September 26th, 2018
Ep26-Feb 22: Crowd Raising with Peter-Paul Van Hoeken of FrontFundr
NCFA Canada | Feb 25, 2019
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Ep26-Feb 22: Crowd raising with Peter-Paul Van Hoeken
About this episode: On this episode of the Fintech Friday Podcast, our host Manseeb Khan sits down with Peter-Paul Van Hoeken the CEO of Frontfundr. They chat about crowd raising, drinking your own whiskey and the future of Canadian crowdfunding. Enjoy! (Transcript)
Host: Manseeb Khan, NCFA, Fintech Fridays show host
BIO: Peter-Paul has over 15 years of experience in finance, investment management, and business consultancy. He's held multiple senior management positions with global banks including ABN AMRO Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland in the areas of corporate strategy, commercial and investment banking.
Upon relocating with his family to Canada in 2010, Peter-Paul worked as a consultant for several early stage companies and experienced the challenges that they face in attracting capital. He realized that venture financing was not leveraging technology and in 2013, Peter-Paul founded FrontFundr to address this challenge and take on the opportunity to create the New Capital Market, online and accessible to everyone. Peter-Paul also serves as a Director on the National Board of the Private Capital Markets Association of Canada (PCMA). He is an Advisor of the National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association Canada (NCFA) and Founder Member of the Institute for Blockchain Innovation (IBI). Peter-Paul holds a Master of Science in business economics and finance from Erasmus University Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.
TWITTER: @frontfundr, @petervanhoeken
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Transcription of Interview
Intro: Welcome fintech Friday's a weekly podcast brought to you by the National Crowdfunding and Fintech Association of Canada and partners.Covering all things fintech block chain be AI and alternative finance.
Manseeb Khan: I have the absolute pleasure of sitting out with Peter Paul. Peter Paul. Thank you so much for it. Oh, it's said I mean I've been super excited to have you on the show. For those who don't know you Paul is actually the CEO and Founder of FrontFundr. Peter Paul thank you so much for the now.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Hi Manseeb it's a pleasure to be on your show.
Manseeb Khan: So, for the five or six people that may not know essentially who you are and what FrontFundr is could you just give us a quick rundown of a little bit of your background and a little bit of what FrontFundr.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Sure. Yeah so, my name is Peter-Paul Van Hoeken and you can find our CEO of FrontFundr. My background is basically in finance. I worked for about eight nine years in banking in Europe relocated to Canada in 2010 and also moved on, moved away from the banking industry more down the entrepreneurial path and started working with small companies help them get ready to raise capital and connected with the prospective investors and so that that time was actually that wasn't an experience a time where I experience how challenging it is for small companies to raise capital and also how we're not using electronic means like the internet and digital technology to facilitate that whole process of connecting early stage companies with investors. So that's where the whole idea about FrontFundr essentially came from. And it was by doing already happening in other geographies like the U.K. Australia is essentially to bring investing in funding and an investment in young companies to bring it online and connect startups with the wider investor community essentially the public and that's called these days often investment, crowdfunding or equity crowdfunding and that is what friends are doing. We're currently Canada's leading online investment crowdfunding platform.
Manseeb Khan: I love your guys approach. I love the other Canadian companies I mean we definitely had some of the other crowdfunding and opening up the borders and just allowing everybody to kind of be able to invest in companies that shows in and of itself it just makes it that much more, the fact that guys are making that much easier and much more accessible and just really simplifying the whole investment process and kind of making it that much more welcoming for everybody. That was also pretty incredible.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Thanks yeah, it's been an interesting journey because the challenge of course crowdfunding is one thing in penetration of crowdfunding It started with Kickstarter and Indie go and those and fund raiser in Canada is the traditional form. But when it involves Investments and Securities of course it becomes a totally different ball game because then you're dealing with you know securities regulation as well and so to bring those pieces together to you know the regulatory side of it and the technology side and then to basically launch that the platform has been definitely been in an interesting journey so far but as you say it's very exciting too for us to enable companies to raise capital from essentially from the public right? and to reach out to perhaps their existing customers and anyone that really is excited about what these companies are doing. And I'd like to be part of it now they can actually invest in these companies that for as little as you know a couple of hundred dollars you become a co-owner in a company. So yeah, it's an it's a very exciting phenomenon and it's on the rise worldwide but so. But now also in Canada.
