August 19 was a sad day for the group of entrepreneurs and investors that lobbied hard for nearly two years to pass intrastate crowdfunding in the state of North Carolina.
Political jockeying doomed the bill
despite its nearly unanimous approval in the House in 2013. Legislators thought it could help other economic development measures pass the Senate and the full legislature, so they entwined crowdfunding with various bills throughout the legislative session, to an ultimate failure.
The same day, national headline-grabbing real estate crowdlending startup Groundfloor decided to move its operations to Atlanta
. Though Groundfloor’s cofounders said the bill’s failure didn’t prompt the move, intrastate crowdfunding is already happening in Georgia and investors and developers there were Groundfloor’s earliest adopters.
Professional lobbyist and political campaigner Jeff Tippett attributes the bill’s failure to the lack of an organized grassroots organization representing the growing community of entrepreneurs in the state and lobbying for the issues most important to them.
So he's kicking off a new effort with a lobbying campaign called Raise the Capital,
aimed to pass crowdfunding during the 2015 legislative session. But his bigger vision is to gather and unify entrepreneurs around the state around any issue in which government could impede or spark growth.
“When we rally around crowdfunding this year and get the changes we want, in 2016, there is going to be something else that we need,” he says. “And when bills go to Congress, (legislators) will want to know what entrepreneurs think across the state just like they do the Chamber of Commerce.”
Tippett believes he’s the man to lead it. He's worked on dozens of political campaigns in North Carolina including a half dozen leading up to this November's election. He’s a former Chamber of Commerce board member and sits on the Shop Local Raleigh board. He recently started his own company too, a digital agency targeting politicians called Targeted Persuasion
His plan is already in motion. In partnership with the local investment crowdfunding startup Malartu Funds
, he's launched a website to collect the stories of entrepreneurs
, share them with legislators and the public, and collect email addresses. A social media campaign has already begun. And Tippett is planning Town Hall meetings in cities around the state in 2015, in which he’ll invite entrepreneurs to share their stories and the opportunities that crowdfunding affords, and elected officials to hear them.
There is some precedent. Tippett represented small businesses in Raleigh earlier this year when the city threatened to reduce the amount of signage on the exterior of buildings. More than 100 business owners showed up to a town hall meeting
and 350 signed a petition.
“We're so busy running our businesses that we lose touch of the people elected to represent us and forget the value of them hearing our story,” Tippett says.
Tippett is in conversations with several potential sponsors of the bill, since former sponsor Tom Murry was not re-elected to the House. There may also be changes to the bill to provide more benefit to entrepreneurs and investors.
Fundraising hasn’t yet begun, but Tippett expects to approach crowdfunding stakeholders to help fund the efforts.
He’s confident this campaign—and the broader effort—will be well received. Unlike the Moral Monday protests, he says, his strategy will be positive and about economic growth. It’s also nonpartisan.
“When it comes to creating jobs, our legislators say they want to help," Tippett says. "I think we have to provide the right tools for them to do it.”