Crowdfunding is a hot topic these days, as the JOBS Act Title II provisions opened the market to accredited investors and allowed companies and funds to raise capital through general solicitation to the market. It is not surprising that several platforms have launched into the opening with enthusiasm and market place power.
One of these platforms is Crowdfunder whose CEO, Chance Barnett, has reached out to organizations to jumpstart new equity crowdfunding. He is among the group of crowdfunding for equity platforms, including Indiegogo, Circle Up, and Angel List.
Crowdfunder teamed up with another collaborator of mine, Singularity University, which focuses on the exponential growth of technology to solve big problems. They launched CrowdfundXWomen in October to solicit applications from women who wanted to scale their businesses and raise capital, potentially through crowdfunding. I am very interested in identifying women entrepreneurs who see big problems and envision their solution. Most importantly, they have to demonstrate the execution skills to bring their companies to scale.
I might have been a bit skeptical about the quality of the companies we would find from a general solicitation call out on a new platform. So it was to my delight when I actually got to see the 10 women who rose to the top of the 175 who applied.
The companies these women brought to market ranged from Healthcare IT (Tiatros) to the gamification of hiring talent (1-Page), the aggregation and analytics of market intelligence for agriculture (ChinaSmart), to bringing solar power to rural areas of Africa (Angaza) and energy and environmental cloud-based systems for building management on a large scale. (Switch Automation). You can find the rest of the applicants here.
What excited me about these women is their appetite for taking on big problems and presenting realistic solutions that could grow. Each of them had a real story to tell and a problem they wanted to solve. One could easily envision a sizable company emerging. Some were more advanced than others, and I flagged those I think are further ahead in their development in the paragraph above. All will have access to the Singularity Innovation Lab, run by the capable Sandy Miller. It is access to the ecosystem built around Singularity that will have real value in accelerating these companies’ growth.
1-Page won the top prize by beating out Switch by .06 percent point; the competition was that close. For this honor, 1-Page received free listing on the Crowdfunder platform and a fee-free funding opportunity. Switch got three months free desk space to the RocketSpace Accelerator in San Francisco and access to its wide network of VC investors and collaborators. Both are real value to the winning companies.
I think crowdfunding is the democratization of capital, and in that regard, is positive for women who haven’t had access to capital on a parity basis with men. There will be many iterations of crowdfunding developed in the coming year. As for me, I am supportive of evolution.
Over 14 years, Springboard has worked with over 500 companies founded by women entrepreneurs to raise capital. Women like Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, Helen Greiner, co-founder of iRobot, Linda Hall, CEO of Minute Clinic, Pam Contag, serial entrepreneur and founder of Xenogen and Ping Fu, founder of Geomagic 3D Printing. The list is long, and I see more women rising to their level of success, including several from the first CrowdfundXWomen competition. Right on women, right on.