Manseeb Khan: Yeah. No, I mean I absolutely agree with you. I mean now that startups are on a pedestal. I mean like if you still LinkedIn that long enough you definitely find like five or six companies that you find of interest and the fact that like now you can take it one step further and kind of go like oh hey you know like that company. I'll make up a company like the company that like the bird of Toronto or whatever. Right. Oh, like you love them, and like the CEO has an interesting story. You know hey with FrontFundr you can actually invest like a couple hundred dollars like you said in that company actually support their journey and actually support the vision that's pretty incredible. I'm going to put a pin into you mentioned regulations. I'll put a pin into that for a little bit later. You had an interesting journey. I mean I want to dig into that a little bit more. Could you just give us a little bit more detail of what your journey looked like the trials and tribulations because this isn't your first time at the rodeo and you guys are right now you guys are going through a massive raise. So, could you just talk a little bit more of the journey and everything leading up to the raise and currently what's kind of going on with the raise.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Sure yeah. And it's a very excited to share and share that with the listeners is that we you know we are indeed. And we just launched our own race. I mean you know at the end of the day we are in an early stage company too. And we also need capital to grow. So. So why wouldn't we drink our own whiskey and use our own platform to raise capital. And that's exactly what we're doing. And we've done it indeed before twice already. So essentially listing FrontFundr on Frontfundr so listing ourselves on our own platform and opening it up for the public to invest. And we just launched our third campaign last Thursday on Valentine's Day along the lines of FrontFundr the heart of Canadian business and opening it up for everyone to participate in our company in our you know in our online platform. And for a minimum investment of five hundred dollars. So, we're. Yeah. We're really using our own solution and obviously fully believe in it. And it's exciting. It's also great to be actually on the client side a client's company side of our platform right. So really use our own solution to raise capital for own capital form our company. So, we are very excited about that. And we just launched it last Thursday as mentioned and we will close by the end of March. We will close this raise.
Manseeb Khan: I love that you guys a drink your old whiskey. I'm going to put that into the little description. I love that so much. It's interesting switch going from the actually running the platform to actually being on the platform that I mean kind of funny. It's very interesting yes. Yeah. It is interesting. Like you don't really. It's a very unconventional approach does not many it makes sense like it that makes sense. Hey like if you are a crowdfunding platform you guys are going to raise want to open up the opportunity for everybody that's been following your journey. Because now like startups actually have fans behind them which is really interesting. Right.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Well yes absolutely. It is an interesting experience and it's kind of it's in a way almost a no brainer. And yes of course you're using your own platform right but it's it is indeed an intense experience to be sort of on the client side if you like and use our own platform also. It's a great experience because we've had done it twice before is that the you know as you just mentioned companies raising on our platform you're really going. You're going out there to potentially anyone who wants and invite them to participate in your company, but you need to work on that. Right. So, we always tell our client companies hey you know listing on FrontFundr is nuts. So that's the end all be all. Yeah exactly. You know you've got to support it as a company by you know sharing exciting new stories about your company about progress or milestones or any updates that to show that your company is doing well and growing and the things that people can get excited about. So, you want to share it with your potential investors and that's how you attract investors and then come to the platform. We've got a significant user pays no investor base but it's still always as we like to say. Kind of you know working in partnership with companies on our platform to make a successful raise right.
