Indiegogo Could Soon Dominate Equity Crowdfunding

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Fortune |  | July 5, 2016

Indiegogo moving into equity crowdfunding

Indiegogo plans to launch an equity crowdfunding service in the next few months.

Later this year, Indiegogo will take a giant leap into the new world of equity crowdfunding. And though it has yet to reveal its exact plan, the popular fundraising site could instantly become one of the largest platforms for such offerings.

Equity crowdfunding is an evolving sector of fundraising that has only been accessible to the general public since May, when Title III of the Jumpstart our Business Startups Act (JOBS) took effect. In a nutshell, the law lets small-time investors purchase a small equity stake in startups, which can raise up to $1 million a year through such events. Previously, only investors who had either $1 million or more in assets or an annual income of at least $200,000 could participate.

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To date, crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo have only allowed companies to raise money from customers in exchange for “perks”–early or discounted products, or other services. Title III lets companies sell actual equity. Regulators stipulate that such sales must be handled through a registered online portal, through a broker-dealer, or through a partnership with such entities. Indiegogo would not reveal whether the platform will partner with a broker-dealer, but said it is “exploring ways to implement the regulations.”

While Title III is potentially a big deal for any small business looking for alternative ways to raise cash, entrepreneurs haven’t exactly risen to the occasion. Since May, about three-dozen companies have sought to raise just over $3 million, by the calculations of Wefunder, one of the 10 funding portals authorized by federal regulators to conduct such offerings.

Yet Indiegogo has the potential to become the 800-pound gorilla when it officially launches its own equity crowdfunding service. For one thing, it comes pre-loaded with 7 million backers of 650,000 campaigns, who have collectively raised close to $1 billion over the past eight years. (About 350,000 of those campaigns have been for small business ventures, Indiegogo says.) What’s more, 15 million people who are curious about the company’s campaigns visit the site every month, according to Indiegogo.

It also won’t face competition from rival Kickstarter, which has clearly stated that it has no interest in offering equity crowdfunding to its users. “You won’t see equity investment on Kickstarter,” said Justin Kazmark, a company spokesman, in an emailed statement. “The investment model is powerful and there’s a need for it, but it’s also limiting. Our mission is to help bring creative projects to life. Not all creative ideas are meant to be investment vehicles.”

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For the past two years, Indiegogo has been quietly adding products and services for entrepreneurs that help them build complete businesses, from their initial concept all the way through to manufacturing the finished product. Equity crowdfunding should round out the process.

“We’ve been developing products and forming partnerships to help entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey,” says David Mandelbrot, who took over as CEO from co-founder Slava Rubin in January.

Two years ago, for example, Indiegogo rolled out its InDemand service, which lets entrepreneurs continue raising money even after their campaigns have closed. The product works as a critical order management tool that lets fledgling companies keep track of sales and customers. InDemand is also not exclusive to Indiegogo campaigns, Mandelbrot says. Kickstarter users, for example, can move their completed campaigns over to the service, he says.

At the beginning of 2016, Indiegogo waded into so-called intrapreneurship, launching an enterprise platform that makes it easier for innovation teams, or simply aspiring entrepreneurs, within large companies, to test products with consumers. Whirlpool, for example, tested its Vessi home brewing kit with consumers before launching it in May. Similarly, GE frequently tests products from its product incubator FirstBuild on Indiegogo.

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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 1300+ 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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