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Where should I invest? A brief review of Equity CrowdFunding Sites.

Recently I read a statistic that there are over 500 web portals servicing the CrowdFunding space globally, although only a small percentage offer equity stakes. Many are focusing on specific regions or niches, so which one is best for you? Really investing comes down to what you love and what you know, find your passion and it’ll be a lot easier to research the little details. What do you get excited about, what do you read about; knowing the industry will help you define what’s hot and innovative and what will fizzle out in the next two to three years. The difference between those “hot companies” with a 5-20% return per annum that the media covers and a 20X return is that you need to catch a rising star before everyone else sees where the industry is going.

If you created a Social Media platform in 2010, it most likely struggled to gain adoption after Facebook’s first mover advantage. The same can be said about creating a platform in 1999, it was too early for mass adoption and many companies that created the concept lost market share as the second generation of companies figured out their deficiencies and built a better product. There is a ‘Sweet spot” with early stage companies where you enter the market before it’s too crowded, while also not entering so early that your venture runs out of funds before the product is adopted.

Do you want to invest in the latest health product to hit grocery stores or would you rather invest in a drone that delivers tacos on college campuses? What guides your investment decisions, your experience or your interests? If you have worked in consumer retail you might understand the business plan of a new granola bar company, or an electrical engineer might see the value in the latest smartwatch. As CrowdFunding matures more and more niche sites are popping up providing opportunities for all investors. I predict that this will significantly increase the number of accredited investors (doctors, dentists, etc) investing in high risk (high reward) businesses that match their personal beliefs and interests. Currently only 3% of US accredited investors are classified as ‘angels’. Angels invest because they enjoy it, imagine getting to pick the next rock star company and then telling all your friends while also making a fortune. As online investing becomes more social (one of the predictions of the top upcoming 2014 trends) and engaging you will see more people enter the space especially when it goes mainstream after Title 3 of the JOBS act is finalized. Title 3 will allow everyday individuals to invest in private ventures within limitations.

Below I’ve place a very small list of American CrowdFunding platforms. The industry matured significantly in 2013 and we should see more major players emerging while we catch up to Europe where they have been crowdfunding for a bit longer on sites like CrowdCube. To view more platforms check out the crowdfunding resources section on our site.

 

Consumer Products

Do you want to invest in the next top vitamin, granola bar or Chai tea…

CircleUp

CircleUp is the early stage mover in the consumer product space with several multi million dollar deals complete. They curate the deals and only accept 2% of applicants. Their focus is mostly on growth financing, taking regional brands to the national or global stage.

 

Tech Companies

Do you want to invest in the next Facebook, Twitter or Google…check out these sites…

FundersClub

FundersClub is the most exclusive and one of the earliest players in the equity crowdfunding space. Their web portal actually restricts access to only a select group of investors; they’ve stated that when Title 3 passes they will not be allowing retail investors onto the platform. They believe that having a hand picked or selective investor base adds value and prestige to the companies that use their service. After launching out of Y Combinator they raised over 8 million for their company, and 11 million for their listed companies. They are seen as one of the front runners having received their ‘No Action Letter’ from the SEC allowing them to operate on March 26, 2013.

AngelList

Angel List is a massive web portal, the LinkedIn of the startup world with individual and company profiles. Most up and coming start ups are listed on the site, many are raising money and they also have a talent section where the fast growing tech companies can find people eliminating the middleman or use of recruiters. They also received their ‘no action letter’ from the SEC on the same day as FundersClub. There site boasts over 12,000 accredited investors and over 80% of Seed and Series A tech deals in the US are being done via Angellist.

Rock the Post

Rock the Post has raised about 23 Million for their listed companies and has a very clean simple layout. Their site is also very informative around CrowdFunding legislation.

Mineral Exploration

Do you ever wonder where stuff comes from? What’s inside that computer or how that frying pan came to be? Check out Exploration Funder, the company funds Exploration companies that send  geologists looking for the next major deposit. (Note: I consulted with Exploration Funder for 4 months.) The platform is currently not operation but is an example of how crowdfunding is moving towards very specific niches.

Exploration Funder

Exploration Funder showcases both private and publicly traded exploration companies with projects all around the world. With valuation trajectories similar to the tech sector if you drill and hit the right mineralization in the ground you can become incredibly wealthy. The site lists curated companies that are deemed to have high potential projects, all listed companies are reviewed by an advisory board of geologists and industry specialists.

Conclusion

These are just a sampling of the new Equity CrowdFunding platforms on the market. These 5 sites will give you an example of how companies are presented, investor registration processes and more information on how to do due diligence as a neophyte investor.

If you are looking to stay up to date on the CrowdFunding industry CrowdFundinsider.com is a good resource and stay tuned to my blog!