, Google Ventures, Union Square Ventures and Maveron, among others.

While companies like Kickstarter have been known to make occasional investments in startups that are raising money on their platforms, CircleUp’s COO and co-founder Rory Eakin says this $22 million fund is a first — no other crowdfunding marketplace has raised a fund to invest in deals on its own platform before.

Unlike AngelList, which focuses on tech startups, or Kickstarter or Indiegogo with their mix mainly of hardware and creative projects, CircleUp is used primarily by businesses that are not tech in their focus but are using advances in technology (including CircleUp’s fundraising platform) to grow.

>>> Register for the Equity Crowdfunding Bootcamp on July 28 in Toronto <<<

CircleUp taps into a wider trend we’re seeing in the U.S. and other markets. The number of smaller, new brands hitting the market has been blowing up in recent years — propelled by a wave of consumer sentiment away from mass market products and towards more local, organic and less common alternatives. CircleUp estimates that large packaged-goods companies have lost around $4 billion in the U.S. alone in the last year to smaller producers.

Among typical examples and funding sizes on the platform, Bhakti Chai raised $850,000 on CircleUp; and sportswear brand Hylete raised $1.4 million.

Up to now, CircleUp has focused on individual investors backing specific businesses, either on their own or through “Circles,” diversified investment funds introduced on the platform last year that are led by individual investors or organised around a specific theme. These are rolling investment vehicles that appear to work similar to AngelList syndicates.

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CircleUp’s existing business has already seen some traction, with 100 businesses collectively raising over $100 million on the platform since 2012, and more individual investments in the last month than in the 15 months before that. (CircleUp is selective about who it permits to raise on its platform, vetting the companies itself before giving a green light.)

On top of funding, it also has built a network of relationships with larger strategic businesses like General Mills, J&J and eBay, which the smaller companies can tap with questions.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with both social and investment crowdfunding stakeholders across the country.  NCFA Canada provides education, research, leadership, support and networking opportunities to over 1100+ members and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding industry in Canada.  Learn more About Us or visit www.ncfacanada.org.

 

 

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