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Infosys Foundation USA Commits Funding to Train 1,000 Teachers in Computer Science

Press Release – Palo Alto CA – May 02, 2017: Infosys Foundation USA is pleased to announce the funding of Computer Science (CS) professional development for over 1,000 public school teachers in the summer of 2017. Including teachers supported in previous years, this will bring the total number of elementary and secondary school teachers trained to over 2,100, to benefit more than a million students over the next several years.

“The future is being written in code, and there is a critical need to invest in computer science education today. To prepare children for 21st century jobs it is vital that students can identify and solve complex problems, develop critical thinking skills and learn the computational thinking that is pervasive in a digital economy,” said Vandana Sikka, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation USA. “Teachers are the heart and soul of our children’s education and their role is even more significant in our digital world. One CS teacher alone can help hundreds, or even thousands, of students. Multiply that body of teachers by the thousands, and now you are able to achieve scale to get closer to our dream of making computer science accessible to every child in the United States.”

Inspired by the success of the 2016 CS PD Week, the Foundation is making investments in a variety of computer science teacher training workshops. These workshops make it easier for teachers from rural areas and smaller districts to attend at no cost in July 2017. Participating programs include Exploring Computer Science and Bootstrap at CS PD Week 2017 in Golden, CO; and Beauty and Joy of Computing, UTeach CS Principles, and Mobile CS Principles at various cities throughout the US. The latter three programs will make it possible for teachers to offer the new College Board endorsed Advance Placement CS Principles course to students in their high schools.

In addition, Infosys Foundation USA is continuing its funding of Code.org to train several hundred teachers in their high school CS Principles course, as well as in courses designed for elementary school students. Through its partnership with education crowdfunding leader DonorsChoose.org, the Foundation continues to provide CS training opportunities to teachers across America. By focusing on such evidence-based curricula, the Foundation is working to ensure that students benefit from a high quality computing education.

Infosys Foundation USA has already made multiple investments in previous years towards this goal of reducing the digital divide. The Foundation is the leading sponsor of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the professional association for 23,000 CS teachers worldwide, and supports CSTA’s Continuing Professional Development Pipeline project and Teaching Excellence awards, along with the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). Besides supporting CS PD Week 2016, the Foundation has provided funding for CS training for hundreds of teachers with various partners.

Infosys Foundation USA’s long standing commitment to this cause is demonstrated by its systemic approach to supporting a variety of CS education programs over the past several years. These include funding directed towards curriculum development, afterschool programs, mentoring opportunities, research, evaluation, and boot camps and hackathons.

About Infosys Foundation USA

Infosys Foundation USA is focused on bridging the digital divide in America by supporting high quality computer science education and coding skills with a particular focus on underrepresented communities. It aims to give children and young adults the skills they need to become creators, not just consumers, of technology. In pursuit of this mission, the Foundation has partnered with internationally acclaimed non-profits and institutions like Code.org, New York Academy of Sciences, DonorsChoose.org, and the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition, Infosys Foundation USA committed a million dollars to the Infy Maker Awards to inspire makers across the U.S. to demonstrate creative excellence in making projects with genuine impact. Learn more at http://www.infosys.org/usa/ follow on Twitter @InfyFoundation or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/InfosysFoundationUSA

“Coding Autism” Surpasses $50K Crowdfunding Goal to Help Train Adults with Autism How to Code

Program Aims to Combat Unemployment and Underemployment Rates Among People with Autism; Crowdfunding Campaign Launches to Help Fund Program and Provide Scholarships

Press Release – (Los Angeles, CA) – April 28, 2017 – Coding Autism, a full-service professional coaching and training company that trains adults on the autism spectrum in professional skills such as software engineering, quality assurance and web development, today announced that the company has surpassed its $50,000 crowdfunding goal. The contributions will help fund the program’s first web development bootcamp, and provide for scholarships so that the entire 15-person first class can attend tuition-free.

Every year, the number of people diagnosed with autism rises, however there are simply not enough quality programs designed towards training adults with autism with real-world career skills. As a result, too many are either unemployed or working in menial jobs below their skill level. To help adults with autism learn the fundamental skills necessary to secure an entry-level web developer job, Coding Autism has announced a new program to train those with autism how to code.

Coding Autism crowdfunding campaign can be seen at: https://startsomegood.com/coding-autism-training-adults-with-autism-in-code.

Coding Autism’s first web development boot camp is called the ASPIRE Web Development Immersive. This is a 15-week, full-time course where students will be learning the fundamental skills of coding. The first class will take place at Hub 101 in Thousand Oaks, CA (Greater Los Angeles Area) with online classes planned in 2018.

