So, let’s imagine there’s an old, abandoned shopfront in your main street. (I know, for most West Virginians this is probably not too much of a stretch.)
And let’s say you and a few of your friends think that, with a bit of hard work and good business sense, this beautiful old building could be a great cafe or small food market or some other kind of useful local business. Heaven knows, the main street could use a bit of a boost.
There’s a developer that could be interested if only she had access to a small pot of capital to make the necessary repairs and improvements. And there’s a group of local folks like yourself who would pitch in a little of their own money if only there was a safe and regulated way to secure their investment.
Wouldn’t it be great if regular people could invest in small projects and businesses in their community in a secured system, just like accredited millionaires and billionaires have been able to do for decades?
In Pittsburgh, one small organization has built that system.
Late last year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority approved Small Change, a Pittsburgh-based crowdfunding platform, as the nation’s first Funding Portal dedicated to real estate.
Most of us are familiar with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The difference with Regulated Crowdfunding platforms like Small Change is that, when you buy in to a project, instead of receiving a t-shirt or thank you card, you are actually buying a stake in the future success (or failure) of that enterprise. And you receive dividends just as if you’d bought stocks in some big business on the stock exchange.
Regulation Crowdfunding was born from President Obama’s 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, and allows non-accredited investors to participate in online investment opportunities.
Small Change enables a broad range of investors to take part in offerings that strive to strengthen Pennsylvania’s communities through real estate development.
West Virginia is heading in this direction, too. Last year, local business advocates were instrumental in the passage of the West Virginia Small Business Capital Act, the first step toward the creation of an accredited online platform that would allow everyday citizens to invest small amounts of money in local businesses and entrepreneurs.
And we think that’s awesome.
Watch this space.