Invest Crowdfund Québec

Pour l'adoption d'Invest Crowdfunding au Québec | For the adoption of Invest Crowdfunding in Quebec


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Response to the AMF Equity Crowdfunding Exemption Proposal

We are honoured to take part in the consultative process of what we believe to be this decade’s most innovative solution to Canada’s financial gap. Without further a due, we present to you our response to the Autorité des marchés financiers with regards  to the new equity crowdfunding exemption REG 45-108.

We applaud the Autorité des marchés financiers (hereinafter «Autorité») on their initiative to expand the application of equity crowdfunding to established businesses and start-ups. We would also like to thank the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada and team for their support and awareness-building initiative.

Our feedback was requested on the following set of 27 questions:

Crowdfunding Exemption
Issuer qualification criteria

1) Should the availability of the Crowdfunding Exemption be restricted to non-reporting issuers?

2) Is the proposed exclusion of real estate issuers that are not reporting issuers appropriate?

3) The Crowdfunding Exemption would require that a majority of the issuer’s directors be resident in Canada. One of the key objectives of our crowdfunding initiative is to facilitate capital raising for Canadian issuers. We also think this requirement would reduce the risk to investors. Would this requirement be appropriate and consistent with these objectives?

Offering parameters

4) The Crowdfunding Exemption would impose a $1.5 million limit on the amount that can be raised under the exemption by the issuer, an affiliate of the issuer, and an issuer engaged in a common enterprise with the issuer or with an affiliate of the issuer, during the period commencing 12 months prior to the issuer’s current offering. Is $1.5 million an appropriate
limit? Should amounts raised by an affiliate of the issuer or an issuer engaged in a common enterprise with the issuer or with an affiliate of the issuer be subject to the limit? Is the 12-month period prior to the issuer’s current offering an appropriate period of time to which the limit should apply?

5) Should an issuer be able to extend the length of time a distribution could remain open if subscriptions have not been received for the minimum offering? If so, should this be tied to a minimum percentage of the target offering being achieved?

Restrictions on solicitation and advertising
6) Are the proposed restrictions on general solicitation and advertising appropriate?

Investment limits

7) The Crowdfunding Exemption would prohibit an investor from investing more than $2,500 in a single investment under the exemption, and more than $10,000 in total under the exemption in a calendar year. An accredited investor can invest an unlimited amount in an issuer under the AI Exemption. Should there be separate investment limits for accredited investors who invest through the portal?

Statutory or contractual rights in the event of a misrepresentation

8) The Crowdfunding Exemption would require that, if a comparable right were not provided by the securities legislation of the jurisdiction in which the investor resides, the issuer must provide the investor with a contractual right of action for rescission or damages if there is a misrepresentation in any written or other materials made available to the investor (including video). Is this the appropriate standard of liability? What impact would this standard of liability have on the length and complexity of offering documents?

Provision of ongoing disclosure

9) How should the disclosure documents best be made accessible to investors? To whom should the documents be made accessible?

10) Would it be appropriate to require that non-reporting issuers provide financial statements that are either audited or reviewed by an independent public accounting firm? Are financial statements without this level of assurance adequate for investors? Would an audit or review be too costly for non-reporting issuers?

11) The proposed financial threshold to determine whether financial statements are required to be audited is based on the amount of capital raised by the issuer and the amount it has expended. Are these appropriate parameters on which to base the financial reporting requirements? Is the dollar amount specified for each parameter appropriate?

Other
12) Are there other requirements that should be imposed to protect investors?

Crowdfunding Portal Requirements
General registrant obligations

13) The Crowdfunding Portal Requirements provide that portals will be subject to a minimum net capital requirement of $50,000 and a fidelity bond insurance of at least $50,000. The fidelity bond is intended to protect against the loss of investor funds if, for example, a portal or any of its officers or directors breach the prohibitions on holding, managing, possessing or
otherwise handling investor funds or securities. Are these proposed insurance and minimum net capital amounts appropriate?

