By Elizabeth Smith Kulik
With the April 5 JOBS Act Anniversary just behind us, many entrepreneurs are wondering when they will finally be able to launch their equity crowdfunding campaigns. The fact is, many are already capitalizing on crowdfunding through rewards-based crowdfunding. However, when everyday investors are finally able to own a portion of promising and innovative startups – the crowdfunding industry has the potential to grow exponentially by fueling thousands of new businesses starved for capital.
Many of us are excited at the prospect of a new, crowdfunding-friendly SEC chairwoman, Mary Jo White, and cannot wait to see what the rest of the year holds. Nonetheless, entrepreneurs and even existing businesses that are preparing for growth eyeing equity crowdfunding as a means to achieve success should not sit waiting on the sidelines with bated breath. There are some crucial planning steps you can do right now to hit the ground running later. Below are a few basic tips to keep in mind.
1. Develop a solid business plan. Develop a business plan for your project and determine a reasonable timeline for your raise. History has shown that campaigns of 30 days or fewer in length tend to be more successful than those stretched out over longer periods of time. Given time constraints, startups must have all their ducks in a row prior to launching any type of crowdfunding campaign, and even have supportive friends and family willing to contribute on day one. Momentum is key here, and potential investors want to see an clearly articulated vision, business model, financial projections, proposed use of funds and an execution plan for the funded project.
2. Demonstrate value and expertise. Your company’s story is what platforms accept and that “the crowd” funds when they feel a direct connection to a project. This story can be told through various media – high-quality video, infographics, and other supporting materials should be a part of your equity crowdfunding campaign. Whereas donations-based crowdfunding is more about an emotional connection, participants in equity crowdfunding will want to see why your particular company is poised for growth and why its management team is the one to execute on its idea. Corollary to the first tip, you should develop a history of the company, how and why you will make your venture profitable and have strong bios of the management team to demonstrate business savvy and expertise in your particular industry.
3. Prepare a social sharing plan. Social enterprise and crowdfunding are intimately connected, with social being the keyword here. Entrepreneurs should begin to generate buzz for their campaigns well before launch by reaching out to trusted friends, families and business associates to gain their support. And if you can’t – it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Once this initial network is solidified, entrepreneurs should make a plan to leverage these connections – if 10 people from your personal network tell five members of their own family and friends network, soon enough you have dozens of backers already. This process is crucial to validating a project’s potential value. People want to invest in things they understand and in other people with great ideas. Your plan should include the typical social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, but also think about ways to approach thought leaders in your industry through other channels – like blogs. Gaining the attention of an industry expert can pay enormous dividends.
Elizabeth Smith Kulik is the co-founder and CEO of ProHatch, a crowdfunding incubator that offers best-in-class business and social advisory services, and partners with entrepreneurs, startups, SMBs and communities to optimize their crowdfunding goals. Elizabeth has earned an international reputation for mastering complex business problems, architecting world-class valuation models and creating innovative solutions that align risk and returns for divergent public and private stakeholders. She has created and executed development, acquisitions, dispositions, repositioning and growth strategies for more than $75 billion of institutional operating company and real estate investments.