Equity-based crowdfunding platform EarlyShares has raised $1.15 million in its first round of funding, so other businesses can raise funding too.
Ever since the JOBS Act passed in April, crowdfunding has been the cool kid on the block. Startups that provide opportunities for people to make micro-investments in small businesses are bum-rushing the field, and each has a distinct angle.
EarlyShares allows businesses to raise money by selling equity shares to small investors. Unlike Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, which follow a donation-based crowdfunding model, EarlyShares gives people the opportunity to make actual investments in companies and, potentially, see returns.
Before they can solicit money, businesses must withstand EarlyShares’ 14-step verification process to ensure they are a legitimate enterprise.
Companies at any stage can use the site, whether they are just starting out or are a middle-of-the-road company looking to create a new product or expand into new markets. Of the businesses currently on the platform, only 40% are startups. The rest are existing businesses with client bases and revenue that have struggled to secure venture capital or financing from banks.
“There is no bank lending anymore, and a lot of these companies are too small to get attention of VC firms or angel firms,” said co-founder Stephen Temes in an interview with VentureBeat. “Investment from these guys can require giving up a tremendous amount of control. It is not only selling equity, it is selling their soul.”
Businesses publish profiles with relevant information and how much they are hoping to raise. EarlyShares hopes to build out a diverse selection, from technology startups to organic dog food companies. Users can go on the site and search through a roster of companies to see which strike their fancy. They have the opportunity to invest up to $10,000 a year, or 10% of annual income, with no more than $2,000 per investment.
The money is held in escrow until the goal is achieved, at which point it is released. If a company does not reach its fundraising goal, the money is returned to the investors. If a liquidity event occurs, investors see a return. EarlyShares will take 5-8% commission depending on the size of the raise and only if the raise is completed.
Participating businesses will also have access to tools and resources to help them succeed. EarlyShares will have a customer service department and make business strategy and PR resources available.
EarlyShares launched in 2012 and is based in Miami, Florida. The team has visited 24 cities in 24 weeks to spread the word about this opportunity and seek out blossoming businesses.