We help anyone invest in a startup. As low as $100. In 30 seconds.
Funded on Apr 26 2015
What we do: We give everyone the opportunity to invest as little as $100 in startups. We've funded 75+ startups with over $10 million from accredited investors. And now we're waiting for the SEC to implement the JOBS Act, so anyone - no matter how wealthy - can invest. We’ve been preparing for that day since 2012, when we were invited by President Obama to watch the JOBS Act signed into law.
Our ambition: We aim to turbo-charge GDP growth and decrease disparity of wealth. Entrepreneurship is dying outside of SF. The percentage of under 30 year olds owning a private company has fallen from 10.6% in 1989 to 3.6% in 2014. Our goal is to bring it back to 1989 levels within 5 years. We'll democratize investing so that everyone has access to high-growth startups, not just the wealthy and well-connected. We'll also fund more legitimate businesses, from tech startups to local coffee shops.
12% of our seed funded companies have raised a Series A, raising over $600 million in follow-on funding.
Also Dealflicks, Senic, Swapbox, Experiment, Italist, Whale Path, LivBlend, Aptible, Flaviar, ShipBob, Ginko Bioworks, Traction, Beep, MTailor, Fixed, Bikanta, Lawn Love, Ravti, Roost, BitAccess, WalkSource, Doblet, Asseta, Magnises, Goldbely, RealCrowd, Two Tap, BatteryOS, SuperHost, Unbabel, Next Caller, StatusPage.io, Watchsend, SimpleLegal, 7 Cups of Tea, Freight Farms, Experiment, Camperoo, Geekatoo, SourceEasy, Privy, Navtev, MotionSavvy, One Month, Guesty, Wevorce, & Regalii
“We got involved to really help them understand how entrepreneurship works, how the Internet works, and how to formulate some legislation that would actually work in practice,” says Norman, who was in the White House when President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law on April 5, 2012.
“It was a pleasant surprise for us,” said Mike Norman, co-founder of online investment company WeFunder, which plans to help businesses seek investment under the new state rules.
Dealflicks, a discount site for movie tickets, based in Los Angeles, used Wefunder this year to raise $173,450 from 64 backers.
In its concurrent fourth round of crowdfunding in two years, Dealflicks has now raised $1.7 Million on Wefunder. Investors in this most DealFlicks gets butts in Movie Theatersrecent round include 500 Startups, Siemer Ventures, Archer Gray, Rubicon VC, Wefunder, Be Great Partners, Rosepaul Investments, Mogility Capital, Sierra Maya Ventures and Warner Brothers Media Camp.
“There are a few things they’ve done which actually are going to make it hard if the proposed rules wind up being finalized as written,” said Mike Norman, president and co-founder of Wefunder, which plans to operate a portal under the new rules.
"For publicly traded companies, individual investors don't have the ability to influence the success and failure of a company," Dietrich said. "But for small start-ups, they absolutely have the ability to influence success and failure. That's exciting and something we haven't seen before."
Terrafugia signed on with Wefunder last month, and it is now the “Startup of the Week.” The website says more than $10 million has been raised, but that’s from the angel investors that have supported the company so far. The Wefunder model is newly legal equity crowdfunding, which means larger amounts invested and bigger payoffs—not just the insider CDs and books that sites such as the wildly successful Kickstarter have been able to offer.
For the first time in 80 years, private companies hunting for capital can now advertise to all-comers. The $22bn that angel, or individual, investors invested in private companies last year – and perhaps even the $27bn put to work by more established venture capitalists – is about to see some competition.
The shift allows retirees, doctors, lawyers and the like to get a piece of investments with a little more razzledazzle than they are used to-- say Terrafugia, the flying car company using Wefunder to find investors, or Rick's Picks, "artisanal pickles crafted with nuance and wit," working with CircleUp. Both Wefunder and CircleUp are among the relatively new sites that put young companies in front of potential investors.