Manseeb Khan: No, I absolutely agree with you through. I mean I'm just thinking of putting your company just on FrontFundr and just like really crossing your fingers and just like saying your prayers and hopefully you're going to hit that target. It's really silly. You definitely have to put in the work into making the company of what you wear.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Yeah. We often say we say look you're not outsourcing your funding to us. Yeah exactly. Yeah totally. Yeah that's it that's it's a great way to put it you know outsourcing your funding so to switch gears. You briefly mentioned regulations, and could you just turn you over to me. All right. My favorite topic. Yeah, I know I figure I figured you'd be the you should be the right person. To talk about it , when people think regulations, they think Peter-Paul FrontFundr. That's the guy the guy you ought to talk. I mean we definitely had a couple episodes back we talked about the regulatory burden that's currently going in on Canada and you do have you do play a significant role when it comes to the regulation side of Canadian fintech business. Could you just I mean like give us a little bit of you know like again for the people that may not know the work that your kind of doing could you just give us a little bit understanding of the work that your kind of doing when it comes to regulation and express your love for regulation.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Sure. Love and hate. I guess yeah. No, it's. Well you see the fact that we're operating. First of all, we are as FrontFundr and other platforms that are the take on funds from form investors are you know are our investment in any investment business right. And the Securities Industry and that's regulated. And that in itself the fact that the industry is regulated is fine and is actually needed. And then we've seen that in the past with a little note that this is a very challenging industry. It can be sort of tempting and then so there are rules in place to regulate that. And you know I understand that I support it and certainly for us we are basically have we with FrontFundr or we you know we operate a platform where we enable anyone really to invest in particular particularly early or earlier stage companies right. So, and so that's and because we are inviting the public to not invest in these companies’ early stage or for defense companies but all private companies. It is very important that these investors that may have never invested before and ever since companies understand what they're doing and understand the risks of investing in early stage companies right. So, and that and regulation supports that and make sure that investors are informed about the potential returns and risks before they make an investment decision. So, the rules and it's been with FrontFundr we've been kind of pioneering this in Canada with several other market participants as well is to explore this new way of enabling companies to raise from the wider investor community. And typically, it was restricted to you know to Angel investors, VC’s, and other accredited investors so investors whether certain amount of wealth and that is only around 3 percent of the total population. So, 97 percent of the population has traditionally been looked out for from investing in private companies. Right. Well there is a huge group of course in that audience that 97 percent that do have the may not be accredited but they do have investable assets and they say that they are interested in investing in early stage companies today that they are excited about and think may do very well and they want to get a piece of the action so that. And so, because it's a whole new group of providing regulation is key now the regulation got, I haven't read it in kind of our review security regulations is a provincial matter. So we have provincial securities regulators in Canada and they have introduced rules to support investment crowdfunding in the last few years in Canada but there are some challenges with those rules and for start because we are dealing with multiple securities regulators have multiple rules have been introduced so we've we don't have an harmonized investment crowdfunding rules in Canada and that is challenging because there are differences in the rules to be implemented. They're kind of fragmentized which means that you know in B.C. different rules or different limits or you know ways for companies to raise capital through events crowd from a play I suppose to other provinces. And so those differences are clearly a challenge for both for companies that are looking to raise capital from the right investor community across Canada as well as for investors because investors in one jurisdiction may be able to invest in an early stage company but not in another jurisdiction. And so that said that that does cause challenges and therefore you know clearly we're not we're shoring up, tapping the full potential yet of what investment crowdfunding has to offer and put that in perspective Manseeb even with the fact that in other geography like in the U.K. and now also south the board in the US where they do have a federal investment crowdfunding rules it has already become basically mainstream financing. And so, and so even in Canada we run the risk of falling behind because there are rules that are in place are not being harmonized and therefore making make it difficult for market participants to use when.
