Limited access to capital can be one of the biggest challenges facing a startup. Thankfully, Congress has taken steps toward loosening regulations on how startups can raise money from new groups of investors, including “crowdfunding” which may open up an entirely new market for equity investment. Policymakers and the Securities and Exchange Commission must protect investors while implementing new laws that create sustainable capital streams for entrepreneurs.
A primer on Access to Capital and what it means for startups.
Today, the House of Representatives passed a package of bills that will improve the capital access landscape for innovators across the country, including the Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act (H.R.4850) and the Private Placement Improvement Act of 2016 (H.R.4852). With the approval of these two bills, the House has now passed four of Engine’s 2016 legislative priorities related to capital access.
On May 16, 2016, regulation crowdfunding will go into effect, meaning for the first time ever,anyone can invest in a startup through an online platform. This is big. Until Congress passed the JOBS Act in 2012, buying an equity stake in a company required being fairly wealthy or having a pre-existing relationship with the entrepreneurs raising capital. But the Internet has dramatically changed the way entrepreneurs share their ideas and connect with potential investors. With the JOBS Act, the law finally caught up as well – or it almost did.
Engine applauds the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act. The bill, which was approved by a wide margin of 325-89, would clarify regulatory ambiguities around general solicitation, making it easier for startups to publicly showcase their ideas without unintentionally running afoul of securities laws.
The pitch competition has practically become a standard rite of passage for startups, especially early-stage firms seeking investment. Yet, many pitch events may violate decades-old securities law. Congress is now considering legislation to fix this: The HALOS Act. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), this legislation clarifies the rules around pitch competitions, making it easier for startups to pitch their business plans and find potential investors.
April 5, 2016 marked the four year anniversary of the enactment of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. While the statute is still relatively young, we have already begun to see the positive impacts that its provisions have had on startups’ ability to raise capital. It has made going public easier and created new pathways for startups to raise money through Regulation A+ and general solicitation under Regulation D. And with regulation crowdfunding set to finally go live in May, we are hopeful that a vibrant non-accredited investor crowdfunding market will emerge in the near future.
As strange as it may seem, only a small percentage of Americans can legally invest in most startups today. Under long-standing rules governing who qualifies as a so-called “accredited investor,” only quite wealthy individuals (those make at least $200,000 in annual income or have $1 million in assets, excluding their home) can buy shares in a fast-growing, privately held company.