Additional portal obligations

14) Do you think an international background check should be required to be performed by the portal on issuers, directors, executive officers, promoters and control persons to verify the qualifications, reputation and track record of the parties involved in the offering?

Prohibited activities

15) The Crowdfunding Portal Requirements would allow portal fees to be paid in securities of the issuer so long as the portal’s investment in the issuer does not exceed 10%. Is the investment threshold appropriate? In light of the potential conflicts of interest from the portal’s ownership of an issuer, should portals be prohibited from receiving fees in the form
of securities?

16) The Crowdfunding Portal Requirements restricts portals from holding, handling or accessing client funds. Is this requirement appropriate? How will this impact the portal’s business operations? Should alternatives be considered?

Other

17) Are there other requirements that should be imposed on portals to protect the interests of  investors?

18) Will the regulatory framework applicable to portals permit a portal to appropriately carry on business?

Start-Up Exemption

19) Considering that the Start-Up Exemption will be substantially harmonized amongst the  Participating Jurisdictions, it is our intention to allow a portal established in one Participating Jurisdiction to post offerings from issuers established in another Participating Jurisdiction.

Also, portals established in one Participating Jurisdiction would be allowed to open their offerings to investors from other Participating Jurisdictions. Do you see any problems with this approach?

20) One of the major differences between the Crowdfunding Exemption and the Start-Up Exemption is that there is no registration requirement for the portal under the Start-Up Exemption. Do you think there are appropriate safeguards to protect investors without the registration of the portal? If not, please indicate what requirements should be imposed to the portal in order to adequately protect investors.

21) We are considering imposing a limit per calendar year of 2 capital raises by an issuer of a maximum amount of $150,000 under the exemption ($300,000 per year). Are these limits appropriate? If not, please provide what you would consider acceptable limits given the parameters of the proposed exemption.

22) The Start-Up Exemption would prohibit an investor from investing more than $1,500 in a single investment under the exemption. Is this limit appropriate? Should there also be a limit on the dollar amount that may be invested on a yearly basis by an investor?

23) Should there be minimal ongoing disclosure that issuers be required to provide to their security holders? If yes, what should it be?

24) We expect issuers using the Start-Up Exemption to maintain the information provided in the Issuer Information form and the Offering Document form updated throughout the distribution period. Should there be an obligation for issuers to further update that information outside the distribution period?

25) Should investors have the right to withdraw their subscription at least 48 hours prior to the disclosed offering deadline, as proposed under the Crowdfunding Exemption?

26) For Nova Scotia only, should Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIFs) be eligible to use the Crowdfunding Exemption and/or Start-Up Exemption? If so, why? If not, why?

27) Are there other requirements that should be imposed to protect investors, taking into account the stage of development of the issuers susceptible to issue securities under the exemption?

 

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Réponse à la proposition de dispense 45-108 de l’Autorité

Nous sommes heureux de publier notre réponse à l’Autorité des marchés financiers en regard de la nouvelle dispense 45-108 sur le financement participatif par capital.

Nous applaudissons l’initiative de l’Autorité d’avancer l’application du financement participatif par capital pour les entreprises établies et les entreprises en démarrage. Nous remercions tout particulièrement le National Crowdfunding Association of Canada avec qui nous avons eu des échanges constructifs autour de l’entrepreneuriat au Canada.

Au total, 27 questions portant sur les dispositions ont été soumises aux commentaires.

