If you’ve stumbled upon this page, you’re probably wondering who I am and what CrowdWise is all about. Or perhaps you are looking to find out more about what equity crowdfunding (i.e. startup investing) is and how it might fit into your investment portfolio.
I am building CrowdWise to help provide a collaborative educational environment for investors in equity crowdfunding. That means courses, eBooks, videos, blog posts, and more helpful content to help you get started.
Why? I'm an equity crowdfund investor myself, and it's my personal opinion that there is not enough material currently out there to help new investors get started.
Investing in private startups requires a completely different skillset than investing in public stocks, bonds, or real estate.
Feel free to read this page in its entirety. Or, if you're looking to jump to a specific question, feel free to use the following quick-links to help with navigation.
Who is CrowdWise for?
If you are currently asking any of the following questions, you are in the right place to get started:
- What IS equity crowdfunding, and how is it different than rewards-based crowdfunding like Kickstarter?
- How much money should I invest in equity crowdfunding?
- How many companies should I invest in?
- What are the potential risks and return on investment (ROI) on equity crowdfunding deals?
- Where do I search for deals?
- How do I screen deals?
I hope to answer most of your questions below, but if at any time you have any questions, feel free to contact me and I promise to respond directly to you: [email protected]
I’m looking forward to serving you and helping you to get started in equity crowdfund investing!
Why am I creating CrowdWise?
I believe that investing in early-stage startups - although extremely risky - can be a wise addition to the investment portfolio for the right type of investor.
This is the first time since the Securities Act of 1933 that non-accredited investors (i.e. not the uber-wealthy, who have more than $200k annual earnings or $1 million net worth) can invest in startups as an asset class. This means that "Main Street" investors like you and me can now access their diversification benefits and potential returns.
Unfortunately, I have noticed an enormous gap in the current resources available to investors in equity crowdfunding. While this is to be expected for such a new investment opportunity – since it has only been around since May 2016 – I have personally lived through the frustrations of figuring out how and where to get started.
I truly believe that despite the risk, there are ways to invest wisely in early-stage startups (for the right investor). I will be testing that hypothesis and sharing all the results as I go through my own experiences in equity crowdfund investing.
Through CrowdWise, I plan to help non-accredited investors in the United States gain the tools, training, and resources they need to start investing in startups through equity crowdfunding.
Why? For starters, I am an investor in equity crowdfunding myself (see my personal story below). I believe in sharing and the democratization of capital to help build a better future. Since I'm already doing this research and learning lessons by risking my own money, I might as well share it with others so that we can all benefit from my research and lessons.
There were high expectations when Title III of the JOBS Act went live in May 2016 that equity crowdfunding could change the entire funding landscape for startups. It was intended to provide more access to capital for startups - and more jobs - by opening up private security offerings to everyday, non-accredited investors like you and me.
While equity crowdfunding hasn't yet lived up to some of these expectations, it is starting to catch on. And personally, I believe the future is still very bright.
One reason I believe that equity crowdfunding hasn't yet taken off is that new investors are ill-equipped, short on time, and left to mostly fend for themselves to learn. As we'll see in some later discussions, learning can be a very scary notion when the failure rate of startups is sometimes quoted as being as high as 7 in 10 startups fail after 10 years.
CrowdWise helps investors build the confidence and skills to invest in early-stage deals and not lose all their hard-earned money.
It's a possibility that someday equity crowdfunding could surpass both Angel Investing and Venture Capital in terms of the number of startups and amount of capital in early-stage companies. Wouldn't it be exciting to be a part of that initial group that helped to shape the companies of the future?
I think so.
OK, CrowdWise sounds cool. But - who are you again?
I’m Brian. I'm 33 years old and have returned in 2019 from a year of traveling the world with my fiancee (shameless plug for our travel blog: check out our world travel map). After working hard as an Aerospace/Mechanical engineer and manager for 10 years, my fiancee and I decided to take a one-year sabbatical from our jobs to travel the world and experience new cultures.
We are extremely grateful for that opportunity. We know that we owe a huge amount of credit to our friends, family, and everyone else that made it possible.
However, the experience of traveling the world for 13 months - and not working at all - was made possible due to our savings and investments.
Yes - it doesn't hurt that public market equity returns also haven't been too shabby over the past decade (until COVID-19 came along...). I try very hard not to be naive or ignorant of recognizing the degree of luck and timing in the post-GFC market. But that doesn't mean it took any less courage continuing to buy and invest when the market was at its worst!
Thus, while I’m always happy to talk about various types of alternative investments, ranging from peer-to-peer to crowd-sourced real estate to crypto (and whether you think the latter is better considered speculating), the primary focus of this blog will be on investing in equity crowdfunding.
While traveling for a year, I lived off various passive income streams that I developed over the years by investing.
Whatever your investment goals are – whether it’s financial independence, sending your kids to college, traveling the world, or simply living a comfortable life – investing your dollars to make them work passively for you is an unbelievable way to achieve these dreams.
In 2018, I came across equity crowdfunding and decided to add startups to my investment portfolio.
Four Reasons to Invest in Startups
I believe that adding startups to my portfolio can offer the following benefits. We cover these in much more detail in our blog post describing the four types of investors in equity crowdfunding. I am choosing to invest in startups because it:
- Provides an exciting way to support founders and take part in innovation
- Provides diversification of non-correlated assets
- Provides potential huge upside with a limited downside - although the limit is that you can still lose all your money. This is called a "Black Swan" or "Anti-Fragile" component to a portfolio, for those that have read books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
- Provides me with exposure to various new technologies and businesses, hopefully allowing me to take in new experiences and cross-pollinate and innovate in other areas of my life
Note that I'm not investing purely because of the financial aspect. Sure, huge returns are a possibility. I will test my personal hypothesis that startups can be part of an Antifragile investment portfolio (using Taleb's "barbell strategy").
