Small businesses now have the opportunity to raise as much capital as $1 million from the public. They can also solicit advice from high-profile entrepreneurs like Naval Ravikant, co-founder and CEO of AngelList, and Jason Calacanis, founder of Inside.com, and an early investor in Uber and Thumbtack.
Republic, an equity crowdfunding platform, announced its launch today. The company invites non-accredited investors (i.e., those with limited investment experience, who may earn a salary of less than $100,000 annually,) to give capital to dozens of startups for an equity stake. So far, Republic has enticed 12 companies onto its platform, which it vets based on factors like how promising it views the business model and broader social mission to be. A company must also be willing to disclose its revenue to the public.
Kendrick Nguyen, Republic's co-founder and CEO, previously served as the head of legal counsel at AngelList, another crowdfunding website that targets accredited, or high net-worth investors. He explains that the idea behind Republic has long been in the works. In April, Nguyen applied for FINRA and SEC approval, and was approved by end of May.
"We're trying to be more than just a crowdfunding platform, but a community to help founders and give investors the necessary education and context," he tells Inc. It also helps that Republic is launching in partnership with other crowdfunding experts, such as Georgia Quinn, founder and CEO of iDisclose, a legal technology company.
Republic stands to generate strong sales. It will cost startups between $6,000 and $12,000 to run a Republic campaign, including assistance with filing financial statements with the SEC, or providing insight into the current VC climate for novice founders. Republic takes a five percent commission after a financing round is successfully completed. Nguyen says that in most cases, companies on Republic will need to raise at least $50,0000.
A new era for crowdfunding
New equity crowdfunding regulations, or Title III of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Businesses Startups) Act, took effect in May. They will allow average members of the public to invest in early-stage companies for the first time.
There are limitations, however: If an investor has an annual salary of less than $100,000, they're only permitted to invest up to $2,000, or five percent of their net worth (whichever is greater). Meanwhile, startups are limited to a maximum of $1 million in investor capital per year.
As part of the Title III rules, the onus is on Republic (as an online intermediary) to communicate the risk that investors would be taking, inasmuch as Republic would not absorb any fiscal losses.
"When an investor signs on to Republic, they must go through and answer a questionnaire correctly," said Nguyen. "This verifies their understanding that early stage investing is highly speculative -- and they're at risk of losing all the invested capital."
It may be in Nguyen's favor that Republic is launching in tandem with the new crowdfunding rules, rather than pivoting to adapt. As Ryan Feit, the co-founder of the Crowdfunding Professional Association, recently pointed out, pre-existing tools like Indiegogo--which historically gives investors products or other rewards in return for capital--may struggle to implement such changes.
"Facilitating regulated investments is very different from giving away T-shirts or hats or putting people's names in the credits of a movie," Feit told Fast Company in an interview last year.