“We are proud to surpass our funding goal and are encouraged that supporters from coast to coast agree that it is completely unacceptable that our autistic community is experiencing an over 80% unemployment and underemployment rate,” said Oliver Thornton, CEO & co-founder of Coding Autism. “As passionate advocates who have either been diagnosed with autism ourselves or have family members affected with autism, we understand that with the right resources, training, coaching and environment that individuals with autism can thrive in the workforce.”

By founding Coding Autism and launching the ASPIRE Web Development Immersive, Mr. Thornton believes that they can create highly qualified, skilled, and eager to work autistic employees to fill job vacancies in the tech industry.

Research has shown that typical autistic characteristics such as attention to detail, affinity for repetitive tasks and introversion are all traits that lend themselves to becoming a successful employee within the tech industry. With the $50k+ average annual salary for entry-level, full-time web developers, tech is an attractive industry in which to pursue a career.

Over the last decade, companies such as Microsoft and SAP have implemented autism hiring initiatives. This was done not to combat autistic unemployment, but because they have seen that adults with autism can be exceptional employees and drive innovation when provided the right structure, mentorship and on-boarding. Students that want to enroll can sign-up to receive more information at: www.CodingAutism.com

A video can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVybQJSNlS4

About Coding Autism:

Coding Autism is a full-service professional coaching and training company that trains adults on the autism spectrum in professional skills such as software engineering, quality assurance, and web development. We also assist our graduates in finding employment within the software and technology industries. We do so by providing services such as immersive programs and bootcamps, resume workshops, career counseling, interview preparation, and coaching/mentorship, all of which is designed around providing an environment where people on the spectrum can thrive. More information is available at http://www.CodingAutism.com.

JOBS Act Opens New Window For Small Company IPOs


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

With the “dot com crash” in 2000, largely by regulatory design, small company IPOs all but disappeared from the American economic landscape.

A scarcely noticed part or title of the 2012 JOBS Act sought to address that directly by reinvigorating Regulation A, raising the cap from $5 million to $50 million and creating a path for a Reg A offering to be an effective IPO (initial public offering). The new rule is commonly called Reg A+.

In early 2016, Elio Motors went public using Regulation A.

The rules weren’t effective until mid-2015 and the market is just beginning to mature. Rod Turner is the founder and CEO of Manhattan Street Capital, one of the players in this nascent marketplace.

Turner says his firm has 18 clients preparing their Reg A+ offerings. Watch my discussion with Rod at the top of this article.

Rod is passionate about using capital for good, creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs and creating companies that will employ people at scale. He’s also a Forbes contributor who has written about these topics.

Rod says, “Mid-sized companies have very limited access to growth capital. Regulation A+ provides an excellent solution in that our companies can raise up to $50 mill per year from investors of any income level worldwide, and the shares can be publicly tradeable, making them more appealing to the investor and providing liquidity to the company founders.”

Allowing ordinary investors to participate in offerings of small companies, gives them the opportunity to participate in their growth. Back in the 1980s, Microsoft went public as a relatively small business and ordinary investors were able to participate in the growth of the company exceeding two orders of magnitude. On the other hand, Facebook didn’t go public or allow ordinary investors to participate until the company had reached a valuation of $100 billion–only wealthy investors participated in the creation of value.

The new marketplace is exciting. Watch the interview with Rod to learn how your organization can take advantage of Reg A+.

Rod Turner, courtesy of Manhattan Street Capital

Rod Turner, courtesy of Manhattan Street Capital

More about Manhattan Street Capital:

Twitter: @Manhattanstcap

Funding platform for mature startups and mid stage companies. using Regulation A+. We take companies through the whole Reg A+ offering process to achieve a successful Reg A+ offering. Our website technology integrates the necessary services so companies can make their offering work efficiently on Manhattan Street Capital.

We provide some services directly, others we provide by introducing our companies to specialized service providers: Specialized CrowdFunding Marketing agencies, Legal, Broker/Dealer, Investment Banks, Underwriters, Broker Dealer Syndicates, Market Makers, escrow, transfer agent and auditors.

Rod’s bio:

Twitter: @iamrodturner

High energy strategic thinker. Excellent leader. Engineer with skills in all areas. Experienced M&A expert. Crowdfunding expert.