Wefunder was founded last year out of the MIT startup community with the JOBS Act specifically in mind. Since then, it has worked hard to curate a diverse stable of consumer-relevant, high-quality startups, and present them in an appealing magazine-like fashion designed to attract widespread interest. Example offerings launching on the site include Terrafugia, a startup that has prototyped a real-life flying car that’s FAA approved, street legal, and folds its wings up with the touch of a button; and Meta, whose augmented reality glasses render manually manipulable 3D objects like you see in sci-fi movies. Many of Wefunder’s startups come from the alpha Silicon Valley accelerator program Y Combinator, of which Wefunder itself is also an alumnus.
One such website, WeFunder, is already accepting money from accredited investors. Mike Norman, co-founder of the site, says this new approach to venture funding will eliminate inefficiencies he associates with courting venture capitalists and angel investors through in-person meetings. “A lot of this is about their investor experience,” he says. “We’re going to have the ability for everyone to get involved in helping out a company or a startup that they think is really important to get off the ground and be successful.”
After the SEC changes were put in place Monday, Wefunder’s site immediately began promoting 25 companies seeking investments, including Terrafugia, a Woburn company working on developing a flying car, and RoomHunt, a San Francisco apartment rental start-up.
Of the three funding networks, WeFunder is leading the charge, encouraging startups to take advantage of the new rules. AngelList is opening its network to general solicitation, with some cautions. FundersClub isn't opening up to public appeals at all.
Backed by Y Combinator, WeFunder launched earlier this year in response to the new post-JOBS Act investment market. It's a lot like other investor-entrepreneur matchmaking sites, but it already expresses a strategy to add on all investors if Title III of the JOBS Act is passed, which would allow for non-accredited crowdfunded investing. It also looks and feels super user-friendly like Kickstarter.
"If you're a company building something in the legal space, it's super valuable for you to have maybe 50 attorneys that are all coming in at smaller dollar amounts," he says. "They're in your sector, they can help you with sales and connections and get users on your product. It's not just about money. There's a ton of people that can provide tactical, grassroots value that people haven't had the opportunity to access before."
"It’s the first step in a long process," says Nick Tommarello, founder of WeFunder, a company backed by the prestigious Y Combinator incubator that serves as a platform for startups raising money. WeFunder is planning for the future when startups will be allowed to accept funds from anyone, says Tommarello. He’s hoping that non-accredited investors — which would be your average internet user — will see that nifty new startups are fundraising and start to pressure the SEC to hurry up on its rulemaking on equity-based crowdfunding.
WeFunder is a Y Combinator startup that has a platform similar to RockThePost. While the company is not going so far as to host a public event, founder and CEO Nick Tommarello said that WeFunder’s site will look more like Kickstarter, where anyone can browse through the opportunities without signing up. “If you are a founder fundraising, you want to stop fundraising as soon as possible and go back to work,” he said in an interview with VentureBeat.
Wefunder’s website, with a menu of companies and short promotional videos, looks a lot like Kickstarter, the popular site where filmmakers, authors, and technology companies can raise donations for individual projects. That site has already spawned several technology companies, like Pebble, maker of a smart watch (see “A Smart Watch, Created by the Crowd, Debuts in Vegas” and “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013”). With crowd investing, however, people will actually be buying shares in new companies.
It is the mother's milk of Silicon Valley startups – money, often from investors, to get going and keep growing. And next week new federal regulations will give startups and investors more ways to find each other.
With the new rules, a startup could go as far as buying advertising to state it's raising money. "Previously, most of us never had a shot at investing in the rounds of the best companies. The insiders only had that kind of access. That's all about to change," writes WeFunder cofounder Nick Tommarello.
... If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I highly recommend the WeFunder FAQ section. Also, keep an eye on the Securities and Exchange Commission as its rules, when they are eventually issued, will make huge waves in the startup community.