# Questions et réponses
Dispense pour financement participatif par capital
Critères d’admissibilité des émetteurs
 1 Faudrait-il limiter la dispense pour financement participatif aux émetteurs non assujettis?
2 Convient-il d’exclure, comme il est proposé, les émetteurs du secteur immobilier qui ne sont pas émetteurs assujettis?
3 Sous le régime de la dispense pour financement participatif, la majorité des administrateurs de l’émetteur devraient être résidents du Canada. L’un des principaux objectifs que nous visons en matière de financement participatif est de faciliter la collecte de capitaux par les émetteurs canadiens. Nous estimons également que cette obligation réduirait les risques auxquels les investisseurs sont exposés. Cette obligation est-elle appropriée et conforme à ces objectifs?
Paramètres de placement
4 Sous le régime de la dispense pour financement participatif, le montant que l’émetteur, les membres du même groupe que lui et tout émetteur exploitant une entreprise avec lui ou un membre du même groupe peuvent réunir pendant les 12 mois précédant le placement en cours de l’émetteur serait limité à 1,5 million de dollars. Est-ce une limite appropriée? Faudrait-il y assujettir les sommes réunies par les membres du même groupe que l’émetteur ou tout émetteur exploitant une entreprise avec lui ou avec un membre du même groupe que lui? Convient-il d’appliquer cette limite à la période de 12 mois précédant le placement en cours de l’émetteur?
 5 L’émetteur devrait-il pouvoir prolonger le placement s’il n’a pas réuni le montant minimum? Dans l’affirmative, devrait-il avoir réuni un pourcentage minimum de ce montant pour ce faire?
Restrictions en matière de sollicitation et de publicité
 6 Les restrictions proposées en matière de sollicitation et de publicité sont-elles appropriées?
Limites en matière d’investissement
7 Sous le régime de la dispense pour financement participatif, il serait interdit aux investisseurs d’investir plus de 2 500 $ par placement et plus de 10 000 $ par année civile. Les investisseurs qualifiés peuvent investir un montant illimité dans les titres d’un émetteur sous le régime de la dispense pour placement auprès d’investisseurs qualifiés. Faudrait-il prévoir des limites distinctes pour les investisseurs qualifiés qui investissent par l’intermédiaire d’un portail?
Droits légaux et contractuels pour information fausse ou trompeuse
8 Sous le régime de la dispense pour financement participatif, l’émetteur serait tenu de conférer à l’investisseur un droit d’action en nullité ou en dommages-intérêts pour information fausse ou trompeuse dans les documents écrits ou autres mis à sa disposition (y compris une vidéo), si la législation en valeurs mobilières du territoire de résidence de l’investisseur ne prévoit pas de droit équivalent. Est-ce une norme de responsabilité appropriée? Quelle en serait l’incidence sur la longueur et la complexité du document d’offre?
Information courante
 9 Quelle serait la meilleure façon de rendre les documents d’information accessibles aux investisseurs? À qui faudrait-il les rendre accessibles?
 10 Conviendrait-il d’obliger les émetteurs non assujettis à fournir des états financiers audités ou examinés par un cabinet d’experts-comptables indépendant? Sans ce niveau d’assurance, les états financiers sont-ils adéquats pour les investisseurs? L’audit ou l’examen serait-il trop onéreux pour les émetteurs non assujettis?
11 Le seuil financier propose pour établir s’il faut auditer ou examiner les états financiers est fonction des capitaux réunis par l’émetteur et du montant qu’il a dépensé. S’agit-il de paramètres appropries pour des obligation d’information financiers? Le montant fixé pour chacun de ses paramètres est-il approprié?
Autres obligations
 12 Faudrait-il imposer d’autres obligations pour protéger les investisseurs?
Obligations des portails en matière de financement participatif
Obligations générales des personnes inscrites
13 En vertu de leurs obligations en matière de financement participatif, les portails seront tenus de détenir un capital net minimum de 50 000 $ et une assurance détournement et vol d’au moins 50 000 $. leurs obligations en matière de financement participatif, les portails seront tenus de détenir un capital net minimum de 50 000 $ et une assurance détournement et vol d’au moins 50 000 $