M&A experience: At Symantec I led the takeovers of their first acquisition (TimeLine), and their most strategic acquisition, Norton. I drove the merger processes to ensure success and upside. The implementation of the Norton merger has been called “the best ever in Tech.” I also lead the successful acquisition of PCAnywhere and an AV technology company into the Norton Group. Mobile Automation was acquired by iPAS and Our Neighborhood Energy was acquired by CBD Energy Australia. Two informative experiences of being acquired.

Founder, CEO Manhattan Street Capital and FundAthena April 2015 – now

RegA+ growth capital marketplace for mid-sized companies. Adapting IPO business model to the Internet, using new SEC RegA+.

Advisor to startups and CEOs of large companies, 2004 to current. Chairman & cofounder CirrusLS SaaS, bank lending. Strategic Advisor AssistMyCase (SaaS Legal research). NetQuarry, a .NET app dev platform. Our Neighborhood Energy, electricity retailer in Australia. Workshops for Warriors, non-profit trains Veterans in advanced workshop skills free of charge. Numerous other startups.

Founder, Chairman and CEO, START.ac: April 2011 – June 2013. Built business CrowdFunding marketplace with Mentors, advisers and unique innovations for scale.

Chairman, Artslant. Sept 2008 – current: CEO 2008 through 2010. Grew revenues 12.5%/month compound, and site page views by 700%.

Managing Partner, Irvine Ventures 1999-2003: Founded Irvine Ventures with Safi Qureshey, investing in tech startup companies, mentoring entrepreneurs. Raised $32million in angel and venture capital for, and built six startups.

Chairman & Founder, Mobile Automation 1996-2004. LAN & Internet software configuration, MSP and Enterprise IT market. Angel financing (Peter Norton), VC from Greylock (Dave Strohm). Sold the company to iPass (IPAS on NASDAQ) in 11/04.

President & CEO, Knowledge Adventure 1993-94. Grew revenues from $240k/month to $1.5m/month. Raised $12 million venture capital from Mayfield (Mike Levinthal).

Symantec 1985-1993. At startup, Executive VP for worldwide marketing, sales & product management. Promoted to division General Manager with P&L 5/87. Raised three rounds of venture capital, lead investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (John Doerr). In 1987 as GM, I ran the merger and accelerated the first company acquired by Symantec-Breakthrough Inc, TimeLine project management, and the Q&A database line. Trebled product group revenue in three years while generating 100% of Symantec’s profit. Grew Symantec revenues from zero to $250mil/year. IPO 1989.

In 1990 Symantec acquired Peter Norton Computing (maker of the Norton Utilities), and I was GM for the merger and the business. Introduced the Norton Antivirus in ‘91, the main profit generator for Symantec. In three years we grew Norton revenues from $20/mill/year to $200mill/year, taking the Norton group from 25% of Symantec’s revenue to 82%.

Acquired two companies into the Norton Group.

Chairman, Cofounder 1984-1990: Microport Software Inc. Startup ported UNIX System V to the 286.

Ashton Tate/dBASE 1981-1984: Startup microcomputer database software company, 12th employee. VP of US marketing and sales; GM of the International division. Grew sales from $2m to $150m/yr, IPO in ‘83. Made dBASE the market leading database on the PC by 1983.

Aston Univeristy 1975-1979: First Class Honors, Bachelor of Science in Energy Technology (Electrical & Mechanical Engineering) from Aston University, England. Stanford: Graduated Executive Institute 1983.

Interests: Married, with two sons. Boating. Racing cars. Public speaking. Altruism. Leadership. Innovation Born on a farm in the UK, moved to Silicon Valley to get into VC funded startups. My accent is gradually migrating across the Atlantic Ocean.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Student Entrepreneurs Launch New Round of Ventures through Suffolk Crowdfunding Course

Press Release – BOSTON — Savory waffles sold from a food cart, a cinch-locking bag that deters theft of package deliveries and a children’s book about a guppy who tries too hard to fit in are three of the latest Suffolk University student-run ventures that launched crowdfunding campaigns April 7.

Suffolk’s Sawyer Business School introduced one of the nation’s first experiential courses on crowdfunding in fall 2016, where students launched campaigns to fund their own startup companies through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The acclaimed course is now in its second semester with a new group of student entrepreneurs launching campaigns to fund their businesses. Campaigns will conclude with the end of National Small Business Week on May 6.

“Crowdfunding is shaping up to be an important factor for startup success,” said Sawyer Entrepreneurship Professor Chaim Letwin. “To run a successful campaign one must be passionate about their venture. That is why it is important to not only teach our students why some campaigns are successful while others are not, but also to give them the opportunity to dig in, get their hands dirty and run a campaign of their own.”

