A crowd of B.C.’s venture and finance communities gathered yesterday at The Profile in Vancouver to network and herald the launch of Frontfundr, Canada’s newest crowdfunding platform. Their timing appears impeccable with the advent just two weeks ago of the Startup Crowdfunding exemption in six provinces including B.C. For the first time, regular Joes and Janes will be able to invest up to $1,500 in innovative companies they believe in.
Frontfundr unveiled the team, key features, and first deals that they envision will help transform venture capital in Canada via democratized access to online investment and hot startups. Or at least access to those ventures active in the platform’s sweet spot of arts and entertainment, energy and environment, and technology.
Peter-Paul Van Hoeken, Frontfundr CEO, spoke to their quest to level the playing field for all types of investors.
“We are offering an open market connecting seasoned investors and retail investors with stringently screened companies and supporting the entire investment process from pitch to securities purchase, delivering better capital and better deals to all parties,” he said.
The team certainly has an impressive pedigree in investment banking, technology, and corporate finance.
CFO Sean Burke, ex PWC, covered off the requisite thank yous and then introduced the other stars of the show, the first vetted businesses. The Frontfundr platform was demonstrated by one of those first deals, RentMoola, a rewards platform for renters that appeared to have considerable traction. The interface was slick and featured the Pitch Place – where live deals are showcased, currently also including Kickstarter graduate Interlock, the lock that hides inside your bike, and Guusto, a gifting platform with 1000+ partner locations to date.
Other features that caught our eye included the Sector Lounge, where ventures like Emergent Waste Solutions hang out to gain exposure prior to live deals and a very useful map that showcases key Regulations by province in the Investor Concierge section. Frontfundr will operate as a fully compliant Exempt Market Dealer that preps and vets the deal flow for investors while being upfront on the risk of these early stage ventures. Of note, the initial deals have a minimum participation of $5,000 or $6,000 as they are offered under other existing exemptions.
The buzz in the crowd was supportive and enthusiastic towards the launch so it will be interesting to see the response of investors over the first couple of months. The launch illustrates the growing maturity of the securities crowdfunding model in Canada as investment platforms like Calgary’s SeedUps also gain deal momentum.
Peer lending is gaining a significant foothold, as well, with Vancouver’s GroupLend and Toronto’s Borrowell targeting consumer credit and American platforms OnDeck and InvestNextDoor offering online business loans. For more insights on Peer Lending watch my recent interview on The Exchange with Amanda Leary on CBC News.
With over $16 billion raised globally in 2014, according to Massolutions, the crowdfunding sector is experiencing massive growth and the vision of better access to capital is rapidly unfolding. While the investor adoption, successful capital raises, and winning platform players have yet to be determined in Canada, Frontfundr is off to a good start.