Press Room

7/16/2015

EquityNet Featured in the New York Business Journal

Below is an article by the New York Business Journal entitled "Milestone for JOBS Act as startups can turn to crowdfunding for equity investments"

Milestone for JOBS Act as startups can turn to crowdfunding for equity investments
By Michael del Castillo, New York Business Journal
Jun 19, 2015

Nearly two years after President Barack Obama first signed the JOBS Act into law, startups starting today can legally crowdfund up to $50 million from non-accredited, middle-class investors. In exchange, the companies will give these investors actual stock, instead of just tokens of gratitude.

To mark the occasion, New York City-based Onevest, which has been helping accredited investors get in on the crowdfunding game since it launched last year, is kicking off a crowdfunding campaign on, where else, its own platform.

The historical changes being implemented today come with conditions. In particular, not just anyone can host this new breed of crowdfunding campaign, and the level of due-diligence these specialized platforms put into the researching the companies will likely far exceed that of traditional sites.

“You can be assured that we’ve done a heck of a lot of work to ensure the deals that we’re showcasing have been validated and the claims confirmed,” Onevest co-founder Tanya Prive said during a phone conversation earlier this week.

Onevest had previously raised $3.3 million in seed money from Fortify Ventures and others. Today, it kicks off its Series A fundraising round with the goal of raising between $2 million and $4 million from individual investors.

Here’s how this new crowdfunding in exchange for equity works for Onevest: The company charges a commission based on the amount a client wants to raise. For the investor, that means the stake they're buying is valued at the listed price, but the amount of cash the company actually receives is less Onevest’s fees.

The actual due-diligence, which can take between 15 days and three months, is outsourced to Alexandria, Va.-based Crowdcheck, which also looks into compliance and disclosure requirements. Onevest does not make any money off the due-diligence process.

Onevest’s actual service-as-a-platform connecting vetted startups with accredited investors that typically have to earn $200,000 a year, and now non-accredited investors, isn’t cheap, costing as much as $100,000.

“It’s not for everybody,” said Prive. “You have to be at a certain stage where you’re at a Series A, B, or C. I think the business has to be something that’s understandable, or easily understandable by an audience.” She says clients who are willing to be investors, make the ideal contributors as they frequently become outspoken product evangelists.

While the opening up of startup investing to people who make less than $200,000 will almost certainly change the startup landscape, it is not without concerns, according to Erik Weingold, founder and general counsel at New York City-based PPM Lawyers, a licensed business supporter of EquityNet, another crowdfunding platform.

“It’s been put out there as the holy grail of investing because of the non-accredited investor element,” said Weingold, during a phone conversation yesterday. “But my opinion is the reality is much different than that hype.”