We’re coming up on a year since President Obama signed into law the JOBS Act, legalizing equity crowdfunding pending rules from the SEC. And yet, those rules are still nowhere in sight. Equity crowdfunding – the purchase of private stock by ordinary individuals via web platforms – remains on hold, and likely will stay on hold until the end of this year.
So what do you do if you launched a business aimed at handling crowdfunding transactions? That’s the challenge local startup WeFunder has been dealing with. And, like some other platforms, it’s found there’s a good bit of progress to be made simply bringing the ease and transparency of its platform to accredited investors.
The company has been out west taking part in YCombinator, and last week it announced that it was offering accredited investors the chance to invest in YC companies. (WeFunder is precluded from mentioning the company names, as general solicitation rules also passed in the JOBS Act are also pending SEC rules. But some poking around on my part revealed Microryza and Wevorce using the platform.)
“We’re not replacing their current fundraising efforts,” said WeFunder co-founder Nick Tommarello. “If you open up a small part of your round to the crowd, if your users and evangelists can have that feeling of ownership, they’ll be much more inclined to help you.”
Like AngelList, WeFunder’s progress illustrates the blurry spectrum on which angel investing and crowdfunding will eventually sit. AngelList has brought a new degree of transparency to the angel investing market, and made it easier for new angels to go after the best deals. WeFunder is looking to take that even further, focusing on the many accredited investors – aka rich people – in the U.S. not currently investing in startups.
To that end, WeFunder offers journalistic profiles of each company, so as to explain their premises to the lay audience.
“We’re taking a much more story focus,” Tommarello told me last week, and “[trying] to appeal to all Americans, not just the folks in Silicon Valley.”
In other words, crowdfunding is taking shape, despite the glacial pace of the SEC, beginning with active angels and now working its way down to latent accredited investors. The lessons WeFunder and others learn taking their value proposition outside Silicon Valley will no doubt be valuable when equity crowdfunding does in fact become legal. Make no mistake: startup finance is becoming more democratic. It’s just happening a bit more gradually than advocates hoped for.