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The following is a guest post from Scott Picken, the founder and CEO of Wealth Migrate, a global real estate crowdfunding portal. Disclosure: Wealth Migrate is a client of Crowdsourcing.org / Massolution.
In 1999, Warren Buffett was quoted as being a skeptic of the hyped-up technology stocks everyone was piling into. Explaining his reticence to jump on the bandwagon, he pointed out that over 2000 car makes became available “in an industry that had an incredible impact on people’s lives. If you had foreseen in the early days of cars how this industry would develop, you would have said, ‘Here is the road to riches.’” In the end, however, only three major auto manufacturers prevailed.
That year, everyone believed that the internet would change business forever, and the increasing number of tech IPOs and skyrocketing stock prices were testaments to this. However, as Buffett had alluded to, valuations of these companies were not based on fundamentals or tried-and-tested business principles.
At the time, many investment bankers and analysts indicated these principles didn’t matter as much anymore, that times had changed. Well, we all know how this story ended: the “dot-com” bubble burst in 2000-2001 and only a select few tech companies, like Amazon and eBay, survived the fallout. Buffett knew that the auto industry provided a cautionary warning, but few had paid attention to history.
Real Estate and Crowdfunding: A Match Made in Heaven?
It is one thing to be in front of a monumental industry change, but another to understand the fundamentals of that industry and to execute on the opportunities it presents. Today, investment crowdfunding has taken off in the US, UK, Europe, Australia, Asia, South Africa, and other markets around the world, opening up access to capital and allowing investors more control than ever over their portfolios. Real estate is one of the most popular industries among new crowdfunding platforms catering to investors searching for ever-higher yields. The coupling of crowdfunding and real estate investing from a marketing perspective makes complete sense.
However, as with most new technological advances, there are skeptics who believe this new way of raising money online is problematic and investors will end up bilked out of their investment capital. With memories of the real estate market collapse of 2007-2008 still fresh, crowdfunding for real estate has become a particular target for the naysayers.
Unfortunately, they have a point.
There are now thousands of crowdfunding platforms around the world, many of them dedicated to real estate. Moreover, a September report industry analysts Crowdnetic showed that two of the three top sectors for “accredited investor” crowdfunding raises under Title II of the JOBS Act in the US are real estate related, proving real estate crowdfunding’s growing popularity.
Having spoken at multiple real estate crowdfunding conferences around the US and the world, I’m increasingly hearing certain verbiage and trends in this space that are cause for concern. First, the conflation of the terms “curating” and “due diligence.” It is true that a reputable real estate platform will perform due diligence on every opportunity and therefore be “curating,” in a sense, the best deals on their site. However, as the last internet bubble showed, it can be tempting to find ways to take shortcuts or make the numbers sound more impressive than they are in order to attract venture capital, which could well happen under the guise of “curation.” This article is a clarion call to industry leaders, founders and other stakeholders to not let that happen.
Secondly, a key area that is a cause of concern is that many, if not most, real estate platforms do not have “skin in the game,” as some like to call it. These platforms act as matchmakers between investors and syndicators without putting their money into their own deals. It would follow, then, that the interests of such platforms could gravitate toward trying to upload as many deals as possible in the immediate short term, as this is how they generate revenue. Meanwhile, investors are primarily interested in how much money they make in the long run. Therefore, interests are not aligned between the parties, which could give platforms an incentive to offer riskier deals than they normally would present to investors. Speculators are not investing based on the fundamentals and in all this excitement, many have forgotten the basis upon which wealth is created and preserved in real estate.
While the market is still on the rebound, this dynamic will be fine. As a billionaire real estate investor once told me, “Even a turkey can fly in a hurricane.” In real estate, there is a long tail of two to five years. If you buy something on eBay, you know within a few days if the supplier has integrity and whether you can keep doing business with them. In real estate, it can take several years to establish this kind of relationship. When the market turns, platforms whose interests are not explicitly aligned with their investor communities will be tempted to blame their own real estate syndicators and sponsors. Meanwhile, investors will be left to fend for themselves. Regulatory authorities are likely to play a major part in the aftermath, as has happened to the traditional banking sector with Dodd-Frank and other rules and regulations.
