By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Jonny Price has a passion for helping start-ups raise capital, and he’s now serving as the Nashville-based Director of Fundraising for Wefunder which he describes as “the stock market for start-ups.”
The United Kingdom native is a relatively new resident of Music City, having moved to Tennessee’s rapidly growing Capital City from the San Francisco region in mid-2020. Price, however, is not a newbie in terms of his experience helping people raise capital. He cut his teeth in the space for nearly seven years at Kiva, the platform that is a vehicle for helping underserved communities raise capital through loans.
In early 2018, Price moved to Wefunder that is structured as a Public Benefit Corporation “with a mission to save the American Dream.” Since then, the platform has roughly quadrupled in employee size.
“You can think of us like ‘Kickstarter for investing,’” Wefunder states on its webpage. “Unlike Kickstarter, you are not buying a product or donating to an artist. Instead, you are investing in a business with the hope of earning a return.”
We caught-up with Price recently to discuss the platform and his involvement with several area start-ups in the Middle Tennessee region. Three that are utilizing the platform underscore the diversity of the client base. One is InnerG Juice & Yoga, a Nashville start-up that combines “juice and yoga, diet and exercise, to create a wellness vibe.” Another is Pencilish Animation Studios, also a Nashville area start-up developing short form videos. The third is Ciari Guitars Inc. that manufacturers a foldable guitar in Nashville.
“Most people would say we are in equity crowdfunding,” Price says, explaining that he prefers the term “start-up investing.” He adds that recent updates in SEC rules, such as one described in this November article on teknovation.biz, expand the opportunity for start-ups to raise more capital in smaller amounts from more people. The federal agency raised the cap that early and growth stage companies can raise annually through crowdfunding before they have to register the transaction with the SEC.
Early stage businesses can now raise up to $5 million in capital, up from $1.07 million, without having to register the transaction with the SEC. More mature companies can raise up to $20 million under the SEC’s Regulation A Tier I standard and up to $75 million under its Regulation A Tier II standard.
“Those are going to be very impactful,” Price says.
In terms of the advantages of Wefunder, he cites three. First, the platform is a legally compliant vehicle for both accredited and unaccredited investors. Second, those using the platform can publicly promote the amount they are raising. Finally, Wefunder has about 900,000 registered users on the platform, and 150,000 have made investments, so there’s a large base from which to attract interest.
“The average amount raised by a Wefunder user is $300,000,” Price adds.
We asked about sectors of interest, and he said Wefunder has a broad mix of clients. InnerG and Pencilish underscore that diversity. The platform also states in the FAQ section of its website that past users have included:
- Moonshots like flying cars, space telescopes, and fusion reactors;
- Neighborhood businesses like cafés, restaurants, and breweries;
- Softwarelike mobile apps and online education;
- Biotechnologylike glowing plants and researching cancer cures; and
- Entertainmentlike Hollywood studios and immersive theater.
For Tennessee start-ups that still struggle with raising capital, Music City’s still relatively new resident has an added goal. “I want to make Tennessee #1 for investment crowdfunding,” Price says.
SOON: We will have articles describing how the Wefunder platform is helping InnerG, Pencilish, and Ciari Guitars achieve their goals.