Caveat Investor

Amateur Hour: New Crowdinvesting Rules Mean Everyone Can Play Venture Capitalist

(Photo: James Cridland via Flickr)

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. Read More

More Startups

In 9 Months, Anyone Can Invest in a Startup

(flickr.com/portland_mike)

Do you feel like there are a lot of startups? We feel like there are a lot of startups. The JOBS Act, an amalgamation of six bills that passed through Congress, is likely going to make even more startups, thanks to a section that will allow the average American to invest limited amounts of money in business plans. AngelList, the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, and a crop of equity-based crowdfunding platforms are poised to take advantage—but not for a while. The Act requires the SEC to hammer out the rules for equity-based crowdfunding within nine months.

“The SEC needs to determine the actual guidelines,” said Nick Tommarello, one of the founders of WeFunder, an equity-based crowdfunding platform that decided to launch a preliminary site before the law passed. “Then we apply to the SEC.” Read More

Trickle-Up Economics

Roboinvest Boots Up [UPDATED]

They can't stop Bitcoining. (Getty Images)

Want to trade stocks? Have no clue how? Roboinvest is the latest startup to launch out of New York for casual, insecure or curious traders. Like Union Square Ventures company Covester, Roboinvest is a social investing platform built on top of ETRADE that lets users “look over the shoulder of top investors” and follow their moves, sort of like AngelList does for startups and Currensee does for foreign exchange trading. The startup had a soft launch on Friday and opened officially yesterday. Read More