Crowdfunding, from your smartphone

February 19, 2013

Crowdfunding is poised to be bigger than ever in 2013, with fundraising successes such as the Pebble watch and the Ouya game console both getting ready to launch their long-awaited projects.

But crowdfunding is more than just bringing neat products to market. At next month’s Launch startup festival, MicroVentures — a company that vets accredited investors and gives them access to potential deals — will work with the conference and other partners to let startups do some live fundraising as they present their ideas on stage.

That will be facilitated through a new mobile app, said Tim Sullivan, chief executive of MicroVentures. The company worked with Launch on the app, Sullivan said, because there was previously “no way through mobile devices that you can adequately see what’s out there in terms of companies that you might want to invest in.”

Start-ups are hoping to tap into a fundraising boom sparked by rules that will allow them to sell equity stakes through “crowdfunding” platforms.

A handful of European countries allow non-accredited investors to pick up equity in crowdfunding drives, but that practice is on ice in the U.S. pending some new regulations from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Congress passed legislation allowing more investors to take part in equity crowdfunding last year as part of the JOBS Act, but the SEC has been taking its time in crafting regulations about what information companies must provide to their investors. The agency was supposed to have the rules completed by the end of 2012.

Sullivan said that he doesn’t expect to see much movement on the matter any time soon. Opening up equity crowdfunding to everyone, he said, raises a lot of concerns about how to make sure that any investor gets the information he or she needs to assess the risks involved in backing a startup.

“It’s going to take a while for the JOBS Act legislation to work itself out,” he said.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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