ApplePie Capital CEO & Co-Founder Denise Thomas Makes Marketplace Lending Success Look Easy


“We have gained a foothold within the industry by partnering with 42 brands to date. Moving forward we will continue to innovate…”

Having spent more than 20 years as a corporate executive in companies backed by prosperous VC firms including Kleiner Perkins, Mohr Davidow and Sequoia Capital, ApplePie Capital CEO and serial entrepreneur Denise Thomas continues to help companies create viable businesses from entrepreneurial ideas.

A founder three times, Thomas has held executive and management positions with National Seminconductor’s POS Division, Onyx Microcomputer (IPO and acquired by Corvus), Kao Infosystems (US Division of Kao Corporation of Japan, a multi-billion dollar company also referred to as the Proctor and Gamble of Japan), Post Communications (acquired by Netcentives for $380M), OffRoad Capital (acquired by NYPPE), LesConcierges (providing global concierge service to companies such as American Express, Bank of America, and Leading Hotels of the World), Navigenics (venture backed genetic testing company) and Healthiest You, a collaboration with Humana (a neuroscience based lifestyle and behavior service delivered online), SharesPost, a private marketplace for late-stage,  enture-backed companies. Thomas has participated in over twenty rounds of financing, in addition to her IPO, acquisition, and public and private companies experience. In short, Thomas is a force.

In 2014, Thomas co-founded marketplace lender ApplePie Capital with Stephen Pelletier.  The firm’s franchise loan marketplace enables entrepreneurs to obtain financing in order to start or expand their franchise business.

I recently connected with the CEO and Chairman via email to learn more about ApplePie’s unique niche, what “Fintech looks like”, Fintech’s future, successful partnerships, and advice for fellow and rising fintechers. Our interview follows:


Erin: Congratulations on your Award at LendIt as Emerging Small Business Lender.  How did you come up with the concept for ApplePie? Matching P2P with Franchise Loans?

Denise Thomas: Thank you! We are excited about the recognition, our team has worked tirelessly over the last 24 months to build our platform and it’s great affirmation from the industry. To give some background on my history and what led me to ApplePie, I am a what they call a serial masochist, also known as a serial entrepreneur. I enjoy building businesses from scratch, taking concepts and ideas and making them a reality. I came up with the idea for ApplePie when I noticed a lack of market dynamic for investors in small business, which was a fragmented space due to the rate of failure for small businesses. This rate of failure becomes much more predictable through the blueprint of a franchise business model. In addition, I personally invested in Supercuts equity, which has provided nice returns over the past 30 years giving me more confidence in the strength of franchise over the long term.

Erin: You recently signed new investors plus funding capital, thus standing out in a challenging market. Please share details about your MO. How long did it take to raise the money?

Denise: It took five months. The two main sources of funding we closed were new strategic partners and existing investors. We did not add any new venture besides those familiar with us. We started raising capital in a turbulent environment. The Lending Club news came out within a few weeks of our initial talks with potential investors. Our strategy was to continue to tell our story and educate investors about franchise debt as an asset. The story resonated with investors and held water over those initial months regardless of what was happening in our industry.

Erin: Please share your experience about dealing with a prominent Bay Area VC saying, “You don’t look like Fintech.”

Denise: Statistically, there are far more men running fintech companies, clearly there are some biases out there around that. A study released by Peterson Institute for International Economics in 2016 found that “An increase in the share [on executive teams and boards] of women would be associated with a 15% rise in profitability.” Personally, I don’t think about it. I can’t answer for the people that do. That experience only reflected upon that one individual rather than the entire firm. At the end of the day, you want people in your board room who are supportive.

Erin: What challenges have you encountered and do you continue to witness as a female Fintech innovator and disruptor? How can women shatter the glass ceiling?

Denise: I have never viewed that there is a glass ceiling. As a female in fintech, I find that I am often remembered just because I am a female and that stands out statistically. This is a general statement but I also find that I am sometimes underestimated initially and that can be an advantage in negotiations.

Erin: What advice can you provide for other women entrepreneurs/founders in the financial services sector?

Denise: Run for the hills! Just kidding. I would say understand that you can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time. There are going to be times where you have to focus and make sacrifices. As a CEO of a fintech startup, the reality is that my job is 24/7. Surround yourself with great people because you can’t do it alone. With a great team, you’ll find the opportunity to increase the balance.

Erin: You have spoken quite positively about your relationship with Fifth Third. How and why does ApplePie’s relationship with this bank differ from others?

Denise: As opposed to our other loan purchasers, Fifth Third has made a strategic investment in our company and holds a stake in the growth of our business. They co-led our B round with QED Investors, with whom they have now also partnered to make strategic investments in VC-backed fintech companies. They have a long term vision for our industry and provide their expertise to create better financial solutions and a superior experience for our borrowers.

Erin: ApplePie Capital’s loans are backed by personal guarantee and unsecured. Personal assets are not required to back loans. Tell me more…

Denise: We provide loans to the franchise industry and we’ve found the indicators for risk are much more predictable than a one-off small business. In franchising, there is a blueprint for the business owners to follow, in terms of cost analysis and every other aspect. This is measurable and people have a path to multi-unit ownership. We look at each brand and evaluate the sustainability of the business model, which has proven itself over the last 25 years through historical SBA data.

Erin: What type of market opportunity do you forecast? Why?

Denise: The franchise industry has an annual capital demand of $45B domestically, which includes both debt and equity. We have gained a foothold within the industry by partnering with 42 brands to date. Moving forward we will continue to innovate and expand our product offerings to meet the needs of more brands and become a holistic solution for their franchisees.

UChicago Polsky Center Director E.J. Reedy: Still Time to Complete 2017 Americas Alternative Finance Industry Survey


“Having trusted, independent research is critical to cutting through some of the noise from a fast-changing space like alternative finance…We cut across to give a big picture view which isn’t typically available in other research.”

It’s official, alternative finance platforms have been granted an extension to respond to 2017 Americas Alternative Finance Industry Survey. Complete it now — it will only take 20 minutes and your answers have tremendous research value.  And to answer a frequently asked question, the research resulting from the survey will be free. But your responses are priceless.

