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SEC Approves Crowdfunding Venture Capital Model

Posted on Apr 9th, 2013

On March 28th, FundersClub became the first online venture capital business to be approved by the SEC. The online investment platform received a no-action letter from the SEC essentially giving the company a thumbs up, legally speaking. This is significant across the board as players throughout the venture capital industry and companies searching for funds seek out creative fundraising sources to help bootstrap and fill a capital gap for smaller investments.

FundersClub resists the term “crowdsourcing,” but it does share some crowdsourcing traits. The platform allows investors who are accredited by the company to select companies for investment from a broad range of choices. The companies themselves are early-stage startups with business plans researched by FundersClub. In other words, the platform vets, curates and connects high quality investors and companies in need of funding, and does so while appearing as a single entity.

The issue of legality arose because FundersClub is not a registered broker-dealer. FundersClub simply responded that it was merely moving offline venture capital advising work into the online space. The SEC agreed with them, at least for now.

Also of significance here is the success of FundersClub despite the traditional need for relationships and networking in the venture capital arena. When it comes to doling out large sums of money, vetting matters. Investors have historically been reluctant or unwilling to make investments without personal interactions and referrals.

The victory of FundersClub highlights the ways that the VC landscape is shifting. Few investors today have the ability to maintain a truly diverse portfolio using personal connections. As outsourcing becomes more common investors feel more comfortable trusting vetting and other homework to specialists like FundersClub, and early-stage companies benefit from the exposure they get from the arrangement.

At this point FundersClub looks like it is here to stay. The National Venture Capital Association has accepted FundersClub this year as its first online member, and as of this writing FundersClub has helped its startups raise approximately $26 million. Whether other companies will jump onto the bandwagon and copy the FundersClub model remains to be seen, but we would expect this model to quickly grow and adapt as the market develops.

If you have any questions about this topic, please feel free to email us.