However, many Angel Investors and others will tell you that they primarily invest in early-stage companies because they believe in the products and technologies that they are helping to bring to market, and because they wanted to give back and help the next generation of entrepreneurs.
My Personal Investment Experience
Although I hold a dual Master’s Degree in Engineering, one of my passions has always been making my hard-earned dollars work for me.
Compared to when I was a teenager, my investments have slowly diversified and branched out. My journey has looked a little like this:
Government Savings Bonds (1990s)--> High-Yield Savings Accounts (mid 2000s) --> Stocks/Bonds (mid 2000s) --> Real Estate (late 2000s) --> Peer-to-Peer Debt Loans (early 2010s) --> Crypto (early 2010s)--> Crowdsourced Real Estate (mid 2010s) --> Equity Crowdfunding (now)
At a very young age - when many kids ask for toys and candy - I was asking my family and relatives to purchase US Government savings bonds for my birthday and Christmas. In case you were wondering: no, I no longer invest in Series I/EE bonds, as I grew to discover that there are many other alternatives for investing.
While in college from 2005-2009, I invested during the golden years of FDIC-insured online savings accounts, which were offering insane 6%+ interest rates. I also began to dabble in the stock market in late 2006.
I would soon learn a lot of lessons as the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 struck, and I saw the majority of my stock investments get cut in half – or more. Those lessons would be invaluable to me and form a solid foundation from which I could begin mastering investor psychology. This led me to look for more ways to diversify my investments so that I could have better protection when certain assets – like stocks – went through massive draw-downs.
After learning more about using asset allocation to diversify my investments, I started experimenting with various non-traditional investments, such as peer-to-peer lending, crowdsourced real estate, and now, equity crowdfunding.
The years since 2008 have had spectacular returns in the stock market, but I try to constantly remind myself of a few key investment paradigms that are at the core of my investment beliefs:
- Past performance is not an indicator or guarantee of future results (i.e. the future will always change and surprise us)
- Many successful investors believe that the best investors have more of an edge in human behavior and psychology than in finance or business.
- The more comfortable an investment feels, the more likely you are to be slaughtered
If you're anything like me, you don't have to have a financial background to be successful in investing. I invested for the last 15 years as a part-time hobby, not as a professional, and I still had a life outside of work and investing.
With a few basic concepts such as asset allocation, diversification, and a fundamental understanding of the terms and concepts used in equity crowdfunding, you can join in this exciting investment opportunity, while at the same time making your investment portfolio more robust and effective.
How I Plan to Serve You
While there are some educational resources, books, and other references out there for equity crowdfund investors, I have found a few issues with them.
- Many of the resources don’t have “skin in the game” – meaning they aren’t necessarily investing their own dollars in equity crowdfunding, but they are trying to tell you how to do it through second-hand accounts and interviews.
- Many of the resources were created years ago, at the time of the initial launch of equity crowdfunding in May 2016. The equity crowdfunding landscape is rapidly changing.
- Many of the resources use Angel Investing or Venture Capital (VC) principles as “the solution” and guide to investing in equity crowdfunding.
- I do believe that there are some similarities and lessons that can be learned from Angels and VCs. But assuming that equity crowdfund investing will be exactly (or even mostly) the same as Angel or VC investing - especially before we have a large enough data set to analyze - is a very risky assumption.
- Some of the resources have “get-rich-quick” and “you'll find the next Unicorn” language plastered all over their websites and newsletters, potentially misleading a lot of non-accredited investors. We will ensure all these probabilities and outcomes are not taken out of context when discussing them.
- There does not seem to be a cohesive, supportive community for equity crowdfunding investors. Most investor communities seem to be overridden with posts from companies that are launching campaigns.
- There is a lack of transparency in deal data - especially on those startups that have already realized successful exits or failed – to help investors begin to develop and back-test investment strategies and filters.
What I pledge to you
On CrowdWise, my pledge to you is:
- Integrity. I will always strive to have your best interests at heart (helping you get started and succeed in equity crowdfund investing), vs. an ulterior motive like trying to constantly sell things.
- This is not to say that I may not eventually decide to release a premium, paid course or product, but I promise that most of my content will be free, and that even that free content will be better than most paid content currently out there.
- Transparency. I will do my best to share both my successes and my failures. The hope is that you can learn from both and apply them to your own investment strategy.
- Openness. I will always listen to your thoughts, feedback, or concerns. Send me an email and I will respond!
Although I said it once already, it is worth repeating: I am not (nor do I play) a financial adviser, tax adviser, legal adviser, or any other type of professional. I have made CrowdWise for informational purposes only.
I will aim to provide references, perspectives, and education to give non-accredited investors the tools they require to invest in equity crowdfunding. All opinions and views are solely my own personal thoughts and nothing should be construed as investment advice, tax advice, or any other type of advice.
In the end, every investor is unique. You will have to determine if you will invest in startups, and if so, how and where.
These are very exciting times. The private-market startup asset class has not been available to non-accredited investors since the 1930s. I simply hope to be able to bring clarity, transparency, community, and education to help all US non-accredited investors get started.
After all, more investors means more capital for startups, and that leads to more innovation for a better future.