This year’s study builds upon the success of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago and the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School inaugural report, “Breaking New Ground,” highlighting the size, growth and key market trends of the online alternative finance market across the United States, Canada, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The report is one of a series, which includes the global benchmarking for alternative finance activity in the Asia-Pacific regionEurope, Africa, the Middle East and the United Kingdom.

Last year 257 platforms responded, with hopes of more platforms responding this year. All platforms – successful, unsuccessful, growing and failing – in the sector are encouraged to respond. English, Spanish and Portuguese versions of the survey are available.

“We recognize that this is not the easiest survey to complete, but this is a complicated industry that we want to capture well. Together we can create better research in this fast-evolving area. We’re reaching out across Canada, Latin America and the US,” commented new Polsky Center Director E. J. Reedy. “Personally I like to think of this research as community building. We’re studying a group that is experiencing a lot of change.  We’re long-term partners in understanding this change, providing guideposts, benchmarks, and insights along the way. This report will capture the results of big changes in regulation and 2016 market turbulence, but also where growth is happening, where change is happening from one type of platform to another, and where might we be finding some segments of the industry deciding that there are better opportunities elsewhere.”

The data collected will be handled with confidentiality and all data will be aggregated into a final report scheduled to publish in May 2017. The aggregate report will be disseminated freely to participating platforms across government, regulators, trade associations and major media outlets to inform policy and raise public awareness of alternative finance.

As one of the principal investigators on the 2017 Americas Alternative Finance Industry Survey, Polsky Center Director and Kauffman Foundation veteran Reedy sees an academic’s role as asking consistent and critical questions, being independent but also participating in the sector:

“We want to ask questions  that are relevant to the industry, as well as fill a hole helping to paint a broader picture for the general public and regulators. Going to big and small industry conferences helps us to listen for trends and design questions that help us test if such trends are actually happening across the broader market.”

While a Director and Program Officer at the Kauffman Foundation, the largest global philanthropy devoted to advancing entrepreneurship and innovation, Reedy initiated two new multi-million dollar initiatives to drive better data on entrepreneurship, one with the U.S. Census Bureau and the other was a decade-long initiative to collect the Kauffman Firm Survey, a survey which followed 5,000 new businesses as they evolved. Both initiatives had a heavy focus on business financing and innovation.

Survey design, small business finance, and entrepreneurship, Alternative Finance growth and change were some of the topics Reedy covered in our Skype interview.  Our interview follows:

Erin: How did you become involved with CCAF and their annual research? How has your experience researching entrepreneurship and small businesses at Kauffman helped?

E.J.: The Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago began working to collect the Alternative Finance Industry Survey for the first time last year. I took over the work this year on behalf of the Polsky team, working with a team of researchers to collect information across the Americas.

My ten years of experience overseeing research at the Kauffman Foundation has been incredibly useful to our current work. Kauffman is one of the largest funders of research on entrepreneurship in the United States, so I’ve overseen hundreds of grants in the last decade dealing with finance, along with my own research. Bringing that experience to this already great effort has helped us to expand our survey with some new ideas but also to learn from some past efforts in very different research areas.

Erin: Please discuss this year’s survey design and how it differs from 2016. Will the approach be the same or will you be targeting different information?

E.J.: This year’s survey continues the best of last year’s work by providing a benchmark on the size and make-up of a diverse alternative finance ecosystem in the Americas. In the first report, we began to tease out key characteristics that highlighted unique features of this industry vis a vis the region. This year, the survey hones in on these findings to focus on how key stakeholders utilize altfin platforms to access funding or deploy capital. A number of our optional questions examine average deal size, default rates, repeat funding, and much more. Only a handful of questions are required for internationally comparable analysis, but we hope platform partners will answer as much as they are capable. The questionnaire can be explored here.

Erin: Which questions would you and your team like to ask the alternative finance community but couldn’t?

E.J.: The Cambridge and Polsky team is beginning a new survey in Mexico and Chile, which focuses on the fundraisers using alternative finance platforms. That will be a great way of looking even deeper inside what is going on with alternative finance, as we’ll for the first time start to understand why people are coming to the platforms and some of their pre-platform experience. That’s a complementary initiative to our current survey but is an example of what we can’t get from a survey of platforms.

Erin: How does gender play a role in altfin?

E.J.: Gender plays a role in lots of different ways in who seeks financing and how it is provided. Last year’s research showed really interesting patterns across the many types of platforms we reach, with high levels of female funders and fundraisers in reward and donation-based crowdfunding.

Erin: What are your predictions for this current report? What innovations and developments have you noted globally?   What new trends are establishing and where?  Which countries are leading the charge in this part of the world? Why? 

E.J.: The United States continues to be a global leader in the provision of alternative finance and the iteration of different types of platforms. While it’s early to draw out conclusions from current year research, I definitely see a few things. First, there is a lot of growth among some of the bigger players within the industry with additional capital flowing in and new types of partnerships. Second, I see many platforms that are iterating on their models by offering new and complimentary finance products, moving from one type of model to another or included an active secondary market to facilitate liquidity. Third, I see some consolidation and dropping out of smaller platforms, although not necessarily at the levels many predicted.

Erin: Have you noticed a change in perception from policy makers and regulators? How can the CCAF study help?

E.J.: The 2017 Americas Alternative Finance Industry Survey and its partner surveys globally are absolutely critical for policy makers and regulators. Having trusted, independent research is critical to cutting through some of the noise from a fast-changing space like alternative finance. We know that regulators are a huge user of our reports, as is industry and the general public. We try to capture the universe and show more than just crowdfunding or marketplace lending. We cut across to give a big picture view which isn’t typically available in other research.

Erin: What in your opinion are the key issues facing the alternative finance sector?  Where are the potential fissures and how can these weaknesses be strengthened?

