So You Want to Be an Investor

But You Only Have Enough Money for a Crowdfunder

John Wayne Crowdfunding

You want me to invest in wooden bow-ties? Son, you’re a few beers short of a six-pack

If Warren Buffet is the Oracle of Omaha then Mark Cubanӳ legions follow the Diviner of Dallas. Last year this sage prognosticated in his blog about a bubble he saw on the horizon, that of equity crowdfunding. Forbes posed the question of the crowdfunding bubble back in 2012 and both the buzz and the nay-saying hasnӴ stopped since. Since regulations were recently loosened up in the United States to enable more people to enter the game of equity crowdfunding, letӳ look at this funding fad a little closer.

Forbes magazine predicts that in 2016 we will see crowdfunding overtake traditional VC funding. Now, there are several types of crowdfunding, from your friend trying to get donations for their trip to Europe (we all know that personũ to reward based crowdfunding (theoretically step up to be one of the first to invest and end up one of the first to have Դhe next big thingԩ, to equity crowdfunding, where you buy equity in the fledgling company.

While the risk is different with each one, the sage advice is to consider each one as much a donation as your friendӳ fun fund. If the reward crowdfunding lads abscond with your money and you never get your supersonic drone, tough tatas. And if that company you have ԥquityԠin finds itself like nine out of ten startups, well, thatӳ what we call in Texas up poo creek without a paddle.

Letӳ paint the rosy picture for a second, though. There are good ideas out there that need capital that is difficult to come by through traditional channels if they are just getting started. Banks and investors can be quite picky about seeing documented growth and promise and that canӴ exactly happen without money. Murphyӳ law: In order to get a loan, you must first prove you donӴ need one. And in this case, there is something to be said for having the ability to turn to a crowdfunding platform and your friendӳ friendӳ friend for help.

As with almost anything in life, there is a range of options out there of varying quality, and crowdfunding platforms are no different. It is imperative to do research and know what requirements, if any, a platform has for participation. Some do a better job than others at weeding out the fraudsters and deluded. Itӳ also imperative to make sure investments come with pre-emptive rights, meaning your 1% share isnӴ suddenly diluted to .0001% somewhere down the funding road.

There is one or two success stories out there, as with E-Car Club, which was acquired after only a few years and paid out nice returns to investors. However, most companies that need your crowdfunding are not just companies considered sub-prime by banks or investors, they are early stage startups, meaning that if they do conquer all odds and make it, chances are still good that it wonӴ be for 5-10 years.

Increase your ROI, Return on Investment

The luck of the Irish with you?

So knowing that, at best, youӶe got a 1 in 10 chance that in a decade youӬl get a return, as I advised earlier, consider your funding a donation. My mother, another Diviner of Dallas, always said ԤonӴ loan money you canӴ live without.Ԡ What equity crowdfunding has done that is both exciting and dangerous is give us all the chance to invest.

And this is what Mark Cuban points to as the real problem. Your Average Joe can now throw $1000 or more into a company and feel heӳ made an investment. Not only is that mortgage money for Mr. Joe, thatӳ money that can literally just evaporate as it did with Rebus Group recently. ø00,000 pounds raised in equity crowdfunding just disappeared overnight as the company folded.

Itӳ not like a publicly traded company that has liquidity. When my Crapital One and Shiti Bank stock tanked in the aftermath of 2008, I may have theoretically lost a bit of dinero, but they were still worth a few measly bucks a share. And when they bounced back a little and I needed some cash I could sell them on the spot, unlike crowdsourced equity. When youӲe in, youӲe in.

It may be a bit elitist, but Mark Cuban isnӴ totally wrong to worry that many of us 99%ers will now be tempted to think we too are ԡngel investorsԠand that we have found the next Uber to invest in. Between the high fees they charge to participating companies and the buzzy temptation of returns to those Cuban refers to as Էidows and orphansԬ itӳ hard not to envision a payday loan place with its flashing neon dollar sign.

If you see that company you really believe in, like the next electric car, you dirty hippie, and have the money to put in, by all means go for it. But if thatӳ really your mortgage money or you owe Amex a dime, best to cool your heels, cowboy, and buy a savings bond. You might even stay ahead of inflation.

ZirraMarch 20, 2016