With General Solicitation it will be much easier for investors to find companies they are passionate about supporting,” writes Mike Norman of crowdfunding website, WeFunder, to us in an email.
The basic premise of WeFunder is that it will allow anyone to make a small crowdinvestment in young companies, meaning that instead of pitching angel investors, start-ups can go directly to early users, fans, friends and family for their early capital rounds.
We are not just giving startups dumb, quick, and easy money," said founder Nick Tommarello on stage at Y Combinator's demo day. "With the power of the crowd, we are giving them an army of evangelists that feel a sense of ownership and are driven to help their startup succeed.
Wefunder allows people to invest in startups with as little as $1000. The startup eliminates the need for some startups to raise an initial round of funding from traditional investors, and creates a group of evangelists for a company in the process.
We’re not replacing their current fundraising efforts," said WeFunder co-founder Nick Tommarello. "If you open up a small part of your round to the crowd, if your users and evangelists can have that feeling of ownership, they’ll be much more inclined to help you.
Wefunder, founded in Cambridge last year as a site aiming to eventually enable crowdfunding of startups, may remain on the West Coast after taking part in this winter's Y Combinator accelerator, CEO Nick Tommarello said in an interview.
The platform, which launches on Tuesday to certain accredited investors (more on that in a minute), ostensibly allows anyone who sees promise in one of the startups featured on WeFunder’s platform to invest in it, pitching in a mandatory minimum amount of cash (currently $1000, but as little as $100 when the site rolls out to all). The idea, according to CEO Tommarello, is to “fill the funding gap between angel investors and that first major round of capital.”
The ultimate goal is to enable anyone to invest in startups that they find promising. To that end, founders Mike Norman, Nick Tommarello, and Greg Belote lobbied hard last year to get the JOBS Act passed. That act should help overturn a few rules which, to date, have held back greater adoption of crowdfunding for startups. And with a new SEC Chairwoman in place, the whole thing could finally move forward.
In his opening remarks, WeFunder’s Mike Norman described the advocacy process they’ve undertaken thus far, grown out of a simple online petition. "Because of its success we were down in D.C. just a few weeks later meeting with the White House," he said. "It was really an affirmation of our belief that the startup communtiy needed to have more of a voice at that table."
Crowd investing startup Wefunder is announcing a $530,000 seed round from just under 60 investors, over half of whom are unaccredited. Nihal Mehta, Jim Pallotta, Dharmesh Shah, and Bill Warner also participated in the round.
With rules about actually investing in companies about to become a bit more lax, the crowdfunding floodgates might open even wider, with new crowdinvesting site WeFunder, based in Cambridge, hoping to join the ranks of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo as a marquee crowdfunding platform. The fundamental difference with this new breed of sites is that, rather than receiving swag, warm feelings, and early products, crowdinvestors actually buy a (very small) piece of the company.
While some investors will be in it for money, the riskiness of investing in startups is likely to mean that equity crowdfunding ends up resembling the donation model, says Nicholas Tommarello... "technologies that are fun or solve social problems are likely to be popular categories. People want to give back, see progress, live vicariously, and learn something.
A slew of these portals is already popping up, including Wefunder, Crowdfunder, and Motaavi. The founders of these companies were pushing hardest for this legislation.
We're not a bunch of finance guys who saw a big number on a spreadsheet and decided to do this," Norman says. "We're focusing on the quality of experience for people who are just like us.
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.
There is tremendous value in having your most passionate users be your investors," says Nick Tommarello, founder of the site Wefunder.com. As New Scientist went to press, more than 3000 people had signed a petition on the site, saying they would invest if the law passes.
Big Idea: Wefunder provides a platform that allows startups to hold fundraising with a crowd of investors. Why It’s Working: WeFunder drives innovation by giving startups the ability to go through a formal funding series, and it also takes crowdsourcing to a new level by giving equity to funders.