E.J.: The alternative finance industry is growing and coming of age. It is no longer off the radar, which creates lots of opportunities but also some challenges. Opportunity has come and I suspect will continue to come in reaching bigger audiences through new types of partnerships, often with bigger existing financial institutions. Challenges will come in continuing to work and tweak different models to understand where demand is. That process can be messy and not everyone will survive.

Erin: How will US alternative finance be affected by the current administration?
E.J.: It’s only been a few months so it’s hard to say, but there are lots of continuing regulatory discussions which will impact how some of the new and expanding segments of the market, such as those providing broader-types of equity opportunities for business investments.

Erin: Please discuss mentoring future fintech mavens and mavericks.  Are you on any boards or serving as an advisor?

E.J.: Part of the work I love at the Polsky Center is that I get to work both on industry research with this project but also mentoring new FinTech startups coming up through the university. We see lots of interest from students (particularly at Chicago Booth School of Business) in FinTech and so have focused on developing new programs to support and grow these startups. Currently we have three teams going through our world-renowned New Venture Challenge, an accelerator program that happens each spring and has resulted in nearly $5 billion in current market capitalization and outside equity investments.


To participate in the Survey please use the links below.

All crowdfunding, marketplace/peer-to-peer lending and other alternative finance platforms that are currently operating in North, Central and South America may take the benchmarking survey. All participating platforms wishing to be acknowledged in the benchmarking report can submit their logo for display in the 2017 Americas Alternative Finance Industry Report.

For benchmarking research enquiries please contact:

E.J. Reedy, Director of Research and International Engagement, Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Chicago via email ereedy0@chicagobooth.edu

or

Tania Ziegler, Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, the University of Cambridge via email tz285@cam.ac.uk

The findings of the survey will be made publicly available in a 2017 Americas Alternative Finance Industry Report due to be published in late May 2017. This year’s survey will highlight the changing nature of alternative finance marketplace across the Americas and hopefully facilitate dialogue and learning between key stakeholders and government officials.

Absolutely Vital: Improving Entrepreneurs Access to Capital


Entrepreneurship and the creation of small business is vital to the economic growth of the country and the welfare of the nation. This is a simple, indisputable fact. Yet too frequently, small business and entrepreneurs get pushed to the side as policymakers and regulators focus attention on established corporations while creating regulations designed to reign in bigger firms. Errors in policy are, at times, glaring yet the partisan nature of politics tends to focus on individual legacies instead of doing what is right. Just look at Dodd-Frank, legislation that one estimate put the cost to the economy at billions of dollars.

David Burton, a Senior Fellow in Economic Policy at the Heritage Foundation and the organizer of a prestigious securities regulatory working group, recently published a “Backgrounder” on what must be done to improve entrepreneurship in the United States. Entitled, “Improving Entrepreneurs Access to Capital: Vital for Economic Growth,” the paper is an important read for all policymakers – regardless of party affiliation.

By now, everyone should understand that entrepreneurship, and the risk-takers that launch new firms, drive job creation and economic prosperity. And if you don’t believe in this truism, I suggest you spend a few weeks in a country that embraces a command-type economy where every individual is assured poverty (think Venezuela or North Korea). Entrepreneurs must have access to capital to launch disruptive firms and grow their business. While the US is noted for creative communities where entrepreneurship flourishes like Silicon Valley and New York’s Silicon Alley, the environment could be better. Especially in other parts of the country that are gasping for economic growth. Burton’s paper advocates many changes including the following:

  • Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission need to systematically reduce or eliminate state and federal regulatory barriers hindering entrepreneurs’ access to capital.
  • The regulatory environment needs to be improved for primary and secondary offerings by private and small public companies. Steps should also be taken to improve small firms’ access to credit and to reduce the regulatory burden on small broker-dealers.

So which securities laws matter to entrepreneurs? Burton has provided a list to guide policymakers, including several provisions in the JOBS Act that enabled investment crowdfunding:

  • Regulation D Reform
    • Repair Regulation D by pre-empting blue sky registration and qualification requirements for Regulation D Rule 505 offerings
    • Establish a statutory definition of “accredited investor” that does not reduce the number of people able to invest in private companies and allow for a sophistication qualification
  • Crowdfunding (Reg CF) Reform
    • Increase the amount that may be raised to at least $5 million thus making the exemption more attractive to a better group of firms
    • Remove the liability problem for portals regarding misstatements by issuers
    • Repeal the requirement for audited statements for issuers raising $500,000 or more as audits are costly and push issuers to other exemptions.
    • Reduce the complex and ongoing mandatory disclosure requirements
  • Regulation A+
    • Pre-empt state blue sky for all Reg A+ offerings. State anti-fraud laws remain fully operative.
    • Codify holder of record limitations for Reg A+ securities
    • Pre-empt blue sky laws on secondary sales of Reg A+ securities
  • Create a Micro Issues Private Placement Safe Harbor
    • Issuers may raise up to $500,000 from pre-existing relationships
  • Create a statutory exemption for small business finders who help small businesses raise capital

There is more, including Burton’s recommendation to exempt peer to peer lending (in the US typically called marketplace lending) from federal and state securities law. Today, P2P platforms endure the oversight of 50 states and a squadron of federal regulation creating a highly inefficient process to provide a needed service.

Another subject of ongoing discussion is the potential for a venture exchange or a type of secondary market for alternative securities.

In brief, reducing unnecessary regulation and streamlining the capital formation process for startups and SMEs can be a boon for the economy. While improving access to capital for small business and entrepreneurs is a global theme the US is unique in its current convoluted regulatory environment that stifles economic growth. The Trump administration has been quite vocal in pressing the need for financial regulatory reform. Frankly, much of reform Burton advocates, cannot come soon enough.

The Backgrounder is embedded below.


[scribd id=341681947 key=key-UbTieFf8auCxMiSXfd1c mode=scroll]

 

The Invest in America Act: Supporting Entrepreneurs & Innovation While Empowering Everyday Americans

 


First off, we all owe Tony a debt of gratitude for actually drafting this set of regulations. Legislative drafting is yeoman’s work especially when it comes to tax law. This new legislation solves for two extremely important problems in the U.S. economy and society. The first is the lack of capital being allocated to small and startup businesses, which are the largest driver of economic growth and job creation. The second is the exclusive nature of private investments and the basic shutting out of everyday Americans from participating in high growth startups.

