Will These 5 Models of Crowdfunding Replace Angel and VC Investors?
Monday, February 16, 2015
Even if you ignore all the hype around crowdfunding, there can be no doubt that it is a real alternative for entrepreneurs to achieve visibility and funding today. According to articles on Entrepreneur last year, there are now almost 1,000 crowdfunding platforms in existence, currently estimated to add more than $65 billion and 270,000 jobs to the economy.
Yet as I mentor entrepreneurs around the country, it still seems to be one of the least understood approaches to startup funding, with more myths than accredited angels and professional venture capital investors combined. The primary challenge seems to be that the crowdfunding term is used to encompass so many different concepts that everyone is confused.
In fact, perhaps the most important model, equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors, is still not legal in the U.S., despite having been passed into law in early 2012 via the JOBS Act, and still has no scheduled date for availability, waiting for the rules to be finalized by the SEC. Even with this, crowdfunding today means any one of the following five quite different models:
1. Rewards model
Many platforms, such as IndieGoGo, allow startups to solicit funding commitments from non-professional investors in exchange for a pre-defined reward or perk, such as a T-shirt or other recognition, but no ownership in the company. The crowd gets the satisfaction of helping, with minimal risk, and no expectation of any high return.
2. Product pre-order model
With this model, a startup pre-sells their product early, at a cheaper price, in exchange for a pledge. A much-touted success was the Pebble Watch on Kickstarter, with orders exceeding $10 million. Of course, there are thousands of other companies that don’t achieve their minimum goal, requiring all contributions to be returned.
3. Donation good-cause model
This model facilitates donations to charities and creative projects, and has been around for a long time via sites such as Rockethub. No startup ownership or financial return should be expected, but contributors can enjoy the satisfaction of furthering non-profits or causes with a passion to change the world.