A Practical Guide to Startup Funding

By: Irwin Stein & Gene Quinn 
February 5, 2018

You have done everything right. You’ve invented a new, exciting and potentially revolutionary technology. You’ve responsibly filed patent applications on your innovations along the way, securing early priority dates with solid, thorough, comprehensive filings. Now you are at the edge of success – if only you can acquire the funding you need.

This is where venture capital comes into play, at least in theory. But technology VCs can be fickle (to put it politely). What is hot one minute is not the next. Today some are predicting that many tech companies will soon choose to relocate to China, which in 2016 saw as much venture capital investment as in the United States (approximately $50 billion according to Silicon Valley Bank), and where VCs are far more willing to fund an array of projects largely due to the massive commercial marketplace.

What if your startup is a university startup based on university developed and patented technology? The goal is not only to create a domestic corporation, but also to create a local corporation that leverages university technology. While there will be many trials and tribulations, if successful that university startup will benefit the entire region, bring high paying jobs to the community, return capital to the university to further research efforts, and continue to allow professors to teach and students to learn on the cutting edge of technological innovation.

Moving to China isn’t an option for a university startup, regardless of the technology and likelihood of attracting funding from venture capitalists. Similarly, many other technology companies simply can’t, or won’t, make the choice to chase money to China. Still with investment for Internet of Things (Iot) softening and hardware companies finding themselves largely out of options, many tech startups must become more creative.

Equity Crowdfunding

Fortunately it is not as difficult to find investors as you may think. Equity crowdfunding is on the path to surpass venture capital as the preferred way for startups and small businesses to raise capital.

In a nutshell, equity crowdfunding is the sale of equity (or debt) in your business directly to investors using an online platform instead of a stock brokerage firm.  It is also less expensive than hiring a brokerage firm. Although direct to investor funding over the Internet has been around almost a generation, it became much more feasible (and popular) with the JOBS Act of 2012.

The JOBS Act provides for three regulations that govern distinct types of offerings. The offerings differ by how much money you can raise and from what type of investor you can raise it from. First, Regulation A (Reg. A) permits offerings of up to $50 million dollars from any investor. Second, Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg. CF) allows companies to raise up to $1,070,000 per year directly from the general public. Finally, Regulation D. (Reg. D) allows companies to advertise and solicit investments from accredited investors (i.e., those whose income is over $200,000 a year or possess over $1 million in assets outside of their primary residence). Reg. D has become the primary vehicle for companies seeking to use crowdfunding.

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