What Investors Should Look For in a Platform
Those real estate crowdfunding sites that had substantial real estate experience prior to the advent of crowdfunding will be the ones who most likely can ensure that they are building quality marketplaces. Portals like Prodigy, Fundrise, Carlton, CoAssets, and Wealth Migrate (of which I am the founder and CEO) are all run by teams of people who originally specialized in real estate and then embraced technology.
These platforms do not focus necessarily on securing deals with the best name recognition or publicity value, but keep an eye on the fundamentals: the quality of the partners, CAP rates, management teams, vacancy trends, financing metrics, IRR, macro- and microeconomic considerations, sector trends and most importantly, managing risk and wealth preservation. They are less worried about crowdfunding a ‘sexy’ hotel and would rather focus on investments that are going to offer long-term growth and income.
Even before we launched our global platform, we found success for ourselves and our investor base by focusing on areas that were weathering the recessionary years better than others. Australia, for example, never officially entered into a recession, and its real estate values actually started rising while other countries’ property markets collapsed. Armed with this knowledge, a philosophy of partnering with locals to benefit from their expertise, and implementing a proprietary system for managing project risk, we were able to achieve great success.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Real estate crowdfunding has by far and away had the greatest growth since the SEC amended Regulation D rules in September 2013 to allow for general solicitation of accredited investors in the US. While the market grows, early adopters should be cognizant of the inherent risks in this industry, think carefully about each platform’s due diligence process, and assess whether its business model incentivizes its management to truly have their investors’ best interests in mind.
Wealth Migrate’s founders and management team have facilitated 10,780 international investments and been trusted to invest $1.34 billion internationally for over three decades. We are passionate about educating both investors and real estate providers on safety and what they need to know, which is why we have actively engaged with Massolution (Crowdsourcing.org’s sister firm) to develop a comprehensive real estate crowdfunding industry report, scheduled for release at the end of this year. We will also be presenting our findings at some of the biggest global real estate conferences like MIPIM Asia 2014 and MIPIM Europe 2015.
Just like the automobile revolutionized transportation, crowdfunding is going to revolutionize real estate investing. The more quickly both seasoned and new real estate investors understand how the process works, the faster they can use it to their advantage, diversify their holdings and benefit from still-recovering real estate markets around the world.
Scott Picken is the founder and CEO of Wealth Migrate, the leading global real estate crowdfunding platform, and the author of “Property Going Global.” View Crowdsourcing.org’s recent profile of Wealth Migrate to learn more about the company.Read More →
3 Ways to Use CrowdFunding for Market Research | Huffington PostAre you hoping to fund the creation of a new piece of video game technology? Or is your goal to help launch a financial startup business? Whatever your objective is, it is necessary to support it with the right form of content; failing to do so may hurt your campaign.
USC launches campus crowdfunding website | Daily TrojanThe program, dubbed Ignite USC, is a combination of the famed Trojan Family network and crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter. It aims to serve as a way for students and faculty to raise funding for meaningful projects that might not otherwise get exposure. Donations to projects will be counted toward the university’s campaign to raise $6 billion in funds. Projects will receive 100 percent of donations earned.
What If Your Crowdfunding Campaign Doesn’t Raise Enough Money? | SmallBizTrendsOne of the main reasons they were so far off was a particularly expensive pledge the game developer made to backers. The company had promised to make a documentary about its game creation process, among other perks. With so many more backers than expected, shipping of the documentary alone cost $250,000 because it had to be shipped internationally to 87,000 supporters. The film production costs for the documentary were another half million.
How Crowdsourcing Will Help Startups Build Their Own Versions of Siri | WiredThat’s why he started Wit.ai, a service that helps developers pool their voice samples together to power a speech and natural language recognition system that Lebrun hopes will soon rival the depth and breadth of the tools available to the likes of Apple and Google. In the years to come, this could become an important thing, as developers build the next wave of technologies that require speech interfaces, such as internet-connected appliances and wearable devices that don’t have screens.
Crowdsource everything, from dating to web design to fortune telling, with this Japanese startup | Tech In AsiaFor Coconala, crowdsourcing does not need to be limited to the workplace. Some of the usual freelance work is listed, but there is also treasure trove of other offered services, often for things like personal consulting. You can get advice on topics as various as fashion choices, restaurant picks, fun hobbies, and child rearing. Psychological and love counseling are two other categories as well. Love, predictably, is complex and has numerous subcategories like “looking hot,” “non-heterosexual,” “getting married,” “problems in marriage.” Users wanting to get married but also wanting to avoid the problems of married life might want to purchase some time with one of the fortune tellers listed on the site.