Obligations supplémentaires des portails
 14 Estimez-vous que les portails devraient vérifier les antécédents des émetteurs, administrateurs, membres de la haute direction, promoteurs et personnes participant au contrôle dans d’autres pays pour vérifier notamment leurs qualifications et leur réputation?
Activités interdites
15 En vertu de leurs obligations en matière de financement participatif, les portails pourraient percevoir leurs frais sous forme de titres de l’émetteur, jusqu’à concurrence d’une participation de 10 %. Ce seuil est-il approprié? Étant donné les conflits d’intérêts que pourrait soulever la participation dans le capital d’un émetteur, faudrait-il interdire aux portails de percevoir leurs frais sous forme de titres?
 16 En vertu de leurs obligations en matière de financement participatif, les portails ne peuvent détenir ou gérer les fonds des clients ni y avoir accès. Cette obligation est-elle appropriée? Quelle en sera l’incidence sur les activités des portails? Faudrait-il envisager des solutions de rechange?
Autres obligations
 17 Faudrait-il imposer d’autres obligations aux portails pour protéger les intérêts des investisseurs?
 18 Le cadre réglementaire applicable aux portails leur permettra-t-il d’exercer adéquatement leurs activités?
Dispense pour les entreprises en démarrage
 19 Étant donné que la dispense pour les entreprises en démarrage sera harmonisée pour l’essentiel dans les territoires participants, notre intention est de permettre aux portails établis dans l’un des territoires d’afficher les placements d’émetteurs établis dans un autre. Par ailleurs, les portails établis dans un territoire pourraient ouvrir les placements qu’ils présentent aux investisseurs des autres territoires. Selon vous, cette démarche pose-t-elle problème?
 20 Une des principales différences entre la dispense pour financement participatif et la dispense pour les entreprises en démarrage est l’absence d’obligation d’inscription des portails sous le régime de cette dernière. Selon vous, la protection des investisseurs est-elle suffisamment assurée sans inscription? Dans la négative, veuillez indiquer les obligations qu’il faudrait imposer aux portails pour protéger adéquatement les investisseurs.
 21 Nous envisageons d’imposer une limite de 2 collectes de capitaux de 150 000 $ maximum par année civile par émetteur sous le régime de la dispense (300 000 $ par an). Ces limites sont-elles appropriées? Dans la négative, veuillez indiquer les limites acceptables compte tenu des paramètres du projet de dispense.
 22 Sous le régime de la dispense pour les entreprises en démarrage, il serait interdit aux investisseurs d’investir plus de 1 500 $ par placement. Cette limite est-elle appropriée? Faudrait-il fixer un montant annuel maximum?
 23 Les émetteurs devraient-ils être tenus de fournir à leurs porteurs un minimum d’information courante annuellement? Dans l’affirmative, de quoi s’agirait-il?
 24 Nous nous attendons à ce que les émetteurs qui se prévalent de la dispense pour les entreprises en démarrage maintiennent à jour l’information fournie dans le formulaire de renseignements sur l’émetteur et le formulaire du document d’offre pendant la durée du placement. Faudrait-il les obliger à maintenir cette information à jour en dehors de cette période?
 25 Les investisseurs devraient-ils avoir le droit de résoudre leur souscription au moins 48 heures avant la clôture du placement sous le régime de la dispense pour financement participatif, comme il est proposé?
 26 En Nouvelle-Écosse, faudrait-il permettre aux Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIF) de se prévaloir de la dispense pour financement participatif ou de la dispense pour les entreprises en démarrage? Veuillez fournir des explications, que vous soyez en accord ou non.
 27 Faudrait-il imposer d’autres obligations pour protéger les investisseurs en fonction du stade de développement des émetteurs susceptibles d’émettre des titres sous le régime de la dispense?

