A national expert told the new Regional Crowd Fund Investing Committee Wednesday that cities tend to be “hot or cold” in their receptiveness to the coming digital crowd funding revolution.
Consider Louisville hot.
Wednesday was a big day for Louisville’s nascent crowdfunding effort, founded by entrepreneur Kent Oyler, president of OPM Entreprenurial Services.
First, the group picked up about 10 new members, a mix of business leaders, entrepreneurs and educators. The Louisville committee became the Regional Crowd Fund Investing committee after the arrival of Nick Such and Brian Raney from Awesome Inc., a Lexington co-working space and startup accelerator.
(For the record, Southern Indiana-based entrepreneur and investor Tony Schy is a charter member.)
Second, it became formally organized, with the creation of four committees – education, engagement & advocacy, communications & awareness and infrastructure.
Still, there remain miles to go before the region’s high-impact entrepreneurs can use the new investment model to get in front of investors.
Those in attendance at U of L’s University Club continued the inaugural discussion of just what the Kentucky/Southern Indiana effort can do – should do – to position local entrepreneurs and investors for the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, expected to be the biggest change in securities laws in 79 years.
Which was one of the points made during the meeting by Jason Best, Sherwood Neiss and Robert Mitchell with Miami-based Crowdfund Capital Advisors via a teleconference with the group.
Best and Mitchell pitched the group on consulting with them and with Greater Louisville Inc. executives, promising to make Louisville officials experts in this still nebulous arena.
Best said in his experience, Chambers of Commerce “either are very hot, or very cold” on crowdfunding. Early adopters are following the JOBS Act progress, while other cities “are uninterested. You are on the leading edge.”
To get our region front of this financial giant wave, Oyler brought together last month a core group that includes angel investor Phoebe Wood, Nucleus executives Vickie Yates Brown and Vik Chadha and Louisville economic-development czar Ted Smith to discuss, refine and mobilize the effort.
Wednesday meeting topics included:
• whether the Louisville region group should take an activist tack in the SEC comment period leading up to changes in equities regulations under the JOBS Act. Investors, elected officials and entrepreneurs from across the United States have commented. (See graphic at right.) “I don’t think Louisville should be silent,” said Dr. Jim Chen, former dean of the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. Mary Thorsby, a consultant working with Oyler on the project, said she’d love to see “Louisville, Kentucky” repeatedly on the SEC’s JOBS Act comment site. “It’s exciting to see the interest here,” Thorsby said.
• whether the group should create its own crowd fund site, with vetted Louisville-based companies, or be a channel on a national crowd fund site. Bill Dawson, manager, University Commercialization- Enterprise Corp at Greater Louisville Inc., advocated the latter, predicting current non-profit crowdfunding platforms will go commercial, maximizing exposure for local startups and companies. “We should do education and promotion,” Dawson said. Tom Cottingham, Insider Louisville CEO, advocated that Louisville create a branded market of vetted companies “in a market of incredible uncertainty. Companies that come out of Louisville should have that stamp of approval.” Dr. Charles Moyer, former dean of College of Business and Public Administration at U of L, said too many potential entrepreneurs and investors have little knowledge of the potential of Internet crowdfunding or the evolving federal regulations.
Moyer recommended the Regional Crowd Fund Investing Committee create “a serious programming agenda,” creating a series of seminars to explain the concepts and SEC regulatory changes to investors, entrepreneurs and business owners.
By no later than the first quarter of 2014, entrepreneurs trying to create the next Apple and investors looking for the next Apple will be able to use Kickstarter or Kickstarter-like crowdfunding platforms to meet up.
Rules are expected to include new formulas for mixes of “accredited” and non-accredit investors, as well as how startups and established companies can solicit potential investors.
Title II of the JOBS Act waves the prohibition on general solicitation, allowing startups and small businesses to solicit accredited investors – people with $1 million in net wealth or at least $200,000 in annual salary. The final rules are scheduled to be complete this summer.
But it’s Title III of the Jobs Act – the Crowdfunding clause – that’s likely the game changer. Title III would allow companies to raise up to $1 million, with up to 5 percent of the capital coming from non-accredited small investors whose net worth is no more than $100,000. Transactions might be through brokers, or via funding portals, which likely will be forbidden from dispensing investment advice, soliciting investors or handling transactions for a fee.
Attendees at the second Regional Crowd Fund Investing Committee included:
Suzanne Bergmeister, Entrepreneur in Residence, U of L
Deborah Boyer, independent consultant and entrepreneur
Vickie Yates Brown, president and CEO of Nucleus Innovation Park, the University of Louisville
Charles Buddeke, investor
Vik Chadha, executive vice president, Venture Development, Nucleus
Co-Founder at Backupify, Inc.
Co-Founder at Scalable Ventures, LLC
Tom Cottingham, CEO of Insider Louisville.
Bill Dawson, manager, University Commercialization- Enterprise Corp at Greater Louisville Inc.
Joe Dover, director of sales and marketing, OPM
Charles Moyer, retired dean of the College of Business and Public Administration at U of L
Kent Oyler, founder and managing partner of OPM
Brian Raney, founder, Awesome Inc.
Tony Schy, CEO of Velocity SI, a new Southern Indiana startup incubator and co-founder of Jeffersonville-based health care auditing firm Chapman Kelly Inc.
Nick Such, director, Awesome Inc.
Mary Thorsby, CEO at iList Media, and corporate communications consultant at Thorsby + Associates
Phoebe Wood, principal, CompaniesWood, an angel investor and former Brown-Forman CFO