I often write about the brave and innovative entrepreneurs in Texas, but that is only because they are working overtime to lead by example in the startup community. We have a history of strong and successful leaders who paved the way for the future of our nation. Texas companies have made it a habit to dream big and follow that up with execution and realistic solutions for the growth of our state and of the nation. Last week in Austin was no different.
On January 8th, over 250 pioneers of the crowdfunding movement gathered at the Omni Hotel in Austin, home to the thriving incubator Capital Factory. As we were about to kick off CrowdFund Texas, the energy was palpable. The speaker list boasted names like Jason Best, principal and co-founder of the Crowdfunding Professional Association and Crowdfund Capital Partners, leading securities attorney Doug Ellenoff, and Candace Klein, Bad Girls founder and now CEO of SoMoLend, a crowdfunding platform focused on debt financing. Additional presenters included Heather Lopes, the CEO of Early Shares, a leading crowdfunding platform for equity financing as well as Chris Camillo founder of the CrowdFund Texas event and driver of the highly anticipated crowdfunding documentary Crowd of Angels.
Topics of the day included: Current state of the Crowdfunding Industry; Perks-based vs. Equity Crowdfunding, featuring an educational overview of the differences by RocketHub leaders Jed Cohen and co-founder Brian Meece; and a Panel on the Regulatory and Legal Issues of Crowdfunding including Texas Attorney Kevin Vela from Vela Keller, LLP. There was even a very compelling -- and affirming -- panel of success stories on Crowdfunding which included Kammok, a leading social/environmental impact organization dedicated to creating camping gear that helps save lives.
With the impending finalization of Title 2 and Title 3 of the JOBS Act, there was much talk about when the SEC was going to make good on their commitment to move forward with decisions on the already passed JOBS Act and why it has taking this long for them to move on this important initiative for resource strapped businesses around the country. Where some would expect vitriol regarding the slow pace, there was instead an understanding and appreciation of the SEC as a group that has welcomed this new legislation with a willingness to work with the founders of this movement.
There was something decidedly special about this day. Entrepreneurial leaders, startup experts, and investors traveled from across the state and country to be educated as well as to participate in all the day had to hold. It was more than a conference; I knew that 10 years from now I would look back on this day and know I was a part of the inception of a movement that would fundamentally change our economic landscape for the better. Devin Thorpe captured this sentiment well in his article "Top Ten Issues Raised at Texas Crowdfunding Conference" regarding comments from Crowdfund Texas Founder, Chris Camillo, "that bringing this group of speakers together may never happen again."
"In the past few years, individuals have poured millions into new ideas through crowdfunding, which saw its investment rise 92 percent last year, according to Startups.co. And Kickstarter, founded in 1999, reported more than 2.2 million people pledged a total of $319.7 million to successfully fund 18,109 projects in 2012."
In a world where companies like and RocketHub and KickStarter have made perks-based funding a reality, there is even greater expectation of what will happen when everyday people are able to materially participate in the success of their favorite companies through debt and equity crowdfunding financing.
It was the overwhelming belief of everyone at this conference that Crowdfunding will be the Holy Grail that will save the U.S. economy. Through an online survey given to the participants of the conference, 97 percent of the attendees it was "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that they would invest in a Crowdfunded company of a trusted person in their network. It was also clear that there was an overall faith and confidence in the success in crowdfunding when 66 percent of the attendees believe that equity and debt-based Crowdfunding will forge ahead despite unfounded speculation about fraud and abuse.
One thing was clear from the day's festivities. Texas was committed to being a major player in helping companies figure out the best and safest way for businesses to benefit from Crowdfunding legislation, and there was a strong statewide commitment among these individuals to ensure that all companies in Texas would be able to find the necessary funding in order to start, grow or sustain their businesses.
So as we all anxiously await the finalized rules and regulations around how to best use Crowdfunding to rebuild the economy of America, we are up to the challenge of directly addressing the problems with our economy. Our entrepreneurs and investors will do their part to continue to lead as revolutionaries in this movement to make America great once again.
Trey Bowles, the chair of Startup Texas, is a serial entrepreneur, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University, and a collaboration evangelist. He lives in Dallas, with his wife and daughter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @treybowles.