 


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Equity Crowdfunding Upfront Costs : No Laughing Matter

Adoption of Equity Crowdfunding for ordinary investors may come sooner than we think. First in the US and not far behind, Quebec and Ontario. [Note: Saskatchewan has gone forward with a smaller-scale model as allowed by law 
calcul
(150,000$ raises and under), but for the purpose of this post and considering investment statistics, we assume that companies will aim higher – much higher, and this has yet to be legalized]. We thought the time was well chosen to outline the costs a Canadian company may incur given the possible regulatory framework that will come into force.

I sat down with Paul Niederer, CEO of ASSOB, the largest equity crowdfunding platform, to compare notes. We may be more conservative than our Australian counterparts and demonstrate a lower tolerance to risk. That is why we are assuming that the bar will be set higher for Canadian companies. For a minimum investment of 500,000$ (USD), to prove their credentials, here’s what companies may be expected to pay upfront prior to launching an equity crowdfunding campaign:

COMPLIANCE FEES $3,000-8,000

1-Legal writing of offering document compliant with legislation

2-Investment summary

BUSINESS/MARKETING SERVICE FEES $4,000-8,000

3-Value proposal, storytelling, business case, video

4-Community building, SEO, content strategy

This article was initially published on NCFA

PORTAL FEES $40,000 – 50,000

5-Due diligence on company and executive team $1,000

6-Offer document review: $3,000$-4,000 (Note: Crowdcube in the UK charges $3,000 or 1,800 pounds that are subsequently deducted from capital raise)

7-Portal success fee: 2-3% of min. proceeds

8-Broker success fee: 5-6% of min. proceeds (a broker is necessary for larger amounts)

Note: Australia’s ASSOB charges 8% of which 2.5% goes to portal and 5.5% to broker.

PROFESSIONAL FEES $5,000$-7,000

9-Certified Public Accountant costs (higher for raises above $500,000)

10- Financial Planning

All in all, companies may be required to put in somewhere between 12 and 15% of the money raised. That’s 52,000$ to 75,000$ to raise $500,000. The SEC estimates are even more pessimistic, as indicated below.

Add to that, ongoing fees: Marketing/Social Media/PR/Advertising which represent roughly 5-10% of the minimum proceeds, quarterly reporting costs and legal defense costs.

2014-03-12-SEC.png

Credit: Crowdfunding Capital Advisors – Venturebeat

Suffice it to say, under the proposed framework, this model is not a solution to all ills. Upfront costs are and will be a barrier to entry for early-stage start-ups.


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A Look-back at the AMF Public Consultation on Equity Crowdfunding

Last March, the Quebec Securities Commission (AMF)  held a public consultation to discuss Equity Crowdfunding and its applicability. Our team has been working tirelessly since July for this moment. With  “success stories” multiplying across the globe, we, too, want our SMEs and start-ups to benefit from this model. Enabling them to raise funds online and individuals to become investors without having 1M$ in assets. Angels and VCs  around the table agreed that this model complements the existing ones, and that it is  a necessary component to our ecosystem…”we fund 30 out of 1300 startups. What happens to the remaining 1270?” one angel asked.

You will find a recap of the session on our partner site, National Crowdfunding Association. The following outlines some of the principles raised in session and that you will find in our upcoming positioning paper:

  1. Notion of risk. A business is pitched on a crowdfunding portal. There is always a potential risk notably if the business is early stage (prototype, beta) that the investor may not see a return. The investor must be at ease with this and rely on his own knowledge or seek council.  On the other end of the spectrum, a business that has sales to show for, will be expected to justify its valuation and have the figures to back it up. Transparency is key.
  2. Trust the crowd (unaccredited investors). We do not expect a perfect fit in year 1 of adoption. There will be growing pains as there were for e-commerce in the late 90’s. The important is to leverage these and build best practices. You may find investors that are not satisfied with their choices and may blame others. We believe that this learning phase will be a confidence builder and they will find, with time, better sources of advice on and  off line.
  3. Higher Cap . To ensure a higher penetration rate and fulfill the needs of both start-ups and SMEs, we recommend raising the investment round to 1M$ on a 12-month period.
  4. Relying on social networks. This is where the paradigm shift must occur. I understand that it may hard to believe that online conversations can help detect fraudulent practices but it is a fact. As Kickstarter’s founder said, “People have called them out and they don’t get funding. The internet asks questions.”
  5. The shareholders agreement generated much discussion among the securities lawyers present at the session.  Experience shows that agreements are source of fraud either through restrictive clauses or fine print. Hence they believe that Invest crowdfunding may be the host of such practices. We recommend having standard shareholder agreements (same format for all) to reduce collateral dammage. This point remains to be discussed and should not be a barrier to adoption.
  6. The status of Equity Crowdfunding portals is an important issue.We believe that portals, as in England, France, Finland, Belgium and Australia, should stand as a matchmaking site – nothing more, leaving advisory to others. It is the investor’s responsibility to seek council (cf. point #2) and the issuer’s to pitch/explain in layman’s terms.  To restrict portals to traders only or to restrict portal usage to accredited investors is taking the crowd out of crowdfunding. It’s VC online, as provided by FundersClub.  Portals in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta are in the works . They are waiting for the green light.

