Entrepreneurs: Reacting to Crowdfunding in the JOBS Act

Timed to President Obama’s signing of the JOBS Act on April 5, 2012, StartUp America asked entreprenuer, Dana Mauriello, Founder and President of ProFounder, “What’s crowdfunding?”

Inspired by her nimble and articulate reply, we asked a few entrepreneurs of our own to build on this extremely hot and somewhat controversial topic. Here are the results.

What does the JOBS Act mean to you and your company?

We are excited about the opportunity to help more investors find the
businesses they love through the opening of general solicitation. Because
CircleUp focuses on accredited investors, the crowdfunding provisions of the
JOBS Act are interesting but not essential to our model. We also realize
that the SEC rulemaking process will be a critical determinant in how the
market will evolve. Over the next 9 months, as the SEC sets rules around
allowing unaccredited investors to use registered portals, we will continue
to operate with accredited investors only.

 – Ryan Caldbeck, Founder and CEO of CircleUp

Do you feel as though it’s a win for startups and the economy? Why or why
not?

In theory it should be a huge win for startups and the economy, but the
devil is in the details. All it will take are a few high profile
crowdfunded startup failures that have a hint of fraud and the public will
be clamoring to tighten the regulations again. My belief is that the best
startups will want to be associated with the best investors on the best
crowdfunding platforms.

 – John Whelan, Founder and CEO of Engage-a-Pro Inc.

We do think it is a great win for startups, investors and the broader US
economy, but we are cautious. Allowing individuals to invest into private
companies through registered portals will be a great way to allow investors
to diversify their portfolios and back companies they love…

However, we think the SEC must create appropriate standards for the
crowdfunding portals. For example, these portals are helping issuers sell
securities and thus should be registered as broker dealers with FINRA. In
addition, we think it is critical that the SEC helps to promote transparency
in the market. It is important that registered portals allow their
investors and entrepreneurs to communicate directly and openly to help limit
fraud.

 – Ryan Caldbeck, Founder and CEO of CircleUp

What does crowdfunding mean to you as an entrepreneur?

Smaller business ideas and entrepreneurs finally have access to funding. If Joe the Plumber has a great idea, he can quickly turn it into a reality (as long as he can communicate its effectiveness) by partnering with other Americans — who essentially become an extension of his sales force. Essentially, the JOBS Act is making entrepreneurism more accessible to everyone, and not just people with lots of money or relationships with Angels and VCs.

– Suki Shah, Co-founder and CEO of GetHired.com

It is great for the companies we help but it is less relevant for our own
fundraising. As a technology business in Silicon Valley, we are fortunate in
that there are ample sources of capital even for pre-launch companies.
However, after spending seven years in consumer product focused private
equity, I realize that there are millions of small companies in the US that
are great businesses but don’t have easy access to early-stage capital.

– Ryan Caldbeck, Founder and CEO of CircleUp

How are you feeling about the new movement?

The importance of the JOBS Act will depend upon the industry and
stage of company. In some higher technology industries, the startups with
great ideas are already receiving funding through current established
channels (i.e. tech angels, venture capital funds). The larger impact will
be in underserved industries, such as consumer and retail, where companies
struggle to raise the growth capital they need.

 – Ryan Caldbeck, Founder and CEO of CircleUp

Personally, I love the new crowdfunding movement. It democratizes peoples’
ability to fund interesting new companies and products. If people keep in
mind that investing in a startup of any nature is highly risky and that
they should allocate only a small percentage of their total net worth to
such investment activity, everything should work out fine…

 – John Whelan, Founder and CEO of Engage-a-Pro Inc.

So now you’re in the spotlight:

  1. What does the JOBS Act mean to you and your company?
  2. Do you feel as though it’s a win for startups and the economy? Why or why
    not?
  3. What does crowdfunding mean to you as an entrepreneur?
  4. How are you feeling about the new movement?

We’ll collect your responses and post a follow up discussion on this story that will continue to evolve as the JOBS Act rolls out and the SEC sets regulations in place.

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