Manseeb Khan: It seems like a no brainer. I like it this is like another no brainer thing of like hey if we're going to bring companies like FrontFundr or if we are a crowdfunding platform where everyone can because of an investor they should be able to get the same kind of protection know the same kind of rules like have some kind of regulation or regulatory body that kind of monitors it and not make it just like province specific right because like the fact that like I mean again it's probably cause it's very early. I mean you know like Canada has been. I've mentioned this more times than I can count but Canada has been always traditionally very conservative in the past. So, they're always willing to kind of like hold back on certain things when it comes to like well certainly when it comes like the regulatory body. So, I mean the fact that you said like the U.K. and the United States having already like rules and regulations they would have the ball rolling. It makes sense. I mean I think Canada is with amazing guys like you and like with Craig from who runs the NCFA here it's you guys are only going to get the ball rolling a lot faster and you guys are going to help bring awareness and it's just a matter of time before we have an overarching regulatory body that kind of covers like all of Canada and like any Canadian or any Canadian investor can kind of just like invest and if see a really amazing company in B.C. like you mentioned they can invest in that or if they see an amazing company in like Iqaluit that they really love they can invest in that as well.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Right yeah. It is it is a matter of time. Absolutely. You know I think what is important and it's rather soon and later we've had these rules, these new investment rules in place now for over two years so there are clearly you know lessons learned in an experience with how these rules work and what doesn't work. So, you know we have enough informational and experience to move forward with indeed you know harmonizing the rules. And again I think you know defects we're not necessarily you personally I'm not even asking for necessarily one national regulator which will definitely take much more time but it is more about harmonizing rules particularly this stage of investment crowdfunding because those rules are particularly targeted to our purpose is to is to enable you know startups early stage companies that need financing to grow and thrive. You know the whole point is to provide those companies better access to capital. So, you know root of the fragmented rules currently exist make that difficult and therefore they raise the threshold for these companies to raise capital right. And at the least they're raising the cost of raising capital for these companies. And again, given the you know the huge potential that we've seen pretty materialize in other in other countries. Is that for these companies to tap this pool of capital. Very significant pool of capital is obviously is important and a huge potentially huge help to these companies to raise capital.
Manseeb Khan: Yeah, I mean it. And it really opens up like it opens a whole world of opportunity right for these early stage companies knowing that they don't really have to go the traditional route when it comes to investing right. I mean that's kind of why you're seeing a lot of companies now in like pretty much all 2018 you're seeing a lot of companies create their own ICO right because they don't want to go the traditional route of finding angel investors, finding VC's to help fund the company they're like hey we'll just create a coin and we'll just have like our users, our customers and our future customers raise money through that. Right and it just. Yeah. Like the fact that like a lot of early stage companies are kind of locked out of this huge potential market base of money that could really help them. It's kind of silly but like it’s going to be only a matter of time where more companies going to have access to that and just crowdfunding is going to be that much more incredible.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Totally. So, the effort you know you referred early on to initiatives and also with the uncertainly and NCFA taking lead in in promoting you know with burden reduction of regulation and that that that's that will be that will be important and it will definitely help to expedite this process of getting to you know harmonized investment crowdfunding rules.
Manseeb Khan: Yes. And they're just going to get with the I mean harping back on the burden reduction. It's I mean once we once we get that all squared away it's going to give a lot more. It's going to give that much more breathing room. Right. I'll admit that's just one less thing that crowdfunding companies just did just to really worry about now they can actually focus a little bit more on like you test out your product drink your own whiskey and make it as incredible for investors to come in make it as seamless and just make the best product for the market.
Manseeb Khan: So yeah. So, it's an opportunity for some investment crowdfunding enables companies not only to attract the funding they need to grow but it's also an opportunity for these companies to create awareness around their company and engage with the wider investor provider community by offering an opportunity to invest in their company. So, it's a kind of a combined funding and marketing exercise as well. So essentially by inviting the community to invest in your company you are able to share in the upside, but you also create a whole community of brand champions that literally have an invested interest because they invested in the company to you know to talk about your company and to share in their in their networks right. So, the companies that that do very well on our platform are companies that understand that and recognize the value of going out there to community not only to capital need but also to create awareness around throughout our company.
Manseeb Khan: Yeah no I absolutely agree with you. I mean the best of the best kind of brand champions to have would be investors right because they know your product. they know you in and out. They know your story in and out. And the fact that they can kind of show that to their network and just like it just starts spreading out more and more awareness. I mean that's the best kind of PR. More or less than you can really ask for.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Absolutely. Yeah.
