The internet and social media have changed the way people communicate in a vast number of ways. They also offer numerous opportunities—and hazards—for investors. Securities laws and regulations have struggled to keep up with new technologies. A process known as “crowdfunding,” by which individuals and businesses solicit small donations from the general public for specific projects or causes, has become increasingly popular in the past few years. A bill enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2012 allows crowdfunding for investment purposes, subject to various rules. Real estate investors may also now invest in ventures, including real estate syndicates, through crowdfunding platforms.
What Is Crowdfunding?
A typical “crowdfunding” campaign seeks to raise money for a specific project through small contributions. Platforms offered by companies like Kickstarter and GoFundMe allow individuals to contribute via a website or a mobile app. Kickstarter is generally known for creative projects like films, while GoFundMe is known for more charitable causes, like raising money to help pay medical bills.
Contributions to crowdfunding campaigns on this type of platform are not “investments,” since the contributor does not receive equity in the project. Contributors to a Kickstarter project may receive a reward defined in the campaign. For example, people who contribute $20 might get a t-shirt, and people who contribute $50 might get a t-shirt and a poster. Investing through a crowdfunding platform requires compliance with securities laws.
One prominent example of a real estate crowdfunding company is RealtyShares.