Crowdfunding the Canadian Knowledge Economy

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Labfundr | Eric Fisher | April 7, 2017

Pre-CCS2017 Mixer

Earlier this month on Feb 28 and Mar 1, I attended the 3rd Annual Canadian Crowdfunding Summit, hosted in Toronto by the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA). There was a lot of energy in the room, reflected by #CCS2017 ranking among the top trending hashtags in Canada during the event.

Crowdfunding is helping fund an increasingly diverse range of projects, companies and people. We heard from platforms that are enabling real estate investments, helping make entertainment productions a reality, helping all manner of startups find seed funding, and enabling books to be published. Crowdfunding can also become a key ingredient in sustaining and growing our knowledge economy.

We heard about successes and challenges from the US and UK, which have much more mature crowdfunding industries than Canada. In Canada, the total raised via crowdfunding in 2016 was projected to be $190 million. This is 100x less than the US. Given that our populations only differ by 10x, there is plenty of room for growth.

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Financial technology (fintech) platforms such as online lending, peer-to-peer lending, blockchain crowdfunding, and a socially responsible bank were all exciting models to learn about.

Donation and rewards-based crowdfunding models are straightforward and not subject to regulation, but other alternative finance models face a challenging regulatory landscape. Paths to growth look to be through education and awareness of equity crowdfunding/alternative finance, improving regulations in a collaborative way, and harmonizing the diverse rules existing in different provinces.

Regulators from Alberta, Quebec, BC and Ontario were on hand and engaging in productive dialogues with the industry. Collaborative efforts can improve regulations and encourage more activity in the space, while ensuring legal protection for investors. In a conference filled with fintech, the term “regtech” stood out. Regulatory technology may be a key part of the equation that reduces friction for fintech startups.

Another standout panel was about diversity. Important takeaways were how subtle but powerful language choices made in job listings and company culture can encourage, or discourage, diversity among your staff. Diversity is recognized a key to success. And being new to entrepreneurship, it was inspiring to learn concrete ways to be inclusive as we grow.

I also met several scientists, completely by chance! Perhaps we have some unconscious, nerdy tells that point us toward each other (cause for an experiment, perhaps?).

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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 1500+ 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 at www.ncfacanada.org.

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