Jumping the Gun
Equity-based crowdfunding, whereby unaccredited investors plunk down money in a company in exchange for more money down the road, is set to be legal sometime in early 2013. Small investors and unfunded startups are waiting until after the Securities and Exchange Commission figures out how to write the rules so widows and orphans don’t get fleeced of their last pennies. That could take a while. But the timeline hasn’t stopped startups from competing to be the very first equity crowdfunding site. Some aren’t even waiting until the law is finalized.
The Equity of the Crowds
It was glaringly sunny in Washington, D.C., on April 5, the day President Barack Obama signed the JOBS Act, and there was some confusion as to the location of the afterparty. One faction of Rose Garden attendees gathered on the roof of the W Hotel and wondered where everyone was. The rest assembled at Off The Record, a dimly lit bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel, and kicked things off with an icebreaker.
About 30 smartly dressed men and women, still sweating out the adrenaline of being three rows away from the president, stood in a circle. Many had worked with each other but never met. Each stated their names, the role they played in the bill, and perhaps a few words about the brave new world of so-called equity-based crowdfunding, which had just been legalized by one of the six constituent laws that make up the JOBS Act. The new rule will allow “ordinary Americans,” in the president’s words, to invest in a nonpublic company in exchange for shares for the first time since the enactment of the securities regulation that followed the 1929 stock market crash.
The mood was triumphant and boozy. Tim Rowe, a Cambridge-based venture capitalist, raised a glass and offered a toast to working together in the future. “The Marine Corps was founded in a bar in Philadelphia,” he said. “Big things can happen starting in a bar.” Attendees signed up to join a trade organization for the newly minted market. “There was the sense of elation that we had cracked the monopoly of Wall Street,” one attendee recalled.
Update: On March 27th, the House passed a reconciled version of the JOBS Act, which includes the provisions from the Senate’s CROWDFUND Act, detailed below.
This afternoon, the Senate passed the Crowdfund Act by a resounding 73-26 vote. If you’ve been following the JOBS Act, which has won support from venture capitalists and founders alike (for evidence, just scroll down to this petition’s list of supporters), the Crowdfund Act is the Senate’s version of the JOBS bill, which now includes the requirement that startups looking to raise capital do so from SEC-approved websites.
The JOBS Act, short for Jumpstart Our Business Startups, centered around rolling back some investor protections in the name of making it easier for small businesses to raise capital.
Although the JOBS bill passed in the House in a 390-23 vote a couple weeks ago, because legislators were successful in amending a number of “more stringent safeguards for investors,” the Crowdfunding Act will need to be reconciled with the JOBS Act and head back to the House, rather than to President Obama for approval, reports Politico.