At Invest Crowdfund Québec, we will continue our work with regulatory bodies and remain optimistic about the prospect of equity crowdfunding in Canada.


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The AMF To Facilitate Access to Capital by SMEs…One Step Closer to Equity Crowdfunding

hands-moneyThe AMF To Facilitate Access to Capital by SMEs…One Step Closer to Equity Crowdfunding

To facilitate access to Capital by SMEs, the securities commission from 9 provinces have each published a harmonized interim local order that provides exemptions from financial statement-related requirements. In short, individual investors – non-accredited and with no relationship to the equity-funded business – will be able to invest and those businesses issuing equity will not be required to file a prospectus (onerous expenditure) for investments under $500K. http://lnkd.in/RYtGHk

In addition, the Commission is prepared to consider applications for registration by funding portals on a case-by-case basis.


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Indiegogo: Special Announcement – Live from Le Web 2012 Paris

Indiegogo Expands Internationally With New Capabilities in Canada
Checking in with Indiegogo co-founder Danae Ringlemann.

Indiegogo4.jpeg

Indiegogo, the world’s largest global crowdfunding platform, announces new offerings in key global markets today– including local currencies, languages and localized search and discovery experiences. These new capabilities launch immediately in Canada, France, UK, and Germany as part of Indiegogo’s continued focus on improving the customer experience and providing relevant local market content for campaign owners and funders.

The initial release of Indiegogo’s international features includes:

  • Currency: transactions are now available in Canadian Dollars. Pricing, fees and payment modes remain the same.
  • Language: since our population is so diverse, the Indiegogo platform will be also available in French late December. The user will be able to easily toggle to the other language and launch campaigns in both French and English (German will also be added to the German platform).
  • Localization: Indiegogo will be offering localized versions of the homepage and search and discovery experiences for Canadians in early 2013, to highlight local campaigns. The platform will provide a “cultural” feel and an extra layer of filtering thus creating more proximity with the crowd.


IDanae Ringelmann headshot spoke to Danae Ringlemann, co-founder of Indiegogo about what this launch meant for Canadians. “Canada is our second largest market after the US, with campaigns from filmmakers small business, entertainment etc. right from the start. We want to offer them a seamless and easier customer experience,“ said Danae . “Most people are more comfortable transacting in their own preferred currency.”

And there’s more…Danae makes it a point to adapt Indiegogo to changing needs. She is in the front seat and sees society change at a rapid pace. “Crowdfunding is becoming more vertical.  Take health for instance. It has changed like never before. Indiegogo campaigns on disease research or a much-needed surgery are on the rise. Even in vitro fertilization is being crowdfunded.” Sports has also evolved. “Now, we find people funding a field trip, club membership, or high-level training.”

Does Indiegogo have plans to offer equity crowdfunding? “We are very supportive of it [Invest Crowdfunding]. We have not decided yet but we’re giving it some thought. Having built a strong customer base and proving social fundraising works, the U.S. government came to us and partnered with us for Startup America. I was invited last week by the European Commission at Brussels to showcase what we’ve done and how our platform prevents fraud. We are in support of putting regulations in place without making it too cumbersome but first we need to know how it all plays out”, concluded Danae.