The Small Business Administration reports that small businesses account for 99.7% of U.S. employer firms, 64% of net new private-sector jobs, 49.2% of private-sector employment, and 43% of high-tech employment.

Importantly, when one thinks about small business, it is also a bit of a false distinction between jobs and economic growth created from small versus large businesses since all large enterprises were once start-ups, so in a sense, all job creation comes from small and start-up companies.

It is thus imperative that we support these vital economic drivers.

Despite this truism, chief economist for the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council found that:

“Compared to the average growth rates prevailing over the past six decades, the U.S. has experienced a historic private investment gap or shortfall during this current recovery/expansion period. This amounts to a lost decade when it comes to private-sector investment…Real gross private domestic investment grew at an average annual rate of 1.8% from 2007 to 2016, compared to the 4.9% average growth rate from 1956 to 2016. This difference leaves a real gross private domestic investment gap of at least $1.4 trillion (in 2009 dollars) in 2016.”

With data like this, it is astounding that our economy has grown at all.

In addition to decreased private investment, bank loans, the traditional source of capital for small business has dried up over time.

In 2015 the Wall Street Journal reported that;

“[t]ogether, 10 of the largest banks issuing small loans to business lent $44.7 billion in 2014, down 38% from a peak of $72.5 billion in 2006, according to an analysis of the banks’ federal regulatory filings.”

And due to consolidation, many of the small community-based lenders have been amalgamated into the larger institutions leaving no outlet for small and startup businesses.

What is causing this?—several factors, including an economic crisis, but also and just as importantly, the reaction to that crisis bears much of the blame.

The Dodd-Frank Act constrained banks and their lending practices and made the smaller and often higher risk loans unprofitable or illegal to make. Over-regulation in the area of securities law and other regulatory agencies, as well as high tax rates, have also had a chilling effect.

Leveling the Playing Field

The other issue addressed by the Invest in America Act is the inability of average citizens to participate in private investment.

Except in very limited situations, the securities laws of this country prevent anyone who makes less than $200,000 a year, or has a net worth of less than $1 million, from investing in private companies. And as anyone who has followed the recent tech boom in this country knows, it is the private investments that have the greatest upside potential (think Uber, AirBnB, Oculus, etc.). The SEC, in its paternalistic wisdom, has long deemed these type of investments too risky and off limits to 93% of the population.

One bright spot, however, has been the JOBS Act of 2012, which took a long time to become effective but is now showing real promise by allowing average Americans to invest (in capped amounts) in small and startup businesses and utilizing technology to reduce transaction costs. Add to it the Invest in America Act and there might be hope for us yet.

The Act, with its two-pronged approach, not only incentivizes all investors to invest in small and start-up businesses which bear more risk but ultimately more opportunity for reward but also incentivizes the big players such as VC firms to open up their exclusive deals the average citizen so they may participate. It is truly an elegant solution, which piggybacks off of the SEC’s and various state crowdfunding rules to incorporate all of the necessary safeguards and protections without being overly paternalistic.


The beauty of this proposal is that it works.

It is often difficult to know if potential legislation will have the intended effect and unintended consequence are all too familiar when it comes to government regulation, however with the Invest in America Act, all we need to do is look to our allies across the Atlantic who have had a similar tax initiative in place called the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) for over 13 years and the more recent Small Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) with great success.

In fact, in 2015 the UK Treasury reported that;

“[t]he tax- advantaged venture capital schemes continue to be an important part of meeting [our] aim, providing valuable support to small and growing businesses seeking finance to develop and grow. To date they have supported over 22,000 businesses to gain access to finance, with over £17.5 billion of funding provided.”

While this may seem like small numbers, don’t forget that the US economy is roughly 8 times the size of the UK, which equates to $175 billion with the current exchange rate of potential for the US market.

The British government further stated that;

“[it] is committed to ensuring continued support for small and growing businesses that are key to the UK economy. The tax-advantaged venture capital schemes are an important part of the government’s growth strategy, facilitating access to finance and providing support for smaller companies, which would otherwise have difficulty finding the necessary finance to develop and grow.”

One of the remarkable things about the success of the UK tax schemes is that it has not just benefitted the urban tech center of London, but 63% of the money was raised by companies outside of London, many in more rural areas of the UK. In addition, although the maximum amount of money that can be raised by a company utilizing the Enterprise Investment Scheme is £5,000,000, the vast majority of transactions utilizing the tax schemes are for £250,000 or less, so true startups and small businesses.

The UK system is very similar to proposed Invest In America Act. You can find the details here and here.

In summary, it allows small business to conduct qualifying capital raises for which investors can deduct a portion of their investment from their taxable income. In the event the investment goes belly up, the investor can deduct the full amount of the investment.

The UK plan goes even further than the Invest in America Act in that it also eliminates the cap gains tax on the eventual exit after a certain holding period of the investment. It does not, however, have the equalizing feature of allowing the “sophisticated” investors to receive a tax benefit if they bootstrap a crowdfunding transaction to their deal and open up investment opportunities to average Americans.

In both plans the offering amounts are capped as are the investment amounts to reduce risk to both investors and taxpayers.

And should those taxpayers be concerned?

The economic insight to these regulations is that by financing small business, you actually create new revenue streams from an increase in the payroll tax and sales tax attributable to those enterprises. This is not a pure redistribution of the tax burden, however, because these businesses eventually generate revenue and actually grow the economy.

In a nutshell, this proposal could unleash capital to small business while taking a step to equalize the playing field when it comes to investment opportunity; it is like a win win win. In addition, rarely do we have such a clear example of successful legislation, which should alleviate the hesitation of any skeptics.


Georgia P. Quinn is a Senior Contributor for Crowdfund Insider. She is also the CEO and co-founder of iDisclose, an adaptive web-based application that enables entrepreneurs to prepare customized institutional grade private placement documents for a fraction of the time and cost. Georgia also serves as of counsel at a leading law firm in crowdfunding, Ellenoff, Grossman & Schole, specializing in facilitating financial transactions and compliance with JOBS Act regulations. 

