Meet first ‘ordinary investor’ to buy stake in a company online

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The Globe and Mail | Sean Stanleigh | May 9, 2014

Elizabeth Hill - equity crowdfunding canadaCalgary-based SeedUps Canada uses its website to connect early stage companies with potential investors, a process known as equity crowdfunding.

Back in March, securities commissions in seven provinces announced proposed rules to regulate raising capital online. Crowdfunding, in a general sense, has been conducted in Canada to this point on portals such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which enable fundraising for businesses and projects in exchange for benefits rather than equity.

But the tide is turning, as small businesses look to expand potential sources of financing, and regulators scramble to define the terms.

Sandi Gilbert, co-founder of SeedUps Canada, says Elizabeth Hill is the first ‘ordinary investor’ in North America to use a crowdfunding portal to buy an equity stake in a private company online. Ms. Hill answered several questions in this e-mail exchange:

1. Elizabeth, could you briefly tell our readers a bit about yourself? Where you live and what you do?

I live in Calgary, I am a mother of a seven-year-old and I am expecting another daughter (as of publication). I work in projects for an engineering, procurement and construction group.

2. The team behind Seedups.ca claims you’re the first ordinary investor in North America to put money in a company using an equity crowdfunding portal. How did you find out about the service, and what attracted you to the concept?

I noticed SeedUps Canada on Facebook, and it couldn't have come across my news feed at a better time. Earlier the same day I called my bank to speak to my account manager regarding my investments, and he couldn't be reached. He had switched branches and they directed me to an investment adviser through a 1-800 number.

I followed their advice despite feeling really uncomfortable making investment decisions with someone I will never speak to again and without seeing any documentation or investment trends in front of me. Every quarter they send the investment package, which is more than 100 pages of information I don't understand, with no contact from a trained professional to show me what is relevant to my investment portfolio. When I thought about choosing a company I can follow, support and invest in, I was excited to learn more.

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3. You decided to help fund Jump On Flyaways, a business that helps Canadians access low-cost travel. What made it worthy of your hard-earned dollars?

I heard about Jump On over a year ago, and I was immediately excited about the concept and the opportunity to save money. My family lives in British Columbia and it used to be very affordable with WestJet to get away for the weekends. That has changed and I haven't been able to see my family as often as I would like without taking extra days off from work, either to spend the hours driving or to save money on flights.

Jump On is solving my problem, which I can only assume would benefit many other people. When I saw I was able to invest in Jump On Flyaways through SeedUps, it was a very easy decision for me. I personally will use Jump On Flyaways, I will also share their flights with family, friends and my social network as I really believe in what they are offering and I am tired of overpaying with the big airlines.

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