Why The Collaborative Economy Is Changing Everything | ForbesIt’s true, that the terms “sharing” or “collaborative economy” are being quite overused to encompass pretty much any and every single thing you think of, and that causes a lot of confusion. For example many of the things that fall under the sharing economy are what we used to simply call “renting,” now it seems as though any business that is aiming to target a consumer of any kind somehow gets labeled as being a part of the “sharing economy.” However over time this will be ironed out and clarified as the market matures.
How the Sharing Economy Is Changing Your Halloween Costume Search | Huffington PostWith only weeks to go before Halloween night, many of us are dusting off old costumes or looking to buy or create new outfits. There are more options than ever now to get one thanks to the Internet. Many people go to one of those Halloween pop-up stores that appear in our local shopping malls this time of year. Others turn to Amazon or other online stores to find the right costume. Now, the emergence of the online sharing economy is giving people still another option that a few years ago wasn’t available.
Open innovation important in promoting prosperity: Li Keqiang | Daily TimesAs economic globalization and informatization advance, all countries need to work together to achieve multiplication of knowledge and value through innovation cooperation, so as to solve development problems and promote common prosperity, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said.Innovation has become a new propeller for the development of mankind, Li said at an international forum themed on innovation, adding that the world, undergoing profound changes, calls for innovation in large scale and at deep level.Read More →
Husband and wife team Anna Mayer and Daniel Graf were both professionals in their early 30’s when they decided they wanted to start a family. However, that proved a lot more difficult than they thought it would be. So mountains of research, visits to experts and some trial and error later, they decided to apply their experience to technology, and Ovatemp, a fertility tracking app, was born. Read More
Google today announced that it has acquired Zync Render, a service that makes it easier for movie studios to render their visual effects in the cloud. The technology was used to render effects in movies like Star Trek: Into Darkness and Looper, for example. Google will use the technology to make it easier for studios to use its Cloud Platform infrastructure to render their creations. Read More
Much Confusion Surrounds JOBS Act Filings | Hedge Fund AlertSince the JOBS Act took effect in September 2013, managers overseeing 187 funds have filed Form Ds with the SEC declaring their intention to advertise their offerings, according to a Hedge Fund Alert analysis. But the managers of 51 of those vehicles subsequently realized they had filed the forms in error and don’t plan to market to the public. And the Form Ds for at least another eight funds appear to mistakenly make JOBS Act claims.
Congressmen to SEC: Crowdfunding Laws Are Taking Way Too Long To Pass | BetaBeatCongressmen Jared Polis and Darrell Issa, along with the 28 other members of the House Innovation and Entrepreneurship Caucus, have drafted a letter to pressure the SEC into finishing the job. The law already passed in the house and was signed off on by the President, and the caucus is sick of waiting for the SEC to get around to writing out the rules so that the laws can be exercised and enforced.
Founder of Potato Salad Kickstarter Plans Benefit for Homeless | MashableDubbed PotatoStock 2014, the free concert will take place on September 27 in Columbus Ohio and will feature a lineup of local artists and an a yet-to-be-determined national touring act. Brown told Mashable that all concession proceeds will go to a permanent, donor-advised fund at the Columbus Foundation.
Local Lift Is A Kickstarter For Local Businesses | TechCrunchWith Local Lift, these business are able to create a campaign for a project that would benefit their customers or the community at large, as an alternative to taking out a loan for working capital which McClinton says are still just way too expensive for many business owners to consider.
Neil Young’s PonoMusic crowdfunding again, this time offering equity | The GuardianThe new campaign was officially launched today, although it was launched quietly at the start of August. More than $1.4m has already been pledged, with the campaign due to end on 1 September.“We are already seeing that this is a growing trend, where companies who successfully run Kickstarter campaigns then want to give those backers a chance to invest through an equity crowdfunding campaign,” Crowdfunder chief executive Chance Barnett told The Guardian.
