What Crowdfunding and 'Democratizing Capital' Could Mean for Minority Entrepreneurs

Joshua Shepard |

In my last article, initiated by the recent immigrant ban, I touched upon data supporting the prevalence of institutional discrimination in the United States. Make sure you read Part 1 here. This is Part 2.

Data supports the notion that institutional prejudice is widespread and affecting the overall quality of life for minorities across the country, primarily through startup capital acquisition and employment. The darker we are, the harder it is to live a quality life; however, this goes directly against the American Dream ideals the Founding Fathers’ rooted in our Constitution. All men and women are created equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The power to alter the course of institutional discrimination is possessed by the diverse makeup of 320 million Americans—the crowd.

Small businesses and startups in America are a dreary topic and we usually hear about their high rate of failure or exits as a billion-dollar unicorn. Starting up a business in America has a lot of friction involved, most notably raising capital. The SEC's finalization of the JOBS Act in mid-2016 brought the business startup process into light for everyone, but the masses are slow to learn and adopt these new regulations...and their unique benefits to minority groups. How are minority leaders using crowdfunding to level the playing field with large institutions?

Reward and Donation Crowdfunding, Infantile Equity

The digital crowdfunding trend in America started in 2003 when ArtistShare launched as the world's first donation crowdfunding platform for creative artists. The most notable crowdfunding platforms today, Indiegogo and Kickstarter, launched a few years later with a reward model in 2008 and 2009, respectively. In this time, Kickstarter has launched an astounding 340,559 projects, raising $2.9 billion since launch, giving grassroots a whole new channel of exposure. Reward and donation crowdfunding are similar, but reward campaigns will offer a perk for contributions while donation campaigns do not. Crowdfunding has surely stimulated the national and global economy over the years, but equity crowdfunding is a federally regulated tool with the ability to shift power from large, robust institutions to the individual entrepreneur and investor.



Crowdfunding and Community Building

Prior to the JOBS Act, entrepreneurs turned to friends and family when raising funds. In order to expand fundraising to new potential investors after exhausting the previous option, they hire securities lawyers. The startup then learns the bad news: they cannot raise capital from anyone with whom they do not have a substantial pre-existing relationship. Otherwise it would violate the prohibition against general solicitation. The JOBS Act changed this by classifying 240 million citizens as non-accredited (or retail) investors and allowing general solicitation to the public. Entrepreneurs can now go to their friends, family, AND communities.

Equity crowdfunding acts as a catalyst for individuals to collectively combat institutional discrimination along with the very real wealth and unemployment disparity between races in the country. Any American adult can hire an attorney and file their offering with the SEC under Reg CF or A+ and, after approval, can begin raising capital from their crowd in exchange for equity shares of their company. While organizing a crowdfunding campaign strategy is complex in nature, leaders across the country are working hard to make this crowdfunding easier and more accessible to everyone.

Crowdfunding Leadership Advocates Change For Minorities and Social Good

While the equity crowdfunding space is off to a very slow start with only 26,000 Reg CF investments made in the last nine months, leaders in the community are already advocating for equal opportunity and diversity among entrepreneurs. Below are a few leaders making a difference in the minority community:

Dar'shun Kendrick at Minority Access to Capital- Securities lawyer with a focus on helping minorities access capital the legal way.

Maureen L. Murat, Crowdie Advisors- Future lawyer with a passion for immigration and securities law helping entrepreneurs raise capital via equity crowdfunding.

Kendrick Nguyen and Paul Menchov at Republic- Equity crowdfunding platform highlighting minority, female, and impact investing offerings.

Devin Thorpe, Champion of Social Good- Journalist, author, and avid speaker on a mission to solve some of the world's biggest problems before 2045 by championing the work of change agents who will do it.

Lynn Da, Buy The Block- Advocate for minority investment education and access to real estate crowdfunding investments. Platform set to launch April, 2017.

StartingFive Partners and General Catalyst Partners, FundLatinos - These two groups came together to develop this donation crowdfunding platform to bring together with the vision to build the tools, technology and partnerships needed to foster a trusted environment for Latinos to raise money for personal and community causes that matter.

Charlie Jackson, CEO at Texas Diversity Fund- Equity crowdfunding platform with a focus on encouraging diversity in entrepreneurship.

Financial education is another big issue facing the entire Fintech space and a determining factor when enrolling investors. Startup investing is extremely risky and investors should know there is the potential that they lose their investment capital. This is a call to action for other leaders with a global mindset to stand up and use your power to include minority groups and break down barriers. Crowdfunding is just a tool of democratized finance, we choose whether or not to use it collectively to make a true difference in our local communities onto the rest of the globe.

Be sure to check out Part 1 as I dive into our nation's history—rooted in ethnic diversity its roots of ethnic diversity—and why institutionalized discrimination is still so prevalent today.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer

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