But Nick Tommarello, a Boston entrepreneur who has become something of a crowdfunding activist, shares the view of many who have real-life crowdfunding experience. He says incentives are already there for intermediaries to regulate themselves. Tommarello believes crowd investing platforms will need to do due diligence on businesses they host in order to attract investors
Crucially, Brown’s bill would require that people invest through an intermediary, an organization that would have to register with the government and would broker the deals, the way eBay brokers auctions. The Boston-based WeFunder hopes to be one of these intermediaries. It is hosting a petition drive in support of the legislation: More than 2,500 people have signed, pledging to invest $6.5 million if the law is changed.
At the least, crowdfunding appeals to Boston-area startups because it would offer a new funding option. Mike Norman is a co-founder of Wefunder, a brand new Cambridge-based company that’s hoping to become a crowdfunding intermediary. “And if you have a way to demonstrate that you have a good idea, that it’s been vetted by someone who’s trustworthy, and that you can raise capital in a much shorter period of time and you can get back to focusing on your business, I mean what entrepreneur is not gonna be excited about having that as an option?" Norman said.
Such supporters of crowdfunding as Nick Tommarello say it will give businesses—from neighborhood restaurants to high-growth tech companies—a fresh source of capital. Tommarello is co-founder of Wefunder, a site he hopes to turn into a crowdfunding platform in the event the law is changed."If this happens, what we can do is fill that funding gap in between angel [investors] and first round venture capital," he says
Brown, sponsor of one of the bills now before Congress that would legalize the funding source, spoke during an event organized by Cambridge startup Wefunder.com. The startup has launched with an online petition asking Congress to legalize crowdfunding, but has also built a crowd-fundraising site in the event that legislation passes.
As an entrepreneur who works with other entrepreneurs, Nicholas Tommarello has seen many great ideas in which he'd like to invest. The problem is that he doesn’t have a lot of money to invest, so he can’t legally do it at all. He is among a growing number of people lobbying for changes to decades-old federal regulations that he says are outdated in the Internet Age.
For now, the WeFunder crowdfunding petition has been a runaway success. Launched with a modest goal of attracting $100,000 in pledges and raising awareness about the democratization of capital, WeFunder has now attracted nearly 2,000 funders who have pledged a total commitment of nearly $5.5 million.
We can gamble in Vegas. We can donate on Kiva or Kickstarter. But it's illegal to purchase $100 of stock in a job-creating business? That makes no sense." That is the tagline to a new project called WeFunder from three TechStars Boston alum who are trying to garner support for the "Democratizing Access to Capital Act" (S.1791) that would allow entrepreneurs to crowdfund startups.
From the makers of Startup Workaway comes WeFunder, a Kickstarter for startups. Trouble is, Congress hasn't yet approved the law that makes amateur investing legal.
Step one: Build a site that lets anyone invest a small amount of money into a startup. Step two: Build support for actually legalizing the site. That's the strategy at new Cambridge startup Wefunder.com, a project of local tech startup veterans Nicholas Tommarello and Nick Plante.
"I'd love to give a small portion of my income to entrepreneurs changing the world, rather than blowing it in Vegas, or investing in GE," Tommerello said. "I want to invest in start-ups, and I'm frustrated that I can't.
Within a couple of hours this morning, this petition quickly passed 1 million in pledges, and if it gets enough signatures, the people behind it have the opportunity to present it to Senate Majority Chair Mary Landrieu on Wednesday.
We built Wefunder for ourselves. The three of us — Nick, Mike, and Greg — always wanted to invest in our favorite startups. But until 2012, laws written in the 1930's prevented us from doing so. You don't feel a sense of meaning when you buy a share of IBM — it's purely a financial transaction. But startups? For us, the opportunity to support entrepreneurs trying to change the world, and still have a chance of earning a return...well, that's value beyond money. We could give back.
2012: Lobbying Congress
In January of 2012, we built a prototype of Wefunder. The only problem: it was illegal. The legislation that would legalize crowdfunding was stalled in the Senate, and needed some serious changes for it to work in practice.