The concept for the crowdfunding course came out of conversations between Letwin and Professor Jenni Dinger, a colleague in the Sawyer Business School’s Management and Entrepreneurship department. Dinger and Letwin co-teach the course and both study crowdfunding and how campaign components relate to people’s decisions to contribute money to a particular project.

“This course is still quite young, only the second time through, so we are continuously adjusting and learning as a group,” Dinger said. “It’s very exciting to see how this group of students has built on what was accomplished last year.”

This semester’s ventures include:

  • Waffleholics, founded by Suffolk junior Carmen Reddick and senior Max Taylor, aims to create the most delicious sweet and savory waffles, starting with a Boston food cart business. Reddick graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate in science degree. Both students are from Boston.
  • Beyond Borders is a full-length documentary film by David Apostolides and John Moran. The film seeks to incorporate the perspectives of those living outside of the U.S. in the current American political conversation.
  • Baggabox prevents package theft by securing deliveries to your door in a cut-resistant and waterproof cinch-locking bag. Baggabox was founded by Jamie Manning, a Suffolk MBA alumnus, and is being supported by seniors Faisal Janahi and Alonso Villarreal. Janahi is from Manama, Bahrain, and Villarreal is from San Antonio, Texas.
  • Goliath Gallon, founded by Suffolk senior Zack Smith of Methuen, Mass., makes a reusable, BPA-free and easily cleaned gallon bottle for ice, fruits, amino acids, etc.
  • Cosmic Eye, founded by Ashton Viqueras-LaRochelle, utilizes augmented reality technology to bridge the gap between what you see through a telescope and what actually exists in the cosmos. Viqueras-LaRochelle, a Suffolk junior, is from Portsmouth, N.H.
  • Kwapis Can’t Hang is a children’s book about a guppy that enters a new bowl and pretends to be someone she is not in a misguided attempt to fit in. The book is authored and edited by Dana Prandato, a Suffolk junior and Marketing major from Sandpoint, Idaho.
  • Claude and the Magic Garden is a children’s book that tells a magical story of two brothers living in a foreign land and trying to fit in. Their community helps uncover the magic of true friendship. The book is authored and edited by Suffolk junior Christopher Hassapis. He is from North Reading, Mass.
  • Pup Picnic, founded by Joe Tassinari, is a 2-in-1 dog bowl with a water bottle attachment. This allows any disposable water bottle to attach to the bowl and act as a feeder. Tassinari is a Suffolk senior from East Boston, Mass.

More information on the student startup businesses and crowdfunding campaigns may be found at www.suffolk.edu/business/undergraduate/71487.php.

7 Crowdfunding Keys For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Lots of people hold themselves out to be crowdfunding experts. I haven’t met anyone who has raised more money in on Kickstarter and Indiegogo than Funded Today’s Zach Smith. He reports raising over $110 million total over hundreds of campaigns.

Smith visited with me (watch the video recording of the interview above) to talk about how to apply his experience and insights for social entrepreneurs.

He thinks of himself as a social entrepreneur, helping other entrepreneurs to be successful. He is almost a prototypical entrepreneur. Young, confident—even brash—he has built his company to 50 employees and reports “eight figures plus” in revenue. Funded Today charges 25 to 35 percent of funds raised, so in its short three-year history, we’d expect it to have generated over $30 million in revenue.

Zach Smith

His reputation in the crowdfunding community is such that when Hiral Sanghavi, co-founder and CEO at BauBax had his crowdfunding campaign stall at around $4 million, he called on Smith to help. He says, “They reached out to a completely different audience and got another huge wave of traffic our way which helped us add another $4.5 million to our total in the last 3 weeks and our campaign closed at $9.19 million.”

“FT has got access to thousands of crowdfunding campaigns and they’ve built a community of early adopters out of it. They were able to get our campaign in front of the right audience who are mavens, early adopters of technology and innovative products. We couldn’t have done that using only Facebook ads,” Sanghavi says.

Paid media on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, is a key tool that Funded Today uses to raise money for clients. Smith explains how you can do it on Facebook.

A good crowdfunding campaign begins with a crowd. A crowd is best represented by a list of email addresses. He suggests spending up to $5 per email address for people who are interested in your mission. Given that you’d like a list of 10,000 people and a list that long will cost up to $50,000 to build, he has another plan.

Ask, he says, someone in your mission space who has a list for a copy of the list specifically to use for building a Facebook audience. You should promise not to send email to the people on the list. Instead, you want to upload the list to Facebook for targeting advertising. Until Smith told me, I had no idea you could do this. Did you?