Danae_BigOmahaIt will be interesting to see in the coming months how Indiegogo will cater to Quebec and other provinces, how the platform will be adapted in terms of design or tagline. Local Team. As they will be launching a subsidiary in the UK first half of 2013, could we expect a local presence in Canada with a dedicated team for support and communications? Competition. Also, how local crowdfunding providers measure up to Indiegogo is something we’ll be looking at closely. Equity Crowdfunding. Lastly, 2013 may be the year for “equity crowdfunding” in Canada. It will be interesting to see if Indiegogo will integrate this service sooner than anticipated.

In short, it was great to get an update from Indiegogo about their international expansion as they announce this news today in Paris at LeWeb. It was also great to get Danae’s final words on what it takes to succeed at crowdfunding: “Our advice  is that you don’t have to be someone else, just be authentic with your campaign. Indiegogo gives you the traction you need and the buzz that VCs are looking for. Just be yourself. People fund people.”


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Technicity Event: Ontario Runner-Up for Equity Crowdfunding. Is Quebec Next?


Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 7.35.35 AMOntario may well be the next adopter of Invest Crowdfunding ahead of the U.S. 

Thursday morning, the Hon. Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation was the honorary guest at Technicity, the first Equity Crowdfund Conference in Ontario. Min. Duguid spoke about the potential benefits that equity-based crowdfunding provides for entrepreneurs and said once the Ontario Securities Commission completes a review, the provincial government would look at ways to move forward with changes.

Great panel, crowd and organization and more importantly the outcome that I will highlight further. It was also a rare opportunity to meet up with the other shakers of  Invest CrowdFund Canada :  Dr. Cindy Gordon, national Chair of ICC and CEO of Helix Commerce Intl, Fawn Annan VP for Ontario and CEO of IT World Canada, Andrew Weir VP national communications, Debra Chander VP National marketing, and Barry Gander, i-Canada co-Founder. I also had a serendipitous moment, meeting Craig Asano, Executive Director of the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada, with whom I’ve been exchanging emails with for the past weeks and had yet to meet.

A Room Full of Believers in Equity Crowdfunding

The entire Canadian ecosystem was present and the excitement palpable. When Darren Westlake, co-founder of CrowdCube, UK’s Equity crowdfunding platform, took the stand, we had high expectations and were not disappointed. Darren walked us through the process of an equity crowdfunded business, provided key success metrics and gave us a view of what lies ahead for equity CF sites. I tweeted as I listened (see end of post). All provinces needed to catch a glimpse of the lessons learned and the opportunities, and more importantly realize that we all share the same concerns: the need for democratizing investment to close the financial gap and stir innovation.

The keynote was followed by a panel discussion including top influencers from the technology, regulatory, banking and VC sectors: CEO of ING Canada, Peter Aceto ; founder of Stratus Capital and a board director at the Toronto Angel Group, Dr. Richard Reiner; creator of Social Venture Exchange, Adam Spence and Dr. Cindy Gordon, who moderated the event. There was great talk on Ontarian initiatives to boost innovation and Canadian-specific requirements, i.e. tax incentives for equity crowdfunded businesses.

The third highlight of this matinee was the group table dialogue moderated by Chairman of the Exempt Market Dealers Association, Brian Koscak. In short, each table was asked to discuss three questions that were later shared in plenary. Our set of questions: Should issuers be subject to an annual limit on how much they can raise? Should issuers be subject to a minimum and maximum offering threshold? Should securities be limited to equity only or debt and equity?

This session gave way to much discussion and differing opinions. It’s all good. This is how change starts to take place. The value lies not in the “right” answers but in addressing the right questions, having such a large number of interested and engaged professionals.

What is the main motivator for Equity crowdfund investors?