AlliedCrowds Prepares for P2P Platform AlliedExchange Launch

London-based AlliedCrowds is preparing to launch its P2P service AlliedExchange soon as it has begun the search for a new Managing Director.  AlliedCrowds/AlliedExchange is backed and funded by FSD Africa, which in turn is backed by the British government.

This proposed platform will use P2P lending technology to present a range of sub-Saharan Africa loans to both retail and institutional investors, including diaspora, HNWIs, hedge funds, family offices, banks, development institutions, etc. The platform will have the ability to transact trades and manage accounts. Initially, the platform will be regulated by the FCA, but regional authorization will be sought in due course.”

alliedcrowds-websiteThe organization is known for its various reports on and work to expose alternative finance to the developing world, including its annual Developing World Crowdfunding report and Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurship report.

AlliedCrowds is working to address the credit gap of over $70 billion in the SSA region that SMEs face.  The creation of AlliedExchange will build on top of the work that AlliedCrowds already has achieved:

  • “Data across 138 countries and seven sectors;
  • Research on different financing providers (venture capital, private equity, crowdfunding, angel investing, impact investing, and public/semi-public funders);
  • Information on various financing models (grant, loan, and equity);
  • Real-time information on select providers; and
  • In-depth reporting of insights”.

Suffolk Celebrates National Entrepreneurship Month, Supports 7 New Startups

November is National Entrepreneurship Month and Suffolk University in Boston celebrated by organizing experiential courses on crowdfunding.  During Global Entrepreneurship Week on November 14, students partaking in the programs launched campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to support their startups.  Seven startups and campaigns have launched out of the “ENT-340: Crowdfunding the Startup” Sawyer Business School class.  They include:

suffolk-university-buddha-bus-yoga

  • Buddha Bus Yoga – “[T]akes Yoga out of the studio by traveling to various locations in New England providing all-inclusive Yoga classes.”
  • Upward Bound – “[A] federally-funded program for high school students who are below the poverty line and are the first generation from their family to attend college.”
  • WarmUp Protein Coffee – “[A] high-protein coffee targeting fitness-focused, on-the-go people”.
  • NEO Miners – “[A] card game that focuses on resource management and economic principles, where each player mines asteroids to collect resources.”
  • Vegitano – “[A] health food brand that will offer healthy alternatives to people who eat on a vegan diet, are allergic to dairy and/or gluten.”

suffolk-university-upward-bound

  • The Wicked Fisha – “[T]his cooler-tackle box combination features a simple design with limitless functionality for its user. It completely eliminates the hassle for fishermen who want to enjoy a (few) cold beverages during a fishing trip.”
  • Goliath Gallon – “[A] reusable, BPA-free gallon bottle that comes apart in the middle to allow for easy cleaning and accessibility to add anything you want in it”.

According to Professor Jennifer Dinger, who teaches the course on entrepreneurship:

jennifer-dinger-suffolk

“While a few other universities are discussing crowdfunding as part of traditional course content, the real-world approach to this course makes it different. Suffolk students in this class are learning how to turn their business ideas into action, and they are going after the funding to support those enterprises.”

The course and the ventures that have risen out of it are prime examples of young people looking to make a difference and celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship in a meaningful way.

Jackie Miller Comments on VFA’s Innovation Fund Campaign on Indiegogo

venture for americaVenture for America Fellows announced its 5th Innovation Fund crowdfunding campaign in partnership with Indiegogo and sponsored by Barclays, gives access to $50,000 per year in grants for eleven Fellow-led projects.
jackie miller“We are grateful to Barclays and Indiegogo, who have offered up their expertise and resources to help our Fellows strategize for their crowdfunding campaigns and help them to find the people who believe in their products or mission,” commented Jackie Miller, Senior Director of Partnerships. “We are excited to give our Fellows a chance to test market viability for the side projects or businesses they are working on outside of their full-time jobs with VFA Partner Companies. Their campaigns have the potential to make a positive impact in emerging cities and Innovation Fund projects have a history of going on to become self-sustaining businesses.”

In the last week, the eleven VFA projects have generated more than $41K with the help of the crowd. A snapshot of the campaigns are below, with Bikes ORO raising more than $20K of that sum:
bikes oroBikes ORO: socially conscious commuter bikes
Pinch Crawfish Kitchen: Vietnamese culinary experience in San Antonio
All About that Paradigm Shift: encouraging people to engage in meaningful conversations
Climb-A-Sutra: a hot and humorous book of sex positions, inspired by rock climbing
Al Dente by Simple Kitchen: rice cooker for healthier rice
VegCycle: modern growing techniques and affordable greens coming to Cincinnati neighborhoods on a rolling garden.
The Redge: online personal registry for all your favorite items on the web
Forge: Detroit art residency & coffee shop for emerging artists
Native < > Newcomer: network connecting Detroit newcomers to Detroit natives
Women Rising: women’s networking platform
Wakeable: the anti-snooze alarm clock
“The Innovation Fund is an integral part of the suite of resources we make available to Fellows who want to build something with Venture for America,” continued Miller. Participating in a crowdfunding campaign is a fantastic way to test market viability for a side project or emerging business and provides the opportunity for Fellows to get customer feedback and iterate on their ideas.”
More about Venture for America:
  • venture for americaVFA, a nonprofit program that helps young people become business builders and entrepreneurs, recruits America’s best and brightest recent college grads and trains them to be assets to startups and early-stage companies in emerging cities. The non-profits currently counts 300+ Fellows working at startups in 15 US cities.
  • VFA’s aims that a substantial portion of VFA Fellows will become successful entrepreneurs, preferably rooted in the communities to which they are assigned. Venture for America’s purpose is job generation with the immediate goal to generate 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025 by helping companies expand and training a critical mass.