So Mike and Nick launched a petition to Congress that, within 2 days, earned $5M in pledges and was mentioned on the Senate floor. That got us some attention. A week later, the entire team was invited to Washington DC to meet with the staffs of two Senators, a Congressman, and the President's Office. Amazingly, with no inside connections, we had become the public voice in DC for democratizing startup investing.
For the next few months, we embraced our role as lobbyists. We helped with the speeches of one Senator and wrote part of the official legislative "letter of intent" provided to the SEC to guide their rulemaking.
On April 5th, President Obama signed the JOBS Act into law, legalizing equity crowdfunding. Mike was invited to attend the signing ceremony at the White House, while the rest of the team celebrated while working in Thailand.
2013-2014: "Wealthy Crowdfunding"
Once the legislation passed, we got back to work. We built out the product, became registered investment advisors, and worked through a host of legal issues to make crowd investing practical for the highest quality startups.
In January 2013, we joined the Winter batch of Y Combinator, the most prestigious startup accelerator program in the world. At the end of the program, on 'Demo Day,'' we opened up our platform’s 15,000-member investor community to fund our classmates’ startups.
Since then, we've raised over $7 million dollars for 50+ startups from accredited investors. But that's just the start: soon, we'll be able to accept investments from everyone, no matter how wealthy.
2015: Waiting for the SEC
Despite the JOBS Act being passed in April of 2012, the SEC still has not done the necessary rulemaking to enact it. The SEC won't implement Title III of the JOBS Act - allowing anyone to invest, regardless of income - until October 2015.
We can't wait for the day! That's why we started Wefunder in the first place. To allow anyone, regardless of how wealthy, to invest small amounts in the startups they believe in.
We earn 10% carried interest on all startups listed on Wefunder. This aligns our incentives with those who invest on our platform: we make money when they do.
For our self-service fundraising platform, we charge the startup $50 per investor, which includes investment contracts, electronic signatures, accredited verification, identity verification, payment transfer, and escrow services.
After the JOBS Act is implemented, we will also charge the investor an up-front 4% fee. Right now, we charge 1.5%-2% administrative fees, but this can only be legally used to cover our direct fund costs, not taken as profit. This limitation on our business model goes away for unaccredited offerings.
First, the value of our current portfolio should not be a factor in your decision to invest in Wefunder, as we discounted our carry when we first started. More important in that decision is if startups of similar quality will continue to list on Wefunder.
For instance, Zenefits was the first company we ever listed on Wefunder, and as such, we charged 0% carry. If we had invested $150k at 10% carry, the value of our carried interest stake would have been $630,000 18 months after we funded them. It would be much higher when they file for an IPO.
There are two factors. First, our administrative fees are lower (<2%, versus up to 8%) because our costs our lower than our competitors. We are very vertically integrated and technically automated. We are writing our own contract signing, payment transfer, investor management, and tax filing software. We've partnered directly with a bank for on demand escrow accounts at nominal cost. We've also worked with our lawyers at K&L Gates on a legal structure that limits some franchise taxes. Finally, we operate as an exempt reporting investment advisor, limiting compliance costs that broker/dealers are burdened with.
Second, our carried interest is lower than our competitors (10%, versus up to 20%) because - long-term - we don't envision ourselves as an "online VC" catering only to accredited investors, such as FundersClub. Our future business model will include a 4% transaction fee on a much greater volume of unaccredited investors, when the JOBS Act is implemented.
AngelList and FundersClub are the two most credible competitors before unaccredited investing is live.
FundersClub is an "Online VC" that crowdfunds it's LP's from accredited investors. They have no plans to pursue unaccredited investors or be a self-service fundraising platform, like we envision. Right now, we compete head to head, but long term, they are our competitor the same way Union Square Ventures is our competitor.
