Equity crowdfunding deals of April – invest in the African Starbucks or SaaS for farmers

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Equity crowdfunding is a relatively new way to raise capital or invest in young companies, often along with experienced angel investors. This alternative funding opportunity is becoming sexy also in Europe. Below I feature some campaigns that I liked in April. (Warning: This is no investment recommendation, make your own judgement before/if you invest).

EMERGING CROWD is a new UK-based platform, that takes crowdfunding to emerging markets, starting with Africa. Very ambitious, considering how important is due diligence when you invest in emerging world. Will and Lucien, Co-Founders of Emerging Crowd have long experience with investments in emerging parts of the world. “Our platform’s key objective is to link investors with carefully selected equity and debt investment opportunities in fast-growing frontier and emerging markets. Our primary focus is around consumer services, consumer goods, financial technology and renewables. All of the businesses need to demonstrate solid financial and reputational backgrounds, a proven track record, strong management teams, and good liquidity prospects,” the founders say. The first two companies to launch on the platform are Bozza, the download and streaming platform bringing African multimedia content to a global audience and Neo, a Nigerian coffee shop chain dubbed “the African Starbucks”.

The leading UK platform Seedrs shows a good niche project from Portugal. AGROOP is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform aimed at the farming sector. Currently many of the shortcomings observed in the farming sector are due to the lack of a universal tool which allows farmers to manage their activities in an integrated, collaborative and informed way. 5% of equity offered, EUR 75k sought. An interesting project, strong team. Scaling things up might be a challenge…

Ever wondered why you can’t manage all your utilities, insurance, mortgage, warranties and other paperwork, electronically in one place? Well, NoMoreFiling did… Also, a great team, also on Seedrs….

BIScience is a business intelligence solution provider which helps companies track the online marketing activities of their competitors. Media buyers, sales managers, affiliates such as online media and advertising professionals can use BIScience to better adapt their marketing strategies to the competitive landscape. 15–30% of advertising costs are wasted on learning and researching. Because they know what works for the relative competitors and best-in-class companies, BIScience is able to reduce said costs by 50%. You would invest along with Cyhawk VC from Israel on iAngels, a new equity crowndfunding platform, recently backed by Russian billionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. iAngels is an equity crowdfunding platform that gives accredited investors the opportunity to become angels in their own right by investing in technology startups alongside top tier angel investors in Israel, also watching opportunities in Europe.

Here is a list of top crowdfunding platforms in Europe. New are emerging,but only a few will survive. In general, I believe  more in  platforms where you can invest along with an experienced lead investors. See my interview with CEO of Invesdor, the leading platform in Scandinavia — which recently teamed up with FIBAN, the association of angel investors in Finland.

Recently, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced changes that make crowdfunding more sexy both to startups and investors. The SEC has ruled that early stage startup companies could now raise up to $20 million through equity-based crowdfunding with only “reviewed” financial statements and minimal government compliance. The investments are newly open also, to unaccredited investors. (SEC Democratizes Equity Crowdfunding With JOBS Act.)

Background info: Over the past few years, a new way of funding ideas and projects has emerged; crowdfunding uses the collective cooperation of a group of people (the “crowd”) to pool resources together in support of a specific project. There are two main crowdfunding models: equity-based crowdfunding where people contribute funds to a business or project in exchange for equity and donation-based crowdfunding where people donate to a project in exchange for tangible, non-monetary, rewards. A relatively new phenomenon, crowdfunding is booming worldwide. Donation-based crowdfunding (sites like KickStarter and IndieGogo) has seen tremendous growth in the past couple of years. Now, equity-based crowdfunding is also taking off.

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