Tech funding usually happens in one of two ways. In one scenario, a software or service product— think Twitter — usually sells equity to venture capitalists who expect some kind of return on their investment. Hardware products usually go the crowdfunding route, building up a list of pre-orders that they can then use to pay for manufacturing.
Recently, however, a new Securities Exchange Commission ruling allows small companies to crowdfund equity raises, albeit in ways the aim to keep small investors safe from financial sharks. Using something called Regulation Crowdfunding, the companies were able to raise up to $1.07 million from non-accredited investors (aka you and me). Now, thanks to an update in the rules, they can raise up to $5 million in the same way hardware startups can raise millions on Kickstarter, but instead of delivering a product, these Reg Crowdfunding companies deliver profits or equity.
What this means in practice is that the alternative stock market just got a whole lot bigger. Because nearly any company can run a Regulation Crowdfunding round, you can buy a part of a small company in the same way you can invest in Apple or Amazon. Further, the SEC is “removing investment limits for accredited investors” and is now taking into account salary or net worth when it comes to limiting investments by non-accredited investors, meaning it can approve your investment to a certain income level.
Why should you care about this? Well, if you’re a small software maker, manufacturer, or, hell, restaurant owner you can use this technique to go to the general public to support your business. Because the investment cap is so much higher now, you can feasibly raise enough for business expansion, product development, or geographic growth. Regulation Crowdfunding is still looked at as something suspect by so-called professional investors, but it’s nice to know you can kick in a couple of bucks to help your buddy’s model rocketry business take off.