The UK Faces A Once-In-A-Century Chance To Be A Technology Leader, Writes Financial Times Correspondent

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Aided by factors such as a record high number of registered businesses in the UK–5.2 million; a national interest in entrepreneurship; and SMEs accounting for just over 60 percent of private sector employment, according to the Department for Business, the UK has the chance to increase its high level of entrepreneurial activity and become a technology leader, notes a recent article in the Financial Times.Financial Times FT

The signs are good: The UK’s Conservative government is dedicated to extending progress made; more than one new business has achieved “unicorn” status (being valued at over $1bn valuation) in recent years; and the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, based in the United States, in its latest index ranked the UK as providing the strongest environment for start-ups in Europe and the fourth most-successful worldwide.

Nic BrisbourneHowever, the FT comments that creating a company of Google or Facebook’s size–something that could move the center of entrepreneurship from the West Coast of the U.S. to the UK–has so far escaped Britain. Many business owners and investors note that Conservative policies such as controls on immigration may weaken the UK’s reputation for welcoming entrepreneurs.

Nic Brisbourne, managing partner of Forward Partners, an incubator for startups providing funding, workspaces and expertise, recollected the hiring difficulties of a retailer he had backed, after it found a candidate it saw as the ideal lead for the development of its technology platform. He noted,

Finding talent is one of the most difficult things for start-ups, and it makes it much easier if we can look abroad.

While the UK may have some of the most appealing structures in place for developing companies, such as the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), a tax break for investors in early stage ventures, Jamie Coleman thinks that these schemes could be improved. Coleman is the managing director of CodeBase, a tech startup incubator based in Edinburgh, and creator of the Turing Festival, a celebration of digital entrepreneurship that takes place during Edinburgh’s annual arts festival. He said,Jamie Coleman

The unintended consequence of SEIS is that it effectively put a cap on early stage investing of £150,000. Raising the top limit of SEIS would be incredibly useful, especially as many UK start-ups are business-to-business models, where both developer costs and customer acquisition costs are felt upfront.

“A global capital for digitally driven, fast-growing new ventures,” London leads the way for the country’s entrepreneurial revival, and has claimed a dominant role in a wide variety of niche markets for budding companies. Examples include fintech ventures and peer-to-peer lending, fashion tech businesses and food delivery services such as Deliveroo and Just Eat (a unicorn, with a £1.5 billion valuation when it listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2014).

Jonathan OrtmansPart of the city’s success is due to “talent diversity,” according to Jonathan Ortmans, director of the Kauffman Foundation, a U.S.-based charity created to promote entrepreneurship globally. London offers the most diverse “ecosystem” for startups in the world, he said, citing the latest Global Startup Ecosystem ranking produced by benchmarking company Compass. Of London’s startup employees, about 53 percent are foreign, and 18 percent of their founders are female.

But entrepreneurial success isn’t evenly distributed throughout the UK. Cities such as Edinburgh, Bristol and Manchester are certainly entrepreneurial hotspots, but the northeast parts of the UK have yet to follow suit. The tech entrepreneur and founder of Lastminute.com and Made.com, Brent Hoberman, warns that as foreign governments adopt policies friendly to founders, the UK shouldn’t simply bask in its own success. He noted,

The French have copied a lot of what we have done in the UK and have done a bit more in terms of marketing French tech.

Brent HobermanOne solution Hoberman suggests is for the UK government to do more to cut red tape and aid smaller companies that want to export. Large corporate companies could play a greater role in nurturing small companies, he also noted, calling it “good citizenship” that the Google Campus in London’s Old Street provides space for technology entrepreneurs to network.Saul Klein

Saul Klein, the founder of European technology startup incubator Seedcamp and former partner at Index Ventures, one of Europe’s top tech VC firms, holds that the UK entrepreneurial revolution has only just begun, moving forward thanks to the way that digital technology has enabled innovations in product and service delivery.

Klein adds that English as “the language of the Internet” has greatly contributed to the growth of the UK’s digital economy. “This creates a chance for the UK to grab the productivity advantages offered by online networks and clever use of data to build business models,” notes the FT.

Klein comments,

We have the chance to be one of the great tech nations. For the UK, this is a massive soft-power opportunity. This comes around once a century.

And a note from the author of the FT story to UK policymakers: Don’t let the country “fritter away its opportunities by undermining what has been achieved.”

 

China Promotes Greater Support Of Crowdfunding For Startups To Encourage Entrepreneurial Economy

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China recently noted that it will promote greater use of equity crowdfunding for startups to encourage entrepreneurship, according to a Cabinet document posted on the central government’s website, writes the South China Morning Post.China Lion

Repeatedly, the Chinese government has stated its interest in stimulating employment in the state-dominated economy by promoting more entrepreneurial activity. However, leaders have held back, for the most part, from enthusiastically supporting crowdfunding, although they have assured strong support for online businesses.

That hasn’t stopped the crowdfunding sector from growing exponentially in the country, with platforms set up by commerce giants like JD.com. Large companies such as Dalian Wanda, China’s largest commercial property developer, have also used crowdfunding, as funds from more traditional channels have grown more scarce.

JD shirt ChinaThe document, according to the SCMP,

called for expanding equity crowdfunding projects to help small companies raise funds as a “useful complement” to traditional equity financing while underlining the need to protect investors’ rights and minimise financial risks.

The document said financial support, including taxation incentives, should be provided to support crowdfunding.

Yingda Securities chief economist Li Daxiao, quoted in the SCMP, said that he thinks the document,

was aimed at facilitating the economy’s transition from traditional labour-intensive mass production to one based more on innovation, as well as creating employment through the starting up of new ventures. It would also play a small role in helping to stabilise the mainland’s decelerating economic growth, by boosting private sector growth.China Yuan Renmibi

He also stated,

The traditional financing model, where collateral is required, no longer suits the development of many new businesses today.

The document also asked for development of third-party credit rating services and a standardised system for collecting, evaluating and sharing credit information.

Premier Li KeqiangIn retrospect, there were some signs that more support for crowdfunding was in the works. The state-run chinanews.com stated that,

“crowd business venture start-ups” and “crowd innovation” were among the most mentioned phrases by Premier Li Keqiang during visits to various sites in Henan province late last week and in Liaoning province earlier this month,” notes the SCMP.