Not only can you use that audience as a target, Facebook will automatically offer to create a “lookalike” audience that is much bigger. For instance, I uploaded my mailing own mailing list following the instructions on Facebook and it instantly helped me create a list of more than 2 million people who are like the people on my list.

Smith also shared his “Seven Ps” for crowdfunding success:

  1. Product: The crowdfunding reward or product must be appealing; for nonprofits, Smith recommends identifying recognition that donors will appreciate.
  2. Platform: Not only do social entrepreneurs need to decide which platform to use, but whether or not their business is a good fit for crowdfunding. If a reward can’t be shipped or delivered digitally, it may not be, Smith says.
  3. Presentation: The way you pitch your offering on the crowdfunding page, including the video, represents the presentation—and he says it makes a big difference. Smith says he helped ShotBox raise over $184,000 primarily by changing the presentation after the original campaign raised only $7,000 and had to be canceled.
  4. Promotion: The three key parts to promotion are paid media, press and partnerships.
  5. Price: Smith cautions crowdfunders not to discount the price, noting that it is easier to drop the price later than to raise it.
  6. Probability: He says that backers need to believe you can and will do what you promise. In other words, you need to develop trust by proving you have the smarts and other resources to necessary to pull it off.
  7. People: Your team needs to have the right people on it; they must be confident of success and committed to doing the work required to achieve it.

Marina Prospero, CEO of Perfectore Corp, is crowdfunding with help from Funded Today now. She says, “We were watching some very successful 6 figure Kickstarter campaigns and they all had one thing in common, Funded Today was their marketing partner. Several of these campaigns were products that focused on back and neck treatment. We figured if they have already been successful marketing these campaigns then they will definitely know how to market ours.”

She’s glad she did. “They have performed beyond my expectation.” With Smith’s help, she’s raised over $585,000 with an original goal of just $5,000. “Frankly I am blown away at how good they are and I am anxious to work with them again on our next invention.”

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

EPIcenter Hires International Fundraising Firm With A Track Record Of Partnering With Transformational Renovation Projects, Worldwide

Press Release – San Antonio, TX, April 4, 2017EPIcenter has hired CCS Fundraising (CCS) to design and implement a comprehensive fundraising campaign for the new $74.56 million energy innovation center planned for the historic Mission Road Power Plant. CCS is a New York-based fundraising consulting firm that for seven decades has helped organizations across the globe advance some of the most important causes in history.

Situated across the San Antonio River from the historic Lone Star Brewery and just upstream from the San Antonio River Foundation’s Confluence Park, EPIcenter is leading the way in transforming the Mission Road corridor.

Construction on the more than 80,000 square foot project is expected to take between 18 and 24 months and will begin as soon as a critical mass of funding is achieved.

To date, EPIcenter has received $21.2 million in cash and in-kind donations, including the property, from founding sponsors OCI Solar Power, Silver Spring Networks, Landis+Gyr and CPS Energy. An additional $53.36 million is to be raised.

In addition to its international clients, CCS has helped raise funds for a wide range of one-of-a-kind, groundbreaking building and renovation projects across the country, including the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA, the UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, CA, and most recently, the brand-new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

“We are very pleased to work with CCS. The firm’s strategic approach to such an unusual and innovative project stood out. CCS quickly understood EPIcenter’s vision and the unique challenges and opportunities associated with a start-up non-profit. Its leaders have successfully completed several projects with these unique parameters.,” said Kimberly Britton, CEO for EPIcenter.

Groundwork for the campaign structure and organization is being laid now with an anticipated launch late spring.

“CCS is excited to be a part of this historic effort to create a hub for clean energy technology innovation, education, community engagement, and entrepreneurial incubation in San Antonio,” says Gary Hawkins, Senior Vice President, CCS. “Our firm has worked on a variety of campaigns supporting unique building and environmental projects across the globe, and we are honored to add EPICenter to that list of partners.”

Built in 1909, the Mission Road Power Plant housed one of the city’s first steam turbo generator units, using water from the San Antonio River to cool its operation. The historic structures, including its iconic smokestack, stand as testaments to the changes in the evolving energy industry and will serve as the foundation and framework for EPIcenter.

The project will include a new energy “co-op” where start-ups can incubate along existing companies; a think tank aimed at advancing the fundamentals of clean energy policy; a research and development fabrication laboratory to develop and test products, services, and technologies; exhibition space with interactive and structural artifacts; an auditorium and conference center; and outdoor venues with terraces, gardens, amenities and community spaces.

