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CEP discussion paper

Equity crowdfunding and early stage entrepreneurial finance: damaging or disruptive?

Equity crowdfunding (ECF) offers founders of new ventures an online social media marketplace where they can access a large number of investors who, in exchange for an ownership stake, provide finance for business opportunities that they find attractive. In this paper, we first quantify the evolution of the ECF market in the UK, the world leader, as well as the benign regulatory environment. ECF already represents more than 15% of British early stage entrepreneurial finance. We then use qualitative methods to explore three research questions. First, do these large financial flows via ECF platforms supplement or merely divert more traditional forms of funding for entrepreneurs? Second, do investors understand and appropriately evaluate the risks that they are bearing by investing in this new asset class? Finally, does ECF finance bring with it the spillovers, e.g. advice and guidance critical to entrepreneurial success, associated with other sources of funding such as Venture Capital? Our study is based on extensive interviews with investors, entrepreneurs (including some who chose not to use ECF in favour of traditional funding sources) and regulators. We conclude that ECF provides real additionality to the sources of entrepreneurial finance while not bringing major new risks for investors. This suggests other jurisdictions might consider implementing the British “principles based” regulatory framework.

Saul Estrin, Daniel Gozman and Susanna Khavul

21 September 2017     Paper Number CEPDP1498

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Growth programme.