Though I like to stay current, it isn’t my job to follow trends. So when I first heard about crowdfunding, I dismissed it as the latest cool buzzword. Then I attended the #WIBN Conference in Toronto. One of the speakers conducted an interactive session to demonstrate the collective power of using sites like Kickstarter.com, and I gained a whole new understanding of why microinvesting strategies like crowdfunding is good for women in business. (Unsolicited plug: Her name is Anastasia Valentine, a fellow Ottawa-area business woman – and her take on crowdfunding is here.)
Intrigued, I immediately did some research. I learned that lawmakers in the United States had been scrambling to keep up with this new form of investing. Months of lobbying had recently resulted in the Jumpstart our Business Startups Act, which eased securities regulations and made the mechanism of crowdfunding legal.
Canada had no such legislation in place. In fact, Canada hadn’t even made serious moves towards making crowdfunding legal. The key challenge is the lack of a nation-wide body overseeing investing and securities. Each province and territory has its own laws and regulations. In the States, 1 Act cleared the path for companies to legally raise money through crowdfunding. In Canada, we will need 13 Acts to do the same thing. Being legal in only 1 province limits the range and scope of crowdfunding, which requires the huge reach, volume, and lack of geographic barriers inherent in social media to be successful.
At the speed with with our government works, I then dismissed crowdfunding as something south of the border or over the ocean.
Now I’ve come across this Ottawa Citizen article (thanks to the amazing Deanna White from StorylinePR – whose job requires her to stay current). It appears that the Ontario government now understands that crowdfunding has the power to grow businesses and create jobs. At a conference this week, the Ontario Securities Commission and reps from 100 ridings across Ontario gathered to learn about crowdfunding from some of the Americans who made it legal in the States.
Crowdfunding may come to Canada sooner than I thought. This is great news. I don’t have definitive plans for how to leverage it for my company, but I value knowing that it is an option. Entrepreneurs need every tool available to grow our businesses and create jobs. Angel investors don’t favour women-owned service businesses – they prefer the sexiness of technology start ups. It is just one of the many challenges of being a woman in business. Crowdfunding is good for women in business as an accessible strategy to raise capital, grow their companies, and create jobs. This is a good thing for everyone.