Funding Circle Sheds Light on Defaults & Recovery | Crowdfund InsiderFunding Circle, a peer to peer lending platform that strives to operate a highly transparent lending business, recently shared some insight into their defaults and recovery side of their company. Just like any other investment, lending on a P2P platform entails risk. Investors mitigate risk by having a balanced portfolio. Data on P2P lending platforms have shown a higher rate of return for associated risk thus increasing investor interest. Funding Circle is one of the leading P2P platforms in the UK but they also have set up shop in the United States (and are looking to expand into other markets).
I&B Ministry uses crowdsourcing for Independence Day ads | The Hindu Business LineThe Ministry of Information and Broadcasting recently used crowdsourcing to come up with advertisement designs for the 68th Independence Day. The idea behind this exercise was to encourage public participation.The Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity received as many as 1,000 entries from enthusiasts. The entries were judged by an independent selection committee of field experts, artists and academicians. Top three winners bagged an award of Rs 15,000, while seven other designs bagged consolation prices of Rs 3,000 and letter of appreciation from the I & B Ministry.
Amazon, Google, and Crowdsourcing: The Battle for the Last Mile | Logistics ViewpointsBut controlling the last mile is more important than ever. So Amazon is rolling out its own fleet of delivery trucks. These trucks become a true competitor to UPS and FedEx, which will surely miss the Amazon business. For Amazon, it adds control over the last mile, and who is actually delivering the merchandise to customers. It also creates some additional flexibility into delivery timeframes, which can increase customer satisfaction. At the same time, it offers a way to reduce shipping costs, which have been increasingly as a larger percentage of revenue every year since 2009.
The New Sharing Economy: How People Created Their Own Big Business | Wall Street Cheat SheetStill, the sharing economy opens a can of worms that muddies more than just our cultural mores. In San Francisco, for instance, Airbnb has been blamed for exacerbating the city’s housing problems. Services like Lyft, too, have gotten flack from established taxi companies; in some cities these kinds of services have even been banned as a result of lobbying by such traditional tax firms, according to The Economist. Indeed, regulation is a huge issue in the new and seemingly ever-expanding frontier that is the sharing economy.
Next “Sharing Economy” Step: Backhoes on Loan | Next CityAfter interviewing over 30 public works directors in Michigan, he realized that MuniRent had a market. Mid-sized cities need to increase utilization of their heavy duty equipment and smaller cities need easy, rental access to the same. The first cluster of cities using MuniRent started in Mond’s backyard, Washtenaw County, home to Ann Arbor. That Mond says will be the “epicenter” from which he’d like to build out the platform.Read More →
Seed&Spark, the crowdfunding platform focused on films, announced today that it raised $1 million in a seed round.
The round was led by Manitou Ventures; Abigail Disney, Lisa Kleiner-Chanoff, Matthew Mills, Vijay Pandurangan, Deborah Meijer, and others also contributed to the round.
Seed&Spark also announced that Julie Parker Benello, co-founder of Chicken & Egg Pictures and Gamechanger Films and film producer and Veritas Prep cofounder Chad Troutwine have joined the startup’s board of directors.
We wrote about the platform when it was running a self-run crowdfunding campaign last year. As we wrote back then, Seed&Spark has a plethora of unique features that are targeted specifically at filmmakers. For instance, campaign owners can create ‘Wish Lists’ for items that they need money for. That way, backers can see exactly what they’re supporting. If a backer has an item that’s on the wish list, that person can arrange to loan the gadget to the filmmaker.
The most important differentiator for Seed&Spark when compared to other crowdfunding portals, though, is the site’s ‘Cinema,’ which serves as a distribution platform for the crowdfunded films. While it may not yet be a household name, it can still provide exposure for the directors and actors. With the number of brands jumping into the video streaming space, films in the Cinema could attract a lot of interest from the likes of Amazon, Yahoo!, or Netflix. Indeed, that’s already beginning to happen.
This summer, Seed&Spark inked a partnership with Amex NOW, which gives films the “opportunity for an in-home theatrical release of their film.” With a fresh injection of cash, the team behind Seed&Spark can focus more of its efforts on cultivating more such partnerships. That’s something CEO Emily Best said she wants to do, in order “to put truly independent content in front of the widest possible audiences and make sure the creators benefit.”Read More →
Whenever you think of startups, you very likely think of young people brimming with ideas sitting in garages and dorm rooms and solving problems with technology. We are conditioned in a way to consider the idea even over the person who came up with it, but after listening to entrepreneurs, I’ve come to learn, it’s not about the quality of the product idea or even the founders… Read More