Mark Easley is a serial entrepreneur, an angel investor and a crowdfunding enthusiast leading the charge in North Carolina for the legislature to approve in-state crowdfunding.
Easley spent more than 20 years in Silicon Valley’s semiconductor industry, working in software engineering or sales and marketing roles for HP, Intel, Adaptec and PLX Technology.
Since moving to the Triangle in the early 2000s, he’s racked up a local investment portfolio that includes ChannelAdvisor, Adzerk, MyStoreRewards, RocketBolt, Trinket, Offline Media, GROUNDFLOOR and Motricity. He’s also an avid guitarist, and you can see his talents on stage at Paradoxos this week.
Read the NC JOBS Act blog for more on the pending NC crowdfunding legislation.
Over the last year here in the U.S., there have been a number of important developments in the investment crowdfunding exemption story.
Many states are following in the footsteps of Kansas and Georgia, who were the first to implement in-state investment crowdfunding exemptions by regulation (allowing residents of the state to invest in funds-raising businesses in the state), and North Carolina, the first to introduce an exemption by legislation.
As of today, six states—Kansas, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington and Indiana—have intrastate crowdfunding exemptions in place. Four states—North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Texas—have legislation pending. And five more—Idaho, Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Jersey—are in various stages of considering the idea.
Many more states are expected to join the intrastate investment crowdfunding movement because it grows the economy from the ground up and creates jobs locally. And here is a statement from North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry, the original creator and sponsor of the the Federal JOBS Act, on why he supports state-based solutions like NC JOBS.
The North Carolina JOBS Act enables a new way of funding startups and small business in our state known as investment crowdfunding. The FAQs and other posts on www.jobsnc.blogspot.com provide details and analysis of what the bill does and how it will work. The legislation (H680) passed the NC House by an almost unheard of bipartisan vote of 103 to 1 last June, and is now pending in the NC Senate for the short session beginning May 14th.
So if everything goes as expected, 2014 will be the year that intrastate investment crowdfunding will become a reality in North Carolina.
In the startup community, which is so important for North Carolina in both the technology and life sciences markets, a report in Entrepreneur Magazine says that crowdfunding is the fastest growing source of funding for startups. In addition, accredited investor crowdfunding sites like AngelList and FundersClub have proven how effective they can be in providing funding for high growth startups. As an example, just one of the investment crowdfunding sites called EquityNet has over 130 investment crowdfunding projects listed just in the biotech-pharmaceutical-healthcare category.
So what else has changed since last year?
Crowdfunding in general, and investment crowdfunding in particular have been growing very rapidly in the US and around the world. The biggest donation and rewards-based site Kickstarter just announced that it surpassed $1 billion in pledges to crowdfunding campaigns hosted on the site. Entrepreneur Magazine calls the growth of crowdfunding ‘epic’ and says the crowdfunding economy has tripled in three years to over $5.1 billion in 2013. It also expects crowdfunding to provide a $65 billion boost to the world wide economy in 2014.
In the United Kingdom, where investment crowdfunding has been legal for over three years, the investment site Crowdcube announced these stats on its third birthday (in 2011):
“The platform has raised 19.9 million pounds (around $33 million) for 103 businesses, which Crowdcube anticipates will add 1900 jobs over the next three years. Darren Westlake, the company’s cofounder and CEO also mentioned that the company grew by 562 percent on the year before, and it sees over 100 applications per month. The company has 60,000 registered members.”
And that is just one of the many investment crowdfunding platforms operating in the U.K., other parts of Europe, and in Australia.
Meanwhile, several types of investment crowdfunding have taken off like rockets in 2013. One is investment crowdfunding in startups for accredited investors on sites like AngelList. Another one is called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending, where people get personal loans from the crowd. A third is real estate crowdfunding, where local real estate development projects are funded by the community crowd (A good example is Raleigh-based GROUNDFLOOR, which funded its first two projects last month).
Many more market segments are just beginning to use investment crowdfunding as a financing method. And venture capitalists are making major investments in a wide variety of crowdfunding platforms and services around the nation, because they see this as a major growth industry in the financial sector coming down the road. A January 2014 report by nowstreetwire has more details on these trends.
So what does all this mean to North Carolina?
It means we can benefit from these trends by helping our small businesses and startups to participate. We can make it much easier for them to find funding. And that funding will help them grow and create jobs. The NC JOBS Act investment crowdfunding exemption will be an important part of making it happen.