Last month, the China Securities Regulatory Commission also made news by announcing it would soon begin inspecting online equity financing platforms to deal with potential danger from illegal activities found. In a country where the mainland could account for half of the developing world’s crowdfunding by 2025, or US$50 billion, according to the World Bank, it’s definitely worth keeping one’s eyes on the horizon and one’s ears to the ground for future developments.

Indiegogo’s Danae Ringelmann Talks Life Before Crowdfunding & Her Career

Taking time away from her always on-the-go schedule, co-founder of Indiegogo, Danae Ringelmann shared details about her career and life before the crowdfunding platform with Huffington Post.

indiegogoAccording to the media outlet, prior to Indiegogo, Ringelmann was a Securities Analyst at Cowen & Co. She is also a CFA charter holder and holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She graduated with a B.A. in Humanities from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead Scholar and varsity rower.

While discussing her greatest career achievement, Ringelmann stated:

“I’m most proud of quitting finance to start a company to change finance and the world. That step lead me to my co-founders, where together we launched Indiegogo – a company that in its creation launched the industry of crowdfunding too.

 

“We started Indiegogo to democratize access to capital as we saw brilliant ideas going unborn every day, not for lack of heart, hussle or an audience, but rather for lack of efficient access to capital and its respective allocators. To change this, we created an open platform that empowers all people to raise money and anyone to fund. We all allocate together, instead.

 

Danae Ringelmann“Just in the last two years, Indiegogo has grown by over 1,000%, and we’re currently distributing millions of dollars every week to artists, non-profits and entrepreneurs across the world. While we’ve disrupted finance in changing the mechanics of funding, we’ve also strengthened the industry of finance by improving the jobs of traditional capital allocators (e.g. investors and financiers). One example of this is Venture investors increasingly looking to Indiegogo as an incubation platform – a way to discover and test investment opportunities, reduce their risk, and focus on what they do best: helping build and grow great companies.

 

“Further, Indiegogo’s social impact is woven into our business model. The more successful we are as a business, the more ideas and opportunities we help bring to life. No trade-off.

 

FRANCE-INTERNET-TECHNOLOGY-LEWEB12“When our campaigns themselves are changing the world for the better, we become a catalyst for good of catalysts for good. Two of my favorite examples are the Kite Patch and Miss Possible. The former is a mosquito fighting technology designed to block mosquitoes’ ability to spread disease that raised over raised over $500,000 on Indiegogo and is currently utilized to help regions suffering from malaria.

 

“Miss Possible is a new venture started by two young female entrepreneurs who are passionate about getting young girls excited about STEM by making dolls modeled after famous women scientists, mathematicians and engineers. They used Indiegogo to raise over $60,000 to launch their first doll modeled after Marie Curie, and gather feedback from their funders on future dolls. Will it be Ada Lovelace? Bessie Coleman? We’ll see!”

Sharing her biggest career regrets, Ringelmann explained:

Danae Ringelmann“Every failed, successful, hard, easy, meaningful and meaningless moment in my life has lead to where I am today. I wouldn’t do anything over, as the non-linear yet incredibly full path I’ve ventured down so far has lead me to a place where I’m helping drive a movement that will result in everyone in the world having an equal opportunity in bringing their dreams to life. I would never want to jeopardize that future with a do-over.”

Also noting the struggles Indiegogo faced when it first launched, Ringelmann revealed:

Danae Ringelmann Glazed“After we launched Indiegogo in January of 2008 we were rejected by 92 Venture investors before we raised our first round of traditional investment capital in March 2011. However, with each rejection brought more motivation to make Indiegogo work, as the whole purpose of Indiegogo was to remove gatekeepers from the financing equation and distribute the decision-making power of what ideas should thrive and which shouldn’t to the people. I like to say if Indiegogo had been around when Indiegogo needed to raise money to launch, we might’ve gotten a bit of a faster start.

 

“We eventually connected with a few investors who shared our vision and believed in the change that needed to happen. The rest is history.”

Danae Ringelmann Indiegogo TorontoIn regard to what she believes “entrepreneurship” means, Ringelmann added:

“Entrepreneurship is simply taking an idea and turning it into reality. It requires a clear vision for what’s possible, a strong “why” or “reason for being” to warrant that vision, and a robust resilience to guide you through the many forms of resistance (e.g. rejection, ridicule, self-doubt) until you realize that vision. A great entrepreneur is someone who keeps saying ‘yes’ to what’s possible, when the world is saying ‘no’ to the unknown.”

Hands Up United Launches GoFundMe Campaign For New Ferguson Youth Tech Program

New Ferguson-based organization, Hands Up United, hit GoFundMe last week to raise funds for a new program called Ferguson First Youth Tech Program, which is aiming to help the city’s youth with technological projects.

Hands Up UnitedAccording to the campaign’s description, Hands Up United is a youth led movement that started in Ferguson after the shooting of Mike Brown by Ferguson Police Officer, Darren Wilson. The action that sparked a movement on the grounds of cities across the nation is once again sparking a movement, but on the digital front.

The program will consist of a six-week web development that will teach participants, ages 18-30 years of age HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Web Hosting, Mobile App design, UX, entrepreneurship, and consulting. Those who participate will receive a $600 stipend for their time in the worship, as well as a personal Macbook Air laptop that will allow them to freelance their new skills. Participants will also be assigned to build a local business’ digital presence.

Sharing the objectives of the program, the campaign’s organizer, Abby Bobe, wrote, “The goal of training participants web development is to build out local businesses and movements. Classes will take place in the winter, spring and summer.”

If successful, future workshops will be:

  • handsupunited- tech 2Graphic Design: A five-day web designing workshop will consist of building wireframes, understanding the fundamental of graphic design, fonts, colors and more. Guest speakers will include political artist using art and graphic design to spread messages of empowerment. Classes will take place in the winter and summer.
  • Quality Assurance and Testing: Participates will review languages like Java and Python, review user requirements and go over testing to ensure software quality meets the user requirements. Classes will take place in the spring and summer.