Manseeb Khan: So, I mean aside from the raise is there anything that's really top of mind for you that you're really excited about in 2019.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Well I am you know given a view of where we are today and the successes with the investment crowd from what we've seen in across the globe basically it's exciting to see that this in some in some countries it's already case right where it already has become mainstream financing. So, the fact that we've unlocked huge pool of capital for early stage companies. To tap is very exciting. And again, we've got some work to do here in Canada certainly on there on the regulatory side to make to remove unnecessary barriers to and that enables us to also accelerate growth investment crowdfunding in Canada. And so. So, we've come a long way and there is there is more work to be done. But I'm I see 2019 as I in a year where investment professionals from Canada. Can really sort of push through and become you know head towards becoming a mainstream source of financing as well.
Manseeb Khan: Yeah. No, I mean I'm very excited for crowdfunding to really just be that big be another channel for companies to really grow and to really grow and prosper. I don't know if you can answer this question but so with like after the raise what we can essentially expect from Frontfundr. I mean when people think a raise there's usually a purpose behind it so like say Frontfundr or hits the target and what can investors from Frontfundr can expect afterwards.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Great. Yeah. Oh, great question. Absolutely. We're obviously raising capital because we want to grow it takes the company to the next level. And so, for us that means that we basically know we've proven the concept in Canada. We've closed over 30 successful raises on our platform and we are now really, we already operating from coast to coast but really now at a stage where we are going to take it to the next level build out the platform nationally and also expand in the let's say the private market. So, we started with smaller capital raises also to prove the concept and demonstrate that it is it is possible to raise funds from the public basically. And now we're going to expand in terms of you know taking on companies that are still private companies that are in later stage companies that are looking for growth and expansion capital. And so, we're diversifying into a lot of different stages of development of companies and those companies you know they're there first and then still need money to take it take it to the next to the next level and expand. So, we're bringing on those companies and it also enables us on the investor side of our platform to offer our investor clients you know more opportunities for diversification so they can invest in earlier stage companies that are really in the early days of proven concept to later stage companies typically already generating revenues that will be have a different risk profile. So, it enables investors to create a portfolio if you like in companies in different stages of development so that's on the on the road map. And now that we've proven our concept also going to take front runners and makes leverage terminals getting the word out there. So, promoting fund from there and marketing around our brand we kind of stepped it up. We're going to step up our activities to support companies successfully closing raises so we're going to build out of these companies with them with their campaign. And so that's now those are some key elements of what's what you can definitely expect in the next the next 12 months for us. And I mean ultimately, we are we want to build out our positioning in Canada and we want to make that platform better as well. So, part of the use process also going into further developing our technology platform and essentially making it easier for companies to build their campaigns on our platform and for investors to make the entire investment process as you know as smooth as possible. So those are some key elements of what we're looking to do with the proceeds of this round.
Manseeb Khan: I mean I'm excited to be able to invest in like later stage companies that I think that seems very super enticing that in and of itself I'd like not only can invest in companies very early on but you can actually invest in companies in later on stages to have a little bit more proven track record like that. I'm excited for the for the future of a Frontfundr. So, with that I'm just gonna I'm just gonna wrap it up. Ok. So, what would be the best way for the audience to either reach you Peter Paul or Frontfundr would it be through email, Twitter, Snapchat, like smoke signal, Raven, carrier pigeon what would be the best way for the audience and potential future investors to reach out to you guys.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken: Yeah absolutely. So. Well the best way to get in touch with us and learn more about what we're doing is to go to our Web site Frontfundr dot com and all the information is there you can explore you know learn how it works. You can explore investment opportunities obviously also learn about our own capital raise right now. So, I would say that's the best way to get in touch with us. We always also active on Twitter Facebook Linked In and so it's very easy to find us. But I would say visit our Web site and an explore sign up so we can keep in keeping in touch with you and keep you I'll keep you posted on the on what's happening at Frontfundr. And yeah that's the that's the best way frontfundr dotcom.
Manseeb Khan: Thank you so much for staying with me today and I'm super excited to have you back on when you guys close around and start taking on more later stage companies.
Thank you. Thanks, Manseeb thanks very much.
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End of Podcast
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