Occupation of the building is planned for 2021-2022.

Wefunder Launches Series of Themed, Local Funding Events For Small Businesses; First Will Focus on Women Founders

12-event series kicks off May 4 in Oakland; deadline for startups to apply is April 14

Press Release – San Francisco, Calif. – April 6, 2017Wefunder, the most popular platform for Regulation Crowdfunding, announced today that it is hosting a 12-city tour of live, in-person funding events for small businesses – much like the Demo Days hosted by accelerators. The objective is to help those small businesses connect with potential investors in their cities and within the broader Wefunder community – comprised of 90,000 individual investors around the world.

Regulation Crowdfunding, enabled by Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, enables startups and small businesses to raise up to $1M from unaccredited investors. Since the legislation took effect in May 2016, companies have raised more than $23M under Reg CF, and approximately two-thirds of that was raised via the Wefunder portal.

“We’re finding that many of our portfolio companies are drawing most of their investment dollars locally – often, from people who are already customers or fans of the company,” said Nick Tommarello, co-founder and CEO of Wefunder. “So we decided to launch a series of in-person events designed to draw in local investors and expose them to startup investment opportunities right in their area.”

The first event, taking place in Oakland, Calif. on May 4, will focus on startups founded by women. The deadline for startups to apply for the Oakland event is April 14; the deadline to apply for the other events in events is May 5.

Other events/themes in the series will include in the coming weeks:

  • New York City – Immigrants
  • Los Angeles – Food
  • New Orleans – Nightlife
  • Napa – Wine
  • New York City – Fashion
  • Portland, OR – Breweries
  • Denver – B Corps
  • Washington, DC – Veteran founders
  • Detroit – Makers (manufacturing)
  • Austin, TX – Music
  • Boston – Health tech

To learn more about attending or pitching at any of the events, visit https://wefunder.com/live_events. To register as a potential investor at Wefunder, visit wefunder.com. The minimum investment is $100.

About Wefunder

Wefunder helps anyone invest as little as $100 in startups you love, and is the most popular platform for Regulation Crowdfunding. Its vision is to build a new type of stock market (“a NASDAQ for riskier ventures”) that lets the public allocate capital to a wider range of businesses, more broadly and efficiently than banks or venture capitalists. Investors on Wefunder have invested more than $34 million into 150+ companies since 2013, including Zenefits, Checkr and Casetext. Learn more about Wefunder’s story at wefunder.com/wefunder or follow us @wefunder.

Investment Crowdfunding: What Works And What Needs Fixing

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

On May 16, 2016, Regulation Crowdfunding became effective. Arguably representing the biggest change to securities laws in 80 years, Title III of the JOBS Act passed in 2012 made investment crowdfunding legal subject to the issuance of regulations. Now, almost five years after the law passed, we have enough history with the rules to begin understanding what’s working and what’s not.

To work through the issues, I reached out to leading crowdfunding practitioners and experts for their reactions to the first nine months of practice in the space.

Bernard Loyd, a social entrepreneur and President of Urban Juncture, Inc., was among those who have had good experiences with the new rules. “Our experience has been that it provides efficient access to a broad pool of potential investors, many previously unknown to us. The online platform provides significantly better access to potential investors who share our passion for investing in economically-challenged, under-resourced urban enterprises with whom we otherwise would not have been able to connect.”

Bernard Loyd, courtesy of Urban Juncture

There is consensus that while Regulation Crowdfunding is working for some issuers, changes in the law or regulation would allow it to work for more entrepreneurs. Joy Schoffler is the Principal of Leverage PR, which represents clients in the crowdfunding space. Her reaction was typical, “I see it working for many companies already.”

The biggest challenge with the rules is the $1 million cap on crowdfunding offering. David Weild, IV, Chairman and CEO of Weild & Co., said, “The gross proceeds cap of $1 million is overly limiting. It should be eliminated altogether. Remember, there is a dollar-exposure-limitation ($5,000) per non-accredited investor so there is no need to limit the aggregate raise. Why do we care if there are 200 investors at $5,000 each or 20,000 investors at $5,000 each when the individual investor has the same risk limit? It is an arbitrary and poorly thought-through limitation.”

David Weild, courtesy of Weild & Co.

Kendall Almerico, a JOBS Act and crowdfunding attorney, largely agrees. “Congress set the $1 million limit far too low. It should be raised to at least $5 million.”

Alon Goren, Co-Founder, Crowd invest Summit, would go one step further, eliminating the restrictions on individual investors. “I think that anyone should be able to invest in what they want. I think that the limits are un-American, both on the size of the raise and on the investor.”

