“Sometimes, we are so worried about what can go wrong, but these markets have to get capital to entrepreneurs,” David Weild, former vice chairman for NASDAQ, said during an entrepreneurship and investment conference timed to coincide closely with the 50th anniversary of March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“If we can’t get money into the hands of the people who create jobs, we’re not going to have a very good future,” Weild added.
One of the key changes on the horizon is the expansion of equity crowdfunding platforms, which will soon allow firms to raise capital online from non-accredited investors. Congress authorized the platforms as part of the JOBS Act last April, and after several missed deadlines, Securities and Exchange Commission officials say they plan to issue the rules to govern the process sometime this fall.
In the meantime, the agency will next month lift a ban on what is known as general solicitation, giving entrepreneurs the green light to start advertising their offerings to the public.
In large part, those and other changes in the JOBS Act were intended to help new firms raise small amounts of capital to get their ventures off the ground. However, some investors say the changes may actually have a greater economic impact by helping established companies that are ready to expand — firms they say have all but given up on the possibility of an initial public offering on Wall Street.
“The stock market has become a platform not for creating capital to help companies grow, but a platform for financial hackers, where most of the activity is just algorithmic and high-frequency trading,” Mark Cuban, a business magnate and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said in an interview following the same event on Friday.
“In the ‘90s, you would raise $5 million or $10 million in an IPO, but those days are gone, and that has created this black hole for companies,” he said.
Speaking on a panel with Cuban, Weild noted that the “the number of small IPOs started to fall off a cliff in 1998 with the implementation of electronic stock markets.”
During that period, the number of initial offerings per year has fallen from about 500 to about 130, he said. Of those, 80 percent used to be firms raising less than $50 million; it is now down to 20 percent.
“So only about 30 small IPOs every year,” Cuban estimated, based on those figures. “That’s crazy.”
Instead, most firms reach a size in which they are too large for more private capital but too small to go public in today’s market. In many cases, he said, rather than continuing to grow, they get acquired by large corporations that could have been their competitors.