Hands Up United is currently striving to create a world where everyone deals with harm in communities through healing, love, and kinship.  This means an end to state sponsored violence, including the excessive use of force by law enforcement.  It is committed to an America that comes to terms with the trauma of its painful history and finds true reconciliation for it.  Mass incarceration and the criminalization of black and brown people must forever end, leaving in its place a culture that embraces our histories and stories.  This means an end to racial bias and white supremacy in all its forms.

Abby BobeBobe recently moved to Ferguson to volunteer with Hands Up United, work with local youth activist and build out the organization’s technical program. Her past includes organizing programs to teach 3,000 young girls of color computer programming and serving as Qeyno Lab’s Community Director. She is notably passionate about community activism on the ground as well as the cloud.

All extra funds raised will go into building out other technology programs under the Tech Impact umbrella.

UK Crowdfunding Week to Be Held 10-16 November: Mark Your Calendar!

The phenomenal success of last year’s UK Crowdfunding Day has prompted organisers at The Crowdfunding Centre todeep impact extend the one day event even further. This year the event will run for a full week from 10-16 November, the highlight of which will be the Deep Impact III conference in Sheffield on November 13.

Deep Impact III is the UK’s third national crowdfunding conference, to be held in Sheffield. Thought leaders and professionals from politics, academia, and the professions will again come together with investors, entrepreneurs and the pioneers of crowdfunding to match minds and explore the new, open, territory under the title REBOOTING: Innovation, Venture Creation, Entrepreneurship.

Barry James, founder and CEO of The Crowdfunding Centre, said #UKCFWeek will be a celebration of crowdfunding, with events and activities being held across the country. “We’ve collected data on more than 150,000 Crowdfunds so far and our collaborative research is uncovering the root causes and drivers that make crowdfunding so unfamiliar, vibrant and vigorous. Not to mention viral,” he explained.

Barry James Head Shot“During UK Crowdfunding Week we’ll be sharing new research and key insights to inform decision makers, entrepreneurs, investors and business advisors as well as policy-makers and academics. We’ll be sharing top tips and techniques with project owners engaging with crowdfunding for the first time,” James continued. “Crowdfunding is opening up new opportunities for innovation and creating a whole new generation of crowd-powered businesses as well as changing the investing landscape. We’ll be uncovering ‘why’ and ‘how’ this is happening as well as sharing what you can do about it.”

UK Crowdfunding Week will see a focus on raising awareness across the country to encourage individuals, startups and businesses to consider crowdfunding as an alternative route to finance, as well as promoting existing projects and using new Google Earth style mapping tools to track the growth of crowdfunding.

Many of the platforms who joined in UK Crowdfunding Day last year are up for the challenge again; Crowdfunder UK ran a 24 hour extravangaza in 2013, launching a new project every hour for 24 hours.  And new platforms launched since the event last year are signing up to the event too!  Having missed out on UK Crowdfunding Day in 2013, CrowdShed is already planning an exciting series of activities to celebrate the first ever Crowdfunding Week.

Watch: Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche’s Interview Series For Entrepreneurs With The Khan Academy, Kauffman Foundation

Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche has taken a very interesting path to becoming the CEO of the largest peer lending platform in the United States. In a collaboration between the Kauffman Foundation and the Khan Academy, Laplanche shares a bit of that story and his thoughts on entrepreneurship in a series of three short videos.

We’re going to share the first video in the series here to give you a taste of what the content is like, but seriously… go to the Khan Academy web site and watch the whole series. It’s rather fascinating.

Now, see our interview with Renaud Laplanche on Lending Club’s path in 2014

Jeff Lynn CEO and Co-Founder of Seedrs Crowdfunding Platform Interviewed (Video)

Jeff LynnJeff Lynn, co-founder and CEO of equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs was recently interviewed by Silicon Real in a wide ranging discussion regarding his company, start-ups and the business climate in the UK and the United States.  This video is definitely worth watching for any crowdfunding industry participant.  It is also a great example of start-up success in creating a new business from scratch.

Lynn, an American who was previously an attorney for white shoe firm of  Sullivan and Cromwell states he enjoyed his time at the firm but really is enjoying his time operating Seedrs.

The British government should be paying Lynn a promotional fee as he shares his excitement for the business climate, specifically for start-ups, in the United Kingdom today.  Lynn believes that London has the opportunity to rule the financial technology world.

A good portion of the interview is understandably just about Seedrs.  Lynn believes Seedrs is a superior platform in comparison to other UK operators (specifically Crowdcube).  He discusses their nominee structure and reviews the costs and benefits to crowdfunding on the platform.  Seedrs today charges 7.5% of raised funds as well as 7.5% on any exit. There is no fee charged if the funding round is not successful.  He draws a comparison to Hedge Funds which charge a 2 & 20 fee – which means 2% of assets and 20% of gains.

Silicon Real Jeff Lynn InterviewMuch of the benefit with crowdfunding is the efficiency.  The support structure, tax filing (for SEIS & EIS) is all facilitated by a standardized process on the site.  If a company needs to raise more funds the nominee structure eases this process.

Lynn believes Britian is the best place in the world to build a high tech startup.  The merits of having English as a language, a stable democracy, amazing set of tax reliefs plus a government that dearly supports entrepreneurs creates a compelling environment for business.

Seedrs is looking to expand into the rest of europe.  They may expand into the United States depending on how the SEC Join Seedrs Nowregulatory framework shakes out later this year.  He states the financial regulatory laws are antiquated in the United States.  Based off of legislation from the 1930’s when most other nations have updated their laws to reflect the realities of the interconnected world we live in today.  The laws in the UK were established in 2000.

Lynn is consulting with the SEC and he claims they are still struggling with the regulations. If the framework ends up being too obtrusive, which is a risk, they may participate by doing an accredited platform.

As mentioned previously – this interview is well worth the watch for anyone interested in equity crowdfunding.

Interview starts at about 2:27 

 

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