Congress is working on fixes, notes Philip Racusin, CEO of EnergyFunders. “The Fix Crowdfunding Act is a start in that it would allow for the use of special purpose vehicles to aggregate together investors (for the benefit of the investors and the business owner), and raises the maximum fundraise to $5,000,000.”

Special purpose vehicles or SPVs are used to manage large numbers of small investors, simplifying the capitalization table and ownership structure from the perspective of the issuer. SPVs are specifically prohibited by the current rules. Sara Hanks, CEO of CrowdCheck, and Douglas Ellenoff, Partner at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole LLP, a crowdfunding lawyer, agree that allowing SPVs is a necessary fix.

Douglas Ellenoff at the National Press Club on February 19, 2013 with Sherwood Neiss.

Another problem with the rules that experts say needs to be fixed is the prohibition on testing the waters. Title IV of the JOBS Act authorized the SEC to issue new rules for Regulation A offerings, raising the limits and specifically allowing issuers to expose a potential offering to the market publicly before launching the offering formally, even allowing the issuer to collect formal, non-binding expressions of interest in advance.

Hanks, Vincent Bradley, former CEO of FlashFunders, and Dan Baird, CEO of Crack the Crowd, among others, agree that adding testing the waters to Regulation Crowdfunding is essential.

Almerico explains why, saying, “No pre-launch marketing is allowed, which prevents a company from effectively soliciting investors until the offering is live. With a rewards-based campaign on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, successful companies spend months conditioning the market, generating leads and building up social capital before their launch. You cannot do that with Reg CF, and it means a company is behind the eight ball when they start their offering, because their marketing has not even begun yet.” He notes that the SEC has unilateral authority to change this rule.

Kendall Almerico, courtesy of Kendall Almerico

Several practitioners, including, Weild, note that the limitations on marketing a crowdfunding campaign even after it launches are unnecessarily strict. “Don’t you find it fascinating,” he says, “that anyone can sell anything (except securities) on Kickstarter without limitation and buyers are given zero upside for their purchase money and the companies are only subject to criminal fraud? Regulation Crowdfunding gives the buyer upside. Why should securities be treated so differently from commerce, especially for smaller companies? There is no systemic risk concern for Government.”

Jenny Kassan, an attorney who consults with social entrepreneurs and women-led businesses on capital strategies including crowdfunding, noted, the marketing “restrictions are nonsensical,” adding, “this could be done without legislation.”

The JOBS Act requires crowdfunding issuers to file an annual report with the SEC. Kassan believes this requirement should be lifted, noting, “I think this would require legislation.”

Jenny Kassan, courtesy of Funds for Good

While the rules do not define any of the costs of a crowdfunding offering, the rules do impose costs. Racusin highlighted the need to reduce the regulatory burden to reduce the costs of offerings, especially those over $500,000.

Among the other lessons learned, Weild noted, “The $1 million cap is not large enough to entice broker dealers and investment bankers to become involved so they don’t and the companies really could use the advice/involvement of experienced professionals.”

As the crowdfunding rules were being drafted, there was a lot of discussion about fraud and the corollary need to protect crowdfunding investors from it. Ellenoff noted, “That all of the expressed concern over fraud has not borne out as a legitimate reason for frustrating the legislation.”

Scott Picken, founder and CEO of Wealth Migrate, similarly noted, “There is significant demand and while the regulation is important to ensure that the consumer is protected, social proofing also goes a long way to protecting the consumer.” He added, “Most importantly investing is common sense and everyone has common sense.”

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

The GiveNetwork Launches CharityBomb To Give Donors The Opportunity To Give Back And Win

Designed to Fuel the Support for and Growth of Smaller Local Nonprofits, CharityBomb Offers Donors the Chance to Win Cash Prizes up to $175,000

Press Release – LAKE FOREST, Calif. – February 28, 2017 – The GiveNetwork, a mobile giving platform designed to encourage support for charitable fundraising initiatives, today announced the launch of CharityBomb, which hosts regional online fundraising campaigns designed to fuel the support and growth of smaller local nonprofits working within a targeted area of philanthropy.

The first campaign will support five Southern California charities dedicated to helping local youth with opioid addiction, grief recovery, drug education, overdose recovery and end or life care for critically ill children. The participating charities include: Solace Foundation, OUR HOUSE/ Camp Erin, GRASP/ Broken No More, Kristie’s Foundation, and California Youth Services. The goal is to raise $5 Million dollars for these organizations by August 2, 2017. The funds will be distributed evenly amongst all five.