AngelList is by far the most dominant player, doing 10X our volume among accredited investors. They may not pursue unaccredited investors after the JOBS Act is implemented, but we're not complacent: we are planning as if they will.
AngelList is a beautiful web site for accredited investors who know the "inside baseball" game in Silicon Valley. It's perfectly designed for professionals. It's also the "operating system" for startups, with a number of useful services.
We're different in two main ways: first our product is designed for normal people, who might live in Kansas, and have limited experience with startups and investing. 80% of our users are outside of SF; 80% of our attempted funding volume are from unaccredited investors. In order to compete with us here, AngelList would need to design an entirely different product experience. Second, we are 100% focused on online fundraising for startups. That's how we competed with them for two years with a team of 3 people, compared to their ~30. It's also a more focused product.
Given the lack of traction, it's hard to tell who is a serious competitor in the unaccredited space. There will be likely be hundreds of "finance guys" that attempt it. Our product will crush them easily. Good product engineers and designers don't work for finance guys. We're also not trained as parasites: our product isn't about just taking a cut, it's about relationships and emotion. Wall Street doesn't do that.
AlphaWorks is a potential competitor. We're skeptical that BetaWorks' side project will be able to compete against our entire focus, and their execution up until now has been supbar, with at least one incompetent mistake (we knew their plan to hand out free equity was illegal two years earlier), their founder already leaving, and a dramatically inferior investing volume and startup portfolio.
IndieGogo has indicated they might experiment with equity investing. But pre-buying a product in a rewards-based fundraise is completely different emotional and reasoning process than making an investment. The education needs (and legal and compliance skillsets) are dramatically different. You need two different products - trying both leads to a silly and subpar experience (i.e, Fundable).
Right now, we're focused on making it easy and fast to execute an investment. The goal is 30 seconds or less to sign a contract and transfer funds, on the phone or web. We're about to roll out some upgrades that could be described like "Tinder for investing" or a "one click Amazon-style checkout".
Next, we want to execute on our long-term vision. The investment is meant to be the start of our product experience. We want to help people "feel behind the curtain", that they are making a difference in the world, that they can find ways to help their portfolio companies, be it by spreading the word about product launches, providing introductions to new hires or partners, or giving detailed product feedback.
Our portfolio speaks for itself. We've had no problem attracting high-quality startups to our platform.
First, we deliver quick and easy money at good terms, with no bullshit. Most startup investors are fine accepting $100k in 24 hours (or $300k in a little over a month) to help fill out their rounds, if it requires no work on their part. These investment numbers will get faster and greater as we grow.
Second, we deliver value not only through our network as Fund Managers, but also from the army of evangelists we deliver to founders. They can get as many as 99 investors who are passionate about what they are doing, and want to help, such as with marketing, evangelism, recruiting, & connections. This will get more powerful when the JOBS Act fixes the 99 investor cap.
Third, we offer exposure. We have a mailing list of 36,000+ investors who love startups, and might want to purchase their products, if not invest. This power will also accelerate in the future. We also intend to build a brand that features only the best startups.
Fourth, we fixed all of the legal hurdles that would prevent startups from using us. Unlike most of our competitors (except AngelList and FundersClub), we manage a single-purpose fund that small investors invest in. This way startups only have one investor on our cap table: us. There's no other way to work with high-quality companies. We don't consider any competitor that doesn't do this to be legitimate.
If you ask this question, you don't understand our ambition. We're talking about integrating with the entire economy. We want to accelerate GDP growth by making us a nation of owners. Not owners in static big companies on the stock market, but owners in the true engine of our economy: small businesses and fast-growing startups.
Right now, we're focused on funding high-tech startups in San Francisco. We've funded startups like Zenefits, that increased in valuation from $9million to $560 million in 18 months, creating hundreds of jobs.
But that's just the start. Our ambition is not to be a VC. We're talking about creating a funding platform that can allocate more capital to all sorts of worthy and promising businesses, be it a local community-supported coffee shop or a small fashion company. We want to single-handedly increase the percentage of under 30 year olds that own stakes in private businesses from the current 3.6%, back over 10%, like it was in 1989. Entrepreneurship is dying in this country, outside of SF. We're going to fix it.
We've been relentlessly pursuing our vision for three years. We don't let anything stop us, starting before Congress even passed a law. We helped Congress write the sections of the JOBS Act that will enable all Americans to invest, and were mentioned by name in the Congressional Letter of Intent. We're still working with the SEC and Congress on the roll-out, slated for October this year.
When we first started, we did not appreciate what we were getting ourselves into. Now we do. We were already proven product designers (Nick having built and designed apps used by hundreds of thousands, Greg getting his engineering degree from MIT) and both Nick and Mike had MBA's . But we also needed to learn securities laws inside out, obtain our Series 65 and Series 7 licenses, and learn what it takes for investors to attract the highest sought out startups in the world (as part of Y Combinator).
But, most importantly, we have two years of hands-on, practical experience with raising money from accredited investors outside of SF, for some of the hottest startups in the country. We've learned a TON of secrets that will be applicable to unaccredited investing. No one is going to be able to catch up to us. We have a vision, practical experience, and a formidble will to make it happen.
We built this for ourselves to make investments.
One of Nick's best friends is angel investor Bill Warner, who founded a public company and sold another for about the same return. He's inspired all of us: Bill spends practically all of his time helping founders. We wanted to be like him, and help and invest in our startup friends. But we don't have $50k to invest in each company... we had more like $5k. Plus, it was effectively illegal for us to do so. We thought that was stupid.
We’ve always wanted to invest in founders we believed in. Not primarily for the financial returns, but to be a stronger part of the community that startup is building, to give back, and to live vicariously through their experience. It made no sense to us that only the wealthy had the privilege to act on these emotions prior to the passage of the JOBS act. People are people; the dollar amounts are just smaller.
We were surprised to the extent that other investors on Wefunder were motivated by the same things as us. We don't want to lose money, but we're not investing in startups primarily for the financial returns. We want to support things we believe in. We consider our startup investing to be socially good lottery tickets. We were surprised that even accredited investors with a finance background feel the same way.
We were also surprised that unaccredited investors (who apply to invest, but can't) pick the same exact startups on Wefunder as accredited investors. There is no correlation between income and the startups chosen.
We have two businesses that compete for our attention: our current accredited investor "online vc" business, and our long-term self-service funding platform for unaccredited investors. Balancing these two demands is our greatest challenge.
We need to fight the battles in the accredited investing space against competitors like AngelList and FundersClub and continue growing 20% month over month without losing the greater war: we must be prepared for the JOBS Act implementation at the end of 2015.
We must focus on growth, but not lose sight of why we were founded: to allow anyone to make investments. This causes us to do superficially non-sensical experiments in the current legal environment, like offer $100 investment minimums for accredited investors, or design our profiles with higher production values needed for professional investors in Silicon Valley (where a simple, "David McClure and SV Angel are investing!" will mostly do.)
In other words, we're taking the hardest approach to growth. Instead of focusing on the low hanging fruit of converting professional investors, we're spending our resources on converting barely accredited investors in the middle of the country. We don't want to learn the lessons that will make us be just like AngelList. We want to learn the lessons that will help us in the future.
There is a risk the SEC might not follow the spirit of the JOBS Act when writing the final rules. Over-regulation could lead to the best startups with multiple funding options to avoid crowd investing, leading to a subpar market of companies that can't raise funding anywhere else. That's the worse outcome.
To help guard against this risk, we're heavily involved with the Congress, SEC, FINRA, and the Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory organization.
We've had in-person meetings with the SEC and had the opportunity to fully air our views. We're also working with the Deputy Majority Whip - Congressmen McHenry - who is crafting legislation with some improvements to the JOBS Act.