I had a conversation recently with Alex Mittal, Co-founder and CEO of FundersClub (FC) and decided to revisit my blog post from last fall that was skeptical of crowdfunding for angel investments. FC is the latest Kickstarter type site to launch to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to raise financing from a large number of individuals. Some of the current services act on the investment bank model and either facilitate transactions between investors and companies (i.e. Micro Ventures) or provide a secondary marketing between investors (i.e. Second Market).
FC's approach is much more akin to the deal flow and social proof model of AngelList, with the ability to make small investments in a number of companies. Since the provisions of the JOBS Act relating to angel investments by non-accredited investors haven't been finalized yet, these platforms are currently only available to accredited investors, who already have the ability to make angel investments. However, there are many pieces of the FC model that are intriguing.
First, a little background on the company. FC is a YCombinator (YC) company in the current Summer '12 class that will be pitching at next Tuesday's Demo Day. The site has recently launched and all of the 6 companies on FC are part of the same YC cohort. Only one transaction has closed to date. Surprise! Surprise! It is FundersClub, so good to see they are eating their own dog food, in VC parlance.
One of FC's goals is to expand the pool of investors. While I will be attending the YC Demo Day next week along with many other Silicon Valley Angels, this is not a public event and difficult to attend for those out of the area. Anyone can now have access to many of the highly competitive investment opportunities. In addition, the angel investment process can be time consuming and daunting to those not familiar with venture deal terms. Now, if you wish, you can make investments as small as $1,000 in several companies in a matter of minutes.
I'm curious as to how the SEC will view FC. The site was designed with the very simple registration process we are all demanding, including checking a couple of boxes to prove you are an accredited investor. It is no more difficult to move through this than all of the under 13-year olds who have facebook profiles by checking that they are 13 or up. I'm guessing (if FC proves successful) that there will be unsophisticated unaccredited investors making investments and that the SEC may see this as a public offering of securities. On SecondMarket, there is a much more rigorous interview process and an electronic signature is required.
I still don't see FC as a place I'll make many investments and the administrative fee seems like it will have a material impact on returns, but could prove a great way to have your own angel investment portfolio with aggregate investment amount of $50K instead of $500K-$1M. Jury is still out, but I'm excited to track their progress and am optimistic that there will be a successful angel investment crowdfunding platform.
I wouldn't bet against FundersClub. Unfortunately, I can't bet on them. I was on vacation last week and missed out on investing in FundersClub through FundersClub before the opportunity closed. Perhaps, there will still be an opportunity to invest the old fashioned way, but signing a bunch of docs and writing a check.