One crucial teaching that I take with me is that equity crowdfund does not belong to one select group but to all. And to confine it to the financial or regulatory sphere is a mistake. Yes, equity CF addresses financial and regulatory concerns, i.e. how much does one invest? How much can one raise?, and for good reason. Yet it also addresses regional/municipal economic growth and innovation rate, i.e. investing in a company for reasons other than financial. Darren nailed it when he said

Financial return is not the main motivator, supporting SMEs is.

Because you may not see a return in VC terms (<5 years) but you will be contributing locally to the long term growth of businesses and job creation. And as Darren mentioned, these SMEs eventually scale and their value increases thus interesting other categories of investors. It’s a win-win.

Why accelerate the adoption of Equity Crowdfunding in Quebec?

First and foremost, start-ups are leaving Quebec for better (financial) conditions. Love money and bootstrapping are NOT accessible to every entrepreneur. Some keep their day jobs and work nights to make their great idea actionable but with a lot of collateral damage. Those that do succeed with some help of their close circles need more funding to scale and acquire new clients. Yet VCs and Angels can only fund so many start-ups in early or later stage. This leaves quite a large crowd of entrepreneurs who more often than not, call it quits (50% of SMEs have a lifespan of 5 years).

Then I ask you. How can Invest/Equity Crowdfunding not be part of the public agenda? As Ontario, this should become a concern for all: the Prime Minister, the Ministry of development and innovation, the Ministry of small business, corporations, SMEs, start-ups, VCs, angels, business associations, exempt market dealers, regulatory agencies, strategists, social media experts, IT experts, securities lawyers, academia, individual investors, Julie, John, Mr and Mrs Smith, and the generations to come.

Why wait-n-see, especially when the market is clearly sending out signals that Equity CF works? Naysayers may respond “sure, it works in Australia or UK, but it isn’t going to work here.”, “It’s going to kill our VCs” or “No one knows what Invest CF is,  let’s wait it out”. I am a partisan of dialogue among stakeholders and I believe that in lieu of making assumptions amongst ourselves, we should create an open public arena. Our blog is one those places and we welcome your questions, concerns, suggestions. Last Monday’s short talk at Crowdfund Night was yet another opportunity and people came up to me with more questions. Yes, the interest is there and we must cultivate it.

Seemingly, Ontario is next up to adopt Invest Crowdfunding, and other provinces will follow suit. We do not want to see our country divided, hence running the risk of losing our Quebec entrepreneurs to other regions, where more diversified financing mechanisms will be in place sooner than later.

If you would like to accelerate the adoption of crowdfund Investing, we welcome the addition of your strengths to our cause. Contact us. Many thanks.

 

Twitter Feed @Technicity:

29 Nov ‏@Yazziness #technicity Government should propose tax incentive to #Crowdfundinvestors as in UK. Agreed.
29 Nov@Yazziness #technicity Banks will see invest #crowdfunding as a wonderful opportunity, to meet entrepreneurs early on in their life cycle – Peter Aceto
29 NovBrian Jackson ‏@brianjjackson Darren saw a supply/demand problem in the UK of too many businesses looking for capital, not enough angels. Sounds familiar#technicity Retweeted by Diana
29 Nov@Yazziness @TechnicityTO how banks can get involved in invest #crowdfundingPeter Aceto @ingdirect speaking
29 Nov ‏@Yazziness #technicity shares b for crowd, shares a for accredited.@Crowdcube
29 Nov ‏@Yazziness #technicity Little due diligence. ID checks and money-laundering checks done for every business @crowdcheck29
29 Nov ‏@Yazziness#technicity @Crowdcube crowd funded their business. 300k pounds raised. 160 investors
29 Nov@Yazziness#technicity average investment 1800 pounds. 31 successful deals in 18 months. Total funds raised 4.2 m pounds #crowdcube
29 Nov‏@Yazziness #technicity Investor survey: financial return is not the main motivator for invest #crowdfunding. Supporting SMEs is. – Crowdcube CEO
29 Nov@Yazzines#technicity Strong vetting process @crowdcube – 25% acceptance rate invest #crowdfunding