For startups and small businesses interesting in raising money online, it can be tough to choose a crowdfunding platform — there are so many out there. And they rank differently depending on whether you’re looking at the size the platform, the total amount of capital it has raised, its overall success rate, or the average amount the platform raises per deal.
My team decided to find out who was the leader in each of these categories. We pored over two years of data. Then we reached out to the top platforms to get their feedback. Their answers were surprisingly similar: Sourcing the best deals leads to the best results. Yet at the end of the day, the data shows one platform leads in an area that may make all the difference in the eyes of the entrepreneur: average capital raised.
Regulation crowdfunding (Reg CF) began on May 16, 2016. It allows any startup or small business to raise up to $1,070,000 online from family, friends, and followers (accredited or not) provided issuers use a crowdfunding website that is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since its launch, nearly 1,000 companies have registered with the SEC on 50 platforms, and over $127 million has been committed to campaigns. But that funding hasn’t been evenly distributed across campaigns or platforms. Eight platforms have already gone belly up, 25 have done fewer than 10 deals each, and only eight platforms have raised over $1 million for their campaigns. Clearly, deals and dollars are flowing to a select few. Competition for quality deals is fierce among platforms, entrepreneurs are heading to the top players, and investors are looking for opportunities across industries and regions. So who are the leaders?
Category: Campaigns – leader StartEngine
Of the nearly 1,000 companies that have registered to raise money online, 50 percent chose to register on either Start Engine or Wefunder. And according to the data, it is a tight race, with StartEngine leading. According to Ron Miller, CEO of StartEngine, the platform’s success has to do with sourcing and setting expectations. “We have more successful campaigns because we source the very best entrepreneurial talent out there. We also set appropriate expectations in terms of how much work it takes to make a campaign successful, and we provide the coaching and support at each step of the process.” This sourcing and coaching probably explains why, over the past two quarters, the company’s new deal volume has surged.
Category: Capital commitments – leader Wefunder
When it comes to total amount of money raised by platform, Wefunder is the leader, with over $38 million. To put this in perspective, since the market began almost one out of every three dollars committed to all campaigns went to Wefunder. According to Wefunder cofounder and CEO Nick Tommarello, the company’s strength on this front has to do with its experience with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors. “Our edge against other platforms comes from our background as product-oriented tech founders who want to empower communities, not broker/dealers who want to take a slice of a transaction. When we attended Y Combinator, we were immersed in an environment where our friends went on to start billion-dollar unicorns. From 2013-2016, Wefunder then invested in these types of startups. We had to learn how to get access to high-quality “oversubscribed” deals. Our DNA applied these lessons to Reg CF deals.” And it seems to be working.
Category: Success rate – leader Nextseed
When it comes to who closes the most deals, Nextseed leads the pack with a 93 percent success rate. Twenty-eight of 30 of its deals have been funded. Nextseed CEO Youngro Lee said the platform’s high success rate has to do with focusing on a particular crowdfunding model (debt), businesses types (retail, bricks and mortar), and immediate, easy-to-understand returns. “We viewed the passage of the JOBS Act as an opportunity to democratize private financing in local communities — allowing everyday people to invest in local businesses. We thus focused our efforts on businesses and investment terms that an average investor could actually understand and appreciate. We only work on debt crowdfunding for brick and mortar businesses, and all investments have a finite maturity and monthly payment requirements. We also seek to provide comprehensive services to our issuers throughout their campaign creation process from start to finish, including marketing and PR advice, providing templates, and supporting post-closing investor communication and payment servicing.”
Category: Average raise per campaign – leader SeedInvest
However, when you drill down and look at what really matters — how much money the average campaign raises — the data reveals something powerful. While StartEngine and Wefunder might lead in the number of successful campaigns and Nextseed in success rate, SeedInvest leads in this category, with an average raise of $435,780 per campaign. From an entrepreneur’s point-of-view, this metric is likely the most important one. SeedInvest CEO Ryan Feit said the high average raise amount comes down to extreme vetting and the investor base. “With over 37,000 accredited investors, SeedInvest is by far the largest platform in terms of the number of high net worth investors. In addition, unlike other platforms, we have family offices, venture funds, and high net worth individuals who can write checks between $250,000 and $2 million. This sets us apart from all other platforms and ultimately results in larger raises for startups on SeedInvest. We have never been interested in simply trying to list more startups than other platforms or generate the most investment volume. Historically we have only launched 1 percent of the startups that apply to raise capital, and we invest meaningful time in those startups we select.”
The bottom line
If you are a brick and mortar entrepreneur looking to improve your odds of getting financed, consider heading to Nextseed. Chances are you’ll hit your funding target and do so in less time than applying for a bank loan. If you are looking to get your campaign in front of potential backers, head to StartEngine (or Wefunder, where you’ll pay less in success fees). Keep in mind, you’re going to have to bring the majority of your investors to the deal; they don’t just show up. But if your priority is simply to raise the most money possible, try SeedInvest (and I mean “try,” since they only accept 1 percent of applicants). Entrepreneurs on SeedInvest are raising 89 percent more than the current industry average of $244,000. If you look at the last two quarters alone, investors are pouring their capital into SeedInvest deals ($9.5 million vs $7.7 million for StartEngine and $6 million for Wefunder).
Sherwood Neiss is a partner at Crowdfund Capital Advisors. He helped lead the U.S. fight to legalize debt and equity based crowdfunding and coauthored the book Crowdfund Investing for Dummies.