“We are excited about the launch of CharityBomb, especially this first campaign,” stated Bob Jones, CEO of the GiveNetwork. “We lost our youngest son to an opioid overdose in 2014. The journey of our grief led us to the organizations that are included in this campaign. They all do such great work, but they are small and underfunded. They need the support of the community to continue to do the work they do and help families like mine get the help they need.”

CharityBomb offers donors the unique opportunity to win while supporting charity. As part of reaching the $5 million campaign goal, six winners will be randomly chosen to share in overall cash prizes of $175,000.

Five different drawings will be held for each of the five collected donation stages. Each stage is triggered with each $1 million raised. Once a stage is triggered, a donor will be selected to receive a cash prize of $25,000. Once all five stages are reached, a bonus drawing will be held to select a winner from ALL donors to receive a bonus cash prize of $50,000.

“California Youth Services is thrilled to participate in the first CharityBomb campaign, which benefits many worthy causes,” said Kelly Scott, M.A. Ed., program director at California Youth Services. “This event will support our efforts that help children, teens, and families facing life’s many struggles, such as mental health issues, substance abuse, learning disabilities, and legal challenges. We have been making an impact since 2005 and grateful to be part of a collaborative effort to make a difference in young people’s lives.”

“Our mission at the Solace Foundation is to reduce the number of opioid related deaths in Orange County by expanding access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone. We have saved over 500 lives in the past 12 months! We believe EVERY life matters and that everyone deserves a second chance. Supporting this campaign will help us continue to help and save even more,” said Aimee Dunkle, executive director of Solace Foundation OC.

For more information on CharityBomb and to make a donation and enter to win the sweepstakes, please visit http://www.charitybomb.us.

For more information on the charities included in the CharityBomb campaign, please visit their respective web sites:

About GiveNetwork

The GiveNetwork fundraising platform was developed for one ultimate purpose: to effectively engage the community in philanthropic support while on the go. With today’s consumer increasingly engaging via mobile and social media, a tool for “responsive engagement” has become an absolute necessity. The GiveNetwork platform enhances charitable fundraising initiatives and allows donors to engage with and support their favorite charity from their smartphone. For more information, please visit http://givenetwork.biz/.

Behind the Numbers: What World Nomads’ The Footprints Network Has Meant to One of its Partners, the Australian Himalayan Foundation

The micro-donation program has helped train teachers and rebuild classrooms in Nepal

Press Release – The micro-donation platform The Footprints Network recently crossed a major threshold, topping the $3 million mark in funds raised. Founded by the World Nomads team in 2004 in response to the Southeast Asian tsunami, the idea was to create a way for the company’s e-commerce customers to give back to the places they travel via small micro-donations at the point of purchase.

In 2016 alone, 138,020 charitable World Nomads customers made a micro-donation, resulting in over $350,000 raised to help fund 22 community development projects in 14 countries around the world (compared to 2015, the number of donors increased by 8% and the total amount raised increased by 32%). Since the program’s inception in 2004, nearly 1.2 million people have given more than $3 million to help support 156 global community development projects.

To put those numbers in some context, here’s what The Footprints Network has meant to just one of those 150-plus partners, the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF).

The Australian Himalayan Foundation was set up in 2003 to improve the quality of life for people in the remote communities of the Himalaya. The AHF strives to ensure the long-term viability of sustainable health, education and conservation programs in the poorest, most under-resourced areas of the Himalaya across Nepal, Bhutan and Northern India. These programs help to reduce poverty and address human rights like gender quality, children’s rights, and the rights of marginalized groups in rural regions throughout the Himalaya.

“The support we have received from The Footprints Network since 2006 has been enormous,” says AHF communications and fundraising manager Siobhan Reynolds. “World Nomads customers have raised more than $400,000 to fund both our Teacher Training and Quality Education program and our Rebuild Nepal efforts, which were set up last year following the devastating earthquakes in Nepal in 2015.”

The TTQE project is focused on improving the quality of teaching that is offered in public schools across the lower Solukhumbu region of Nepal, and with funding from The Footprints Network it has expanded its training programs across a number of areas in the region. The result has been an increase in primary school enrolment rates, a reduction in dropout rates of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, improved overall attendance rates, and increased enrollment rates of the most vulnerable students.

“The funds raised for our Rebuild Nepal efforts currently total more than $70,000,” says Reynolds. “To rebuild a classroom costs $15,000, so this money has already funded four-and-a-half classrooms, which is an amazing result.”

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