Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA’s) 2015 conference in Vancouver. I approached this event with an eye to learning how crowdfunding might be used by groups wishing to fund their social enterprise start-ups or growth plans.
For those new to the term, the NCFA defines crowdfunding as ‘the raising of funds through the collection of small contributions from the general public (known as the crowd) using the Internet and social media. Crowdfunding has its origins in the concept of crowdsourcing, which is the broader concept of an individual reaching a goal by receiving and leveraging small contributions from many parties.’
Cutting edge news, success stories, and advice was delivered through a series of TED Talk length presentations, coupled with panel sessions. I couldn’t help but feel the magic in the room, of being touched by the force of a nascent movement that is on the cusp of tipping into critical awareness.
Early on, a gentleman at the back of the room implored the presenters to ‘slow down’: this request was met with general laughter, and a later presenter telling the man to ‘buckle up’. This group has no intent of slowing down, and their rapid-fire delivery is, I think, evocative of the speed of the crowdfunding movement in general.
Although Canada is following on the heels of crowdfunding success south of the border, my sense is that our country is rapidly catching up, with BC alone now home to 23 crowdfunding portals and service providers (second only to Ontario, with 58).
Worldwide, $16.2B was transacted through crowdfunding in 2014, with $30B projected for 2015. Vancouver is cited as the ‘start-up hub’ for this newer form of capital attraction, growing from the earlier manifestations of donation- and reward-based crowdfunding (think Kickstarter and GoFundMe), now building to lending (repayable loans) and equity (share ownership) crowdfunding.
Here are some takeaways from the conference:
- Crowdfunding is a cross between Dragon’s Den and eTrade: ‘people working together using Internet technologies to solve a funding problem’.
- Angels are critical to business start-up financing, but there are only 2,000 of them in Canada: crowdfunding is another potential source of financing.
- Where more formal investment avenues tend to target the wealthy few, crowdfunding appeals to the ‘mass affluent’: a greater base of folks who may each have $2,000 to invest rather than $2