Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have long allowed individuals to support start-ups in exchange for pre-buying a ticket or early prototype of a product, but not for equity. Accredited investors—with a net worth of over $1 million or who earn over $200,000 a year—have their own platforms and can invest in companies through sites like AngelList.
However, new rules enacted last May allow average people to invest in start-ups through crowdfunding sites that reward investors with equity. The rules usher in a new era of crowdfunding that is accessible to individuals of all economic backgrounds.
As part of the federal JOBS Act,Title III rules allow everyday investors the opportunity to share in the returns of the “next big idea.” This week, (Monday, July 18) for example, a new equity crowdfunding site, Republic, launched with a curated set of projects and companies that include women-founded startups such as Farm from a Box and minority-owned companies like Youngry.
In 2015, venture capitalists invested $58.8 billion in the United States, topping the figures for the previous two years by a substantial margin. In 2016 investors have been substantially more cautious, and if the current slowdown is a course correction rather than a blip, it will also be an important test for the nascent equity crowdfunding market.
Many equity crowdfunding platforms have sprung up, including AngelList, FundersClub, Wefunder, OurCrowd andSyndicateRoom.
To succeed, these two-sided markets need enough good investors to be attractive for entrepreneurs to post their ventures, and enough high-quality ventures to be worthwhile for investors to spend time and capital on them. If early-stage capital becomes tougher to obtain, only platforms that are surfacing high-quality deals and matching them efficiently will be able to keep growing.
A particularly interesting feature within the equity-crowdfunding world involves syndication between the crowd and a lead investor. Platforms that have introduced syndication, like AngelList and SyndicateRoom, have done it to address the problem of information asymmetry.
Understanding which papers attract critical citations, and what effect they have, gives an insight into how science progresses, says Christian Catalini.
Science advances through researchers sharing their work for others to extend or improve. As Isaac Newton once said, he could see further by “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
But what happens when those shoulders aren’t as sturdy as we thought? Sometimes, citations are negative, pointing out a study’s flaws or even disproving its findings. What role, relevance and impact do these negative citations have on a field as a whole?
There has been little research in this area, because of the difficulty in identifying and classifying such citations. Thanks to advancements in the ability of computers to understand human language, known as natural-language processing, and in the ability to sort and analyse large bodies of text, this is changing. We can now identify such citations and reconstruct the context in which they were made to understand the author’s intentions better. Using such techniques, my colleagues and I have found evidence to suggest that negative citations play an important role in the advancement of science.
MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Christian Catalini has targeted his research on the economics of innovation, entrepreneurial finance and crowdfunding. Catalini is part of an elite few academicians who are analyzing the emergent investment crowdfunding space, so when he shares his findings, and associated perspective, it is worth paying attention.
Catalini, along with his co-authors, Ajay Agrawal and Avi Goldfarb at the University of Toronto, have labeled syndicates the “killer app of equity crowdfunding”.
There has been much discussion and debate if it is the wisdom of the crowd or herd mentality that reigns in investment crowdfunding, but according to Catalini a hybrid mix of professional insight, alongside the crowd, is easily the best.
In their working paper entitled, “Are Syndicates the Killer App of Equity Crowdfunding?”, the trio affirms that lead investors, be they angels or VCs, can inform potential crowdfunding investors about deals they might not otherwise be aware. Equity crowdfunding syndicates fill a major gap in online investing, at least in part the need for investors to be able to actually meet issuers instead of just communicating virtuatlly.
In November, we began distributing $100 in Bitcoin to every undergraduate student at MIT. A large share of the 4,500 eligible students participated in the project.
Bitcoin is an innovative payment network that allows for instant peer-to-peer transactions with zero or very low processing fees on a worldwide scale. The objective of the study is to observe the diffusion of Bitcoin, a software-based, open-source, peer-to-peer payment system on the MIT campus.
The initiative began in April 2014 when students Jeremy Rubin and Dan Elitzer organized the idea, raised the funds from donors, and launched the MIT Bitcoin Project. I started working with these students when it quickly became clear that the project had to become a full research study and had to meet the rigorous requirements of academic research at MIT.
Observing the ways students will innovate because of their newfound Bitcoin cash should be fascinating: MIT students are tech savvy, not set in their ways, generally a bit cash strapped anyway, and often open to new innovations. In the same way that MIT gave students early access to computing resources through the Athena project in 1983, this project intends to give participants early access to a digital currency.
Christian Catalini is the Fred Kayne (1960) Career Development